February 2017

                              Old Growth Forest At The Cloudbridge Nature Reserve



Research and Volunteers:

David Reinhard is a cinematographer from France.  He is taking a break between films to travel Central America.  In the past he filmed a documentary about primary rainforests in Peru and Gabon Africa.  The stories about his work are fascinating. For the rainforest documentary they had to put 400 metres of cable through the forest for the cameras to move along through the canopy. They also used drones.

At Cloudbridge he helped clear around trees, plant seedlings and dig trenches.  Not quite the same as photography.

David helping transplant seedlings

Theresa Bonell from Italy studied art history in Vienna. This is her first trip  outside of Europe.   She was both scared and curious at the prospect of travelling alone half way across the world.  She found the Cloudbridge website and knew that this was a place she wanted to go – away from the cities, into the rainforest and nature.  She says «The most beautiful thing is to see a living tree. I even hug trees».  Now, thats an admittance we like to hear!    stick_figure_tree_hugger_t_shirts_and_gifts_poster-rbdcc5ff7a5fb487a8b8bfa062cc7aff8_w2j_8byvr_324

Theresa working in the tree nursery
Theresa working in the tree nursery

Justus from Germany was busy building steps into some of the trails, transplanting seedlings, and helped dig trenches for the grey water drain field in the yard.  He used his muscle power to help some visiting tourists who were staying up at the remote Gavalon cabin. The gas tank for their stove was empty and Justis gallantly came to the rescue and hiked up the mountain with a very heavy replacement tank on his back.


Mathijs Van DerSanden and Michon Fleer are both from Van Hall Larenstein University in the Netherlands. They are doing internships for their tropical studies program.  They are continuing the habitat assessment research.

Mathijs is doing a 5 month internship and then 1 month of travel after.  He will return to university and continue studying tropical conservation and also GIS. He is also interested in photography so we expect great photos while he is at the reserve.

Michon is eager to learn about tropical forest trees and ecology during his thesis research. He says that it is important to know about tropical ecology and how it is managed.  He comes from a temperate region but feels that he can learn a wider perspective in the tropics and that there is more to discover.

Michon (front) and Mathijs

Spencer and Neil finished up the Bird and Butterfly surveys for their term.  Neil reported 152 species of butterflies that have been identified.  His presentation included identification techniques, trapping methods and data collection.  Spencer’s bird survey results covered a lot of ground.  All of our trails were included in rigorous early morning hikes by these two guys.  In total they saw 713 birds (70 species) at the bird point counts within 3 months.  The trail with the most birds was the Gavilan trail.  Spencer noted that birds are great indicators of forest health and the survey is a good way to keep track of migrants.

Franziska Lex – Germany  She is enjoying her gap year and volunteer experience.  She decided to travel and learn Spanish.  Her trip has included Bali, Argentina, Ecuador and now Costa Rica. She has been helping here at Cloudbridge by working around our newly planted trees, greeting people at the welcome centre, and assisting with construction of the new tree nursery. The end of her trip will be in Cuba where she will meet up her parents before flying home to Germany to start university and study International Management and Communications.


Emma Moore from the US has been here before.  Her parents both work at the US embassy  in Costa Rica and so when she visits the country she comes down to stay at the reserve for a few weeks to do a little volunteering. In her spare time she dabbled with her watercolors, creating beautiful depictions of the insects that can be seen here. Back in the US she is in University studying Neuroscience and Art History.


Uma Thakar makes her home in Australia.  She is a freelance writer and also teaches meditation.  Her trip started in Indonesia where she volunteered at a nature reserve that does reforestation and focuses on protection of an endangered bird, the Starling.  At Cloudbridge Uma is working in the tree nursery and participated in a community event with the other volunteers helping to make tamales.  One afternoon at the reserve she taught us how to use meditation for relaxation and awareness.

A meditation session at Cloudbridge by Uma

«If there is one place on the planet that is the ideal meditation resort it would have to be Cloudbridge. Majestic mountains, beautiful forests that Tom and his team have worked so hard to preserve.

It was a privilege and honor for me to lead a meditation group at Cloudbridge.

The theme was self-acceptance.

Steven Hayes said ‘Bringing love to yourself will help you bring love to the world.’

Meditation provides the framework for practicing self-acceptance. Four steps that are helpful are 1)Practicing self awareness. We go through are day almost mechanically, unaware of our thoughts. Meditation helps us to be present 2)Gratitude. An oldie but a goodie, being grateful for the good in our life and also the difficult people, because they are our best teachers. 3) Having compassion for yourself. Remind yourself that you are only human and will make mistakes. 4)Don’t compare yourself to anyone. You are unique and complete in yourself.

The session began with an introductory talk about meditation, followed by a brief meditation session. After that there was a question and answer session, where participants shared their personal life experiences and how they worked through these issues. One of the participants mentioned a free meditation app called Headspace and also TED meditation talks.

We also practiced walking meditation.

We finished with an acceptance meditation, extending kindness and compassion to ourselves, our friends and family, the difficult people in our life, and extending that acceptance to all beings.»


Volunteer opportunities are ongoing at the reserve.  Whether you are just finished high school, working on a post secondary degree, travelling the world, or just retired and  looking for a way to spend some quality time this place might be the experience for  you.

A morning in the tree nursery.  Transplanting seedlings to add to our forest.

Our crew volunteering to make tamales for a community event.

Volunteering your time can come in many forms.  Every Monday we have our potluck dinner together.  We encourage people to contribute an educational presentation after dinner.  This month Linda shared her climate change presentation, Frank gave a presentation on butterflies and we watched the video ‘Treaty Talks’ https://vimeo.com/116831814   by a former biologist Adam Wicks-Arshack -Voyages of Rediscovery.  Uma taught a meditation session in the classroom.

Now and Then:

This is the Montana trail. In 2012 Marloes from Wageningen University, Netherlands did a research project along this trail.  This year Mathijs and Michon also from the Netherlands, stopped to check out the progress of reforestation at the same site.  With the right conditions tree growth in the tropics can be amazing.



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