El Yunque Rain Forest

There are actually 4 distinct forest zones. Most prominent is the rain forest.

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The Rain (Tabonuco) Forest

More than 240 different species of trees, epiphytes, giant ferns, mosses and vines populate El Yunque; 26 of these are found nowhere else in the world. The most visually spectacular sections are not up high but on the slopes below 2,000 feet , the section considered true rain forest (also called the tabonuco forest).

Ironically, all this diversity causes some visitors a problem and they leave El Yunque frustrated and disappointed. As forestry technician Robert Rijos explained, "You can go to Sequoia National Forest and walk for miles and see the same tree and basically the same setting.

The uniqueness in El Yunque is its diversity, that so many different species can share the same habitat. But the scenery may seem to lack any organization --it looks more like a jungle than a forest.

Some people leave disappointed , unimpressed, because they came expecting to see only 1 or 2 different kinds of trees. Instead, they find all this."

Instead of disappointment, many first-time visitors probably feel overwhelmed. If you don't have a guide or a guidebook to explain what you are viewing, El Yunque is not only dazzling, it is incomprehensible .

Advance reading is mandatory unless you have a personal guide. Get all the information available at the Sierra Palm interpretive center before exploring. Otherwise, everything may blur into a maze of meaningless, moist, emerald objects.

Of course, the easiest way to gain understanding of the forest is with a guide on the Forest Adventure Tours from February through August that begin at 10:30 a.m. There is a US$5 fee for adults, US$3 for children.

Continued: Next Page (High Altitude Zones of El Yunque: The Palo Colorado, Sierra Palm & Dwarf Forests)

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