I’ve always been an ocean girl, but the tropical rainforests of Kolombangara Island stole my heart.
Located in the beautiful Western Province of the Solomon Islands, this circular volcanic island boasts some of the richest rainforest ecosystems in the country, containing an array of stunning plant life and endemic organisms found nowhere else in the world. The air is filled with the songs of chirping birds, frogs, and the diverse array of life that inhabits its cavernous green depths, rising from dense lowland forests up to its upper montane cloud forests. High in the sky, the upper montane forests float atop a biological island in the sky, boasting a unique endemism of their own.
We caught and identified frogs, bats, and birds; befriended the many spiders and insects; climbed up to the sky islands, and down into the depths of its flowing rivers. The forest is so dense and alive that it feels like you’re underwater.
There are so many things that make this place special – it’s bursting diversity and endemism, its cultural heritage to the people of the island, its stunning natural beauty – it evokes a feeling that humans have tried to put into words for centuries. We may never know what it is that gives us this indescribable joy from nature – biological significance, natural beauty, something deeper – but we don’t need to dress it in rationality or human terms to feel and appreciate its beautiful and important presence.
Welcome to Kolombangara, home of the Solomon Islands’ stunning cloud forests.
What is a Cloud Forest?
Cloud Forests, also called Montane Forests, are a type of vegetation community that appear at high elevations in tropical regions such as Ecuador, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. Unlike other types of rainforest, the cloud forest is typically characterized by stunted tree growth, due to harsh exposure to wind and sunlight at such high elevations. The thick, dense moisture in the air beckons an abundance of mosses, lichens, and epiphytes that coat nearly everything, and orchids and ferns sprawl among the shortened trees. Unlike most rainforests that depend on rainfall, cloud forests receive most of their water from the condensation of atmospheric moisture on the leaves of plants – hence the name, cloud forest – a forest that literally grows from clouds.
What makes Solomon Islands cloud forests significant?
While cloud forests are strewn about a few locations across the globe, the cloud forests of the Solomon Islands are a unique rarity. Located relatively close to the biodiversity hotspots of Australia and the tropical island nation, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands are exposed to an incredible diversity of unique species. However, looking back in time, the Solomon Islands were never physically connected to Australia or Papua New Guinea. It is this unique biogeography and isolation that has fueled especially unique cloud forests in the Solomon Islands, containing endemic species found nowhere else in the world. Cloud forests in the Solomon Islands are some of the most isolated in the world.
Where can you learn more about Solomon Islands cloud forests?
Learn more about the Solomon Islands’ treasured cloud forests from the Kolombangara Island Biodiversity Conservation Association. (K.I.B.C.A.)
K.I.B.C.A. fights for community resource rights, development, and conservation of culture and rainforests in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands. Rangers are actively involved in the preservation and exploration of the region’s sacred forests.