Tag Archives: National Parks

Returning to Volcan Poas

Most of the morning I spent sleeping and relaxing. I was still tired after the long drive 2 days ago, but for the afternoon I had scheduled to meet a friend and visit the Poas Volcano.

I met Mario at 1 AM by Pops at the Central Park in Heredia. From there we drove to his grandparents house to greet them and also to ask his grandfather how we should drive to get to volcan Poas.

We took off and mostly we felt quite sure about the way. However at one point there were no signs to let us know where to go on further. Mario thought we may have to take to the right so we went with his intuition (despite of what 3 of his couchsurfers have posted in the references that he is the worst co-pilot in Costa Rica – Im probably NOT the best driver here though). We found the signs further on and felt sure that we were on the right track again :D From there on it was really easy – however there were lots of heavy transports driving up the mountain hills and they were NOT particularly fast so we didn’t get there fast. However we had time to explore the beautiful nature driving up the mountain and watch the change of scenery.

The first time I visited Volcan Poas was back in 1993 with my mom and grandma that came to see me during my High School exchange year. Both the Crater and the lagoon were covered by clouds and todays luck was no better. A huge cloud (nope – not mist) had covered the crater and today I had no greater luck. However I had great company and lots of fun and now I just have a reason to come back – to see the crater and the lagoon on my third try :D

Volcan Poas is a stratovolcano and it lies within two vast calderas at the height of 2,708 meter over sea level. The southernmost of two summit crater lakes, Botos, is cold and clear, and last erupted about 7,500 years ago. The other is warm and acidic and has been the site of frequent eruptions since the first was reported in 1828. Eruptions often feature geyserlike ejections of lake water.

One of the rangers told us that it had had a 50 meter high geysirlike erruption just today !!! Awesome ! And we missed it :(

Do not descend to the crater.

Beautiful nature. Hidden in clouds.

My company and team mate from Couchsurfing MDST Mario. The view is hidden in a cloud.

Me with a poor mans umbrella

At 4 pm the rangers started making sure the visitors started moving towards the exits and we did as well, but while enjoying the beautiful nature. On our way down we drove with calm and made several stops along the way to buy queso de Palmito and strawberries (not so easy to find in the hotter lowlands).

However, today I had my first encounter with the law.
I was driving and took a wrong turn into a one-way street just in front of a local police officer. He honked his horn and I stopped and he came over. In the mirror he looked angry, but when he came over and saw me his face lit up in a smile and then he asked me; Are you lost my love? I heard Mario laugh beside me while I, of course, played the lost card to its full and asked for directions and explanations and then explaining how we had gotten lost and this and that. Awesome !
Then he directed me while I backed up to the cross and could turn in the right way :D Then he saw us off with; Have a nice day my love :D
I love Costa Rica !

We moved on and stopped to take pictures of the beautiful sunset.

Then we got lost again and just as we were most lost I decide to turn on the radio and the first 2 lines that streams are:

Que nos paso? ¿Porqué nos perdimos?
Meaning: What happened? How did we get lost? And of course… We both burst into laughter. It was soooo perfectly timed. Hehehe

However, finally we found Alajuela and with that also Heredia and finally it was time to have lunch (and dinner). We went to a restaurant in Heredia with traditional food and had a lovely meal before I went home to my family and Mario moved on back to Rohrmoser.

Sirena Ranger Station @ Corcovado National Park

This morning we woke up at 4:55 by our bunk beds squeeking and stuff falling down.

At Mirador Lodge in Drake Bay (Peninsula Osa) we are in a dorm with 4 beds and sleepily I asked Magnus: “Do you know if we have any new guests in the room?”. Just as sleepy he answered “No. It must be the wind!” And my first thought was: “Inside at this hour?”. And then we both woke up a bit more realizing that we must have been hit by an earthquake.

Our alarms were set to 5:15 so it’s not like we missed out on a lot of sleep and breakfast was ready for us at 5:30. At 6 the boat came to pick us up to go to Sirena Ranger Station inside Corcovado National Park.

It takes about 1 hour and 15-30 minutes in a boat ride to get to Sirena Ranger Station and we were taken quite a bit out at sea because the waves were less angry there than closer to shore. Still we had waves up to 2-3 meters. However that was a very good deal, because we found a group of birds hunting flying fish and where they were we also got to see Spotted Dolphins. One of the Flying fish almost flew into the side of the boat, but thankfully it managed to slip into water instead and become dolphin food…

Just as we arrived to Sirena I saw 2 huge animals at the beach walking away from all the arriving boats. I told Magnus I told they were Tapirs, but he didn’t see them and neither did the guide – hence we docked and got on shore.

Ready for new adventures. Me and Magnus with Jerker in the background (His name really IS Jerker, thats why he calls himself Jack in English).

As soon as all the groups were ready we split up and some groups went to the left and others to the right. We went to see a gorgeous river and on our way there we saw a Tapir, sleeping in the ground. It was well hidden among the branches but we could still see it. Pictures did not turn out well though. However walking on we heard lots of Macaws (but due to the density in the forest, we were unable to spot them). However we saw lots of lizards, spiders and a few spidermonkeys.

From the river we went back to the starting point and then we moved to Sirena Ranger Station. I was surprised lots of people were setting up tents there and someone told me that with enough time you could request set up tents and stay overnight at the ranger station.

At the ranger station I saw an Agouti. It was walking just behind the toilets and once someone flushed it ran off into the forest. Soo cute.

From the ranger station we walked towards the other river to see if we could spot crocodiles and sharks in the river. Unfortunately we got there low tide and all the sharks were gone, but someone else had seen a huge salt-water crocodile just a tiny while ago.  Everywhere there was huge signs telling us not to go swimming, not to move off the trails etc. due to the sharks, crocs and snakes.

We had lunch by the river and it was nice to have a small break.

We had enourmous luck and got to see an ant-eater walking along out path in search of food

On our way back to the ranger station and the boats, we saw lots of spidermonkey groups and Howler monkeys. As I was looking up – I saw something coming at us and ran to avoid it and thankfully it worked out. However – the others did not have the same luck. The howlers had peed on them… When Howlers want to get rid of humans sometimes they pee on them and sometimes they throw poo on them. :D Nice huh?

Just before we got to the boats we saw another Tapir. This one was also sleeping, but much, much closer to the path and it was easy to see it without disturbing it.

One of the other girls in our group also told me she had spotted the two Tapirs in the morning and now we were 2 confirming and hence our number of spotted Tapirs was in a total of 4 for today.

The mighty (but sleepy) Tapir !
Tapirs can become up to 250 Kgs and when with young they can be highly agressive.

To reed more about Tapirs see these two stories by Jack Ewing:
Threats to the paths of the Tapir Biological Corridors
The Tapirs of Sirena

On our way back we had higher waves still and at one point the boat was driving so close to shore and some really rocky cliffs that it seemed that we were going to hit the cliffs.

When we got back to the hotel we took a shower and went for a walk.

Animals spotted today:
Tapir, Anteater, Coati, Flying Fish, Spotted Dolphins, Spider Monkeys, Mantled Howler Monkeys, Black Iguanas, Spiders, Birds, Insects, Crabs, Hermit Crabs, Agouti, Jesus Christ Lizard

A Night in the Jungle

At 3 PM we met with our guide Pedro outside the guidehouse and we set out for adventure: A Night in the Jungle at Hacienda Baru.

We walked quite slow as we had to escalate quite a lot and due to the 35 C in the afternoon temperatures… we kind of didn’t have the energy to run up the paths. Of course we also walked quite slow because we were searching for animals, amphibians, reptiles and insects.

All while we were surrounded by the deafening sound of millions of cicadas. Did you know that some Cicada song can reach 120 db in loudness, being among the loudest of all insect-produced sounds? This is especially notable as their song is technically loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss in humans.

The first thing we found was millions of nymph shells. The Cicada lives underground for most of their life as a nymph and when its time comes it crawls overground and hatches out of the nymph body and becomes an adult.

In any ways this trip was a full jackpot. We saw so many animals, insects, bugs, frogs, birds and things I don’t even know what was. Our guide was really really good.

Our hike up to basecamp took us about 2.5 hours through the beautiful jungle.

During this hike we learned a lot about the local forest. Did you f.ex know that the Pochote Tree has developed thorns on their trunks to protect themselves from climbing leaf eaters that want to eat their leaves?

Learn more abou this in Jack Ewings story:
Who says you cant teach an old Sloth New tricks?

At basecamp we rested for about an hours time and Pedro gave us strawberry juice to cool down with. At 5:30 / 6 pm the Cicadas went to sleep and we could finally hear other sounds again.

As night fell we were told to search with our flashlights towards the trees or bushes to see if we could find animals (eyes reflecting) and in the first three I searched I saw eyes. Pedro set up his telescope and we got to see a beautiful boa snake. It had a yellow/beige belly with a few spots. In the dark it was difficult to classify it though.

At 6:30 pm we started with the Night Hike. We left all of our stuff in the kitchen except the flashlights and the camera and then we set off into one of the trails close to the camp. Magnus had luck and walked straight into a Golden Orb Spider nest. It was quite high up and Pedro didn’t reach up to it. I could probably have reached it at some spots, but not at others not.

Not far from Base Camp we entered a little creek and started walking up a river and oh boy did we see lots of animals here !!!

We saw 4 snakes withing just a tiny amount of time whereof; 2 Common Cat-Eyed Snakes, 1 Coral snake and the last one was brown, slender and I have no idea what species it was any more. The guide told me what it was, but I have forgotten and I cant find it in my leaflet.

The Cat-Eyed Snake is very mildly venomous, but the Coral-Snake has one of the most potent venoms in the world.

We also got to see a Poison Dart Frog !!! YAY ! About time if you ask me.

This is a Red and Green Dart Frog (Granular Poison Dart Frog). They don’t become over 2 cm long and live in humid habitats.

We also saw scorpions, Tarantulas, Other huge spiders, and lots of other frogs like this tiny, but beautiful Red-eyed Stream frog.

Once we got back to camp, Pedro started making us all dinner. Most of it was  ready already and it was just the dinner that had to be cooked over the BBQ.

Dinner tasted delicious and although it was just 9:30 pm we all went to bed straight after dinner. I was sooo tired.

We woke up when the forest started waking up. We were deep in the forest and it was so nice to wake up to birds singing, crickets chirping and for breakfast even 2 beautiful Chestnut Mandibled Toucans came to look at us.

Normally I shower twice a day while down here due to sweat and high temperatures, but Base Camp we only had an open air shower with 2,5 walls. When I entered to check out the conditions there was even a Scorpion inside the shower.

I just decided there and then that I didn’t smell bad enough to shower with scorpions …

On our 3 hour hike back to Hacienda Baru the highlight of our hike was an encounter with the beautiful Green and Black Poison Dart Frog.

We arrived at Hacienda Baru at 10 am and we had had a wonderful experience. It was my first time camping in the jungle and although we all had proper beds to sleep in we still had all the sounds and the sightings that we don’t get to see where all the tourists are :D

First thing I did when I got back though was to take a shower and rest by the pool. That felt soooo good !!!

Monkey Feeding

Normally one should never feed the wild animals for many reasons, but here in Manuel Antonio some of the local fruit sellers have started feeding some of the wildlife fruit that is not unhealthy for them.

So today Mangus and myself went down to the beach around mid-day and we found the feeding station one of the old gringos (he was retired – Im allowed to call him old :D) from Pension Santa Elena in Monteverde was talking about. However it is not a feeding station by the hotel like the gringo was thinking, but a local fruit seller that has their base there just feeding the monkeys fruit leftovers.

First thing we see is a bunch of white faced Capuchin monkeys and no other tourists. A few locals taking pictures yes, but not tourists. They were soooooo cute and we had left the cameras in the room. There was even 2 moms with babies there! Oh well, we did see lots of white faced capuchin monkeys yesterday during the mangrove tour at least.

Then we went for a walk on the beach, a swim and relaxed a bit before coming back during twilight hours and we were in for a treat.

Costa  Rica has 4 species of monkeys. In Arenal we saw the Spider Monkeys and the Howler Monkeys. During our Mangrove Tour and earlier today we saw the White Faced Capuchin Monkey and now we got to see the Squirrel Monkey.

We waited with the fruit sellers, loaded with bananas and suddenly a whole bunch of Squirrel Monkeys descended from the trees and suddenly there was mayhem. A good one as such.

They were squeeking and climbing down to the nearby trees where they expected to get some nice treats.

We broke off bananas (inside the peel and squeezed the meat out) and held them out. These monkeys are so tame that they would actually hold the banana and eat from your “hand”.

The Squirrel Monkeys are a lot less agressive than the White Faced Capuchin Monkeys that will also come for food here (Good tip: Throw the banana a bit away from yourself and let them have it on a safe distance).

We had an amazing time with the monkeys and the fruitsellers. A few other tourists came when they saw us, but no more than 4 others.

However, it is INCREDIBLY important to remember a few things when feeding wild animals:

  • Only feed them food they would naturally eat (bananas, pineapple, melon, mango and other kind of fruit – NEVER cake, chips or human food they would not find growing in trees or on the ground in the jungle).
  • Never touch what you feed them with with your hands. If you feed them bananas – break off the banana within the peel and squeeze so they can grab the meat themselves and you stay behind with the peel. Humans have bacterias in their hands (and often repellant, sun tan lotion etc. lotions and perfumes that can be dangerous for wild animals).
  • Only feed wild animals that have already learned to recieve food from humans. NEVER start feeding wild animals just because they are cute. It can be dangerous for them to loose their natural fear of humans.
  • Never touch, pet or get too familiar with the wildlife.

More Information about dangers of feeding wild animals:
Are you feeding wild animals?
Feeding Wildlife: Food for thought.
Eight good reasons why you shouldn’t feed wildlife!

Manuel Antonio National Park

This morning we slept in. The drive last night was quite exhausting and we were both quite tired, but we were up before 8 and enjoyed a lovely breakfast at the hostel.

We set off for the National Park and we were there before 9:30 and started hiking through the jungle. We met several guided groups looking at animals down the paths and they were kind enough to show us what they were looking at as well.

And at the end of the path, almost coming out of the jungle to the beach – we ran into Magnus’ parents… We knew they were in central america and that they are travelling around, but we had no idea that they were in Costa Rica and less in Manuel Antonio and less even in the same path we were walking on at the same time. Wow! Of course we planned to meet up later tonight before we split up again.

Right nearby to where we met them we found a Howler Monkey sitting in a tree and right next to it a moma Sloth and her baby! They were soooo cute!

Down at the beach we saw a Crab-eating Racoon family trying to steal stuff from peoples bags and running off with the stuff :D

The beach was absolutely beautiful and white beautiful clear ocean. The water temperatures were perfect. Just hot enough to want to stay there forever, but cool enough to cool you off.

The Racoons came and went and there were lots of them. People were yelling at them for trying to break into their bags, but thankfully the famous monkeys were not there because they are known to steal peoples cameras from your hands!
Another perfect reason why you should not give wild animals food.

On our way back from the beach we saw a Fer-de-Lance snake. It was quite well hidden, but a guide with a group had found it and we stopped to watch it with them. Photo is not very clear, but there is a snake there.

Quite exiting. We saw a lot more animals today and among them were the:
Howler Monkey, Green Iguana, Black Iguana, Golden Orb Spider (Nephila clavipes), Tree Frog, Keel Billed Toucans and several Hummingbirds.

It has been an awesome day for watching animals!

Hiking in Monteverde Cloudforest

This morning we woke up at 5:45 AM to get the 6:15 bus to Monteverde Cloud Forest.

Our first spotting was the Splendid Quetzal even before we entered the park. We had 2 couples sitting on a branch just above the souvenir shop!

However from thereon we didn’t really see much else than bugs, birds and naked monkeys, lots of different snails, A Centiped, wierd spiders and gorgeous nature.

During our 6 hours hike we only met 10 other people and…. 2 of them we met at the continental divide lookout post. Kasper and Claudia from Switzerland that we went on the Arenal Volcano Hike with.

We walked and we walked, but no freaking animals. We searched for frogs under leafs and over leafs, but found none. Untrained eyes didn’t know where to look. However, the hike and the jungle was beautiful. Drip Drip. Raindrops from the trees.

And we found a huge variety of gorgeous flowers and orchids

Once we arrived the ranger station again we had lunch at the cafeteria. That was most welcome! We were both starving from the physical activity and it was about time to eat. We had only had a little breakfast before 6 am.

Just outside the Park entrance there is another cafeteria and outside the cafeteria there is a Hummingbird feeding station. Lots and lots and lots of hummingbirds circle around the stations and they sound like small engines buzzing past your ears.

But they are sooo beautiful. Really gorgeous.

At 2pm we left the park – we were both exhausted and it was about time to go back to St Elena and relax a bit before dinner and visiting the frog Pond.

Night Hike in the Jungle at Santa Maria Refugio de vida Silvestre

We were pickced up from Pension Santa Elena in Monteverde by Bernald, our guide, for the Night Hike. We were 10 people all together and we were then taken to Santa Maria Refugio de vida Silvestre where we all recieved a flash light and instructions. If we feel anything climbing our legs – warn guide immediately because it could be a scorpion or snake. Yikes. Hehehe.

We set off and the first thing we saw was a giant Tarantula (and yes it was big).

and then we found a Two-Toed Sloth. They are a bit bigger than the Three-Toed Sloth and they move a bit faster. This one wasn’t moving at all though.

The Two-Toed Sloth is a bit brownish in the color compared to the Three-Toed Sloth that is more grayish in color.

We were also lucky enough to see our first snake today. This one lives high up in the branches so that it can keep warm from the sun. This one is a Green Vine Snake.

Thankfully, not all crawling on the ground are scorpions and this a grasshopper.

5 years ago I bought Jack Ewings book Monkeys are made of Chocolate. In that book the story: There is a Fungus Among us was. This is a very informative story about the Leaf-cutter ants (Atta cephalotes is the most common Leaf-Cutter Ant).

Did you know they walk up to 2kms away from their home to collect new leaves and up trees as high as a 10 story building?
Did you know that only the queen is fertile and that the colony dies with her? She lives for about 20 years though.
Did you know that the leaf-cutter ants don’t eat the leafs, but that they grow a fungus on it?

All the members of the colony contribute directly or indirectly to the cultivation of the fungus. The most obvious of the seven distinct castes of Atta cephalotes are the leaf carriers marching through the forest with their green parasol-like cargo. When they arrive at the colony and deposit their leaf crescents, another caste takes over — the cleaners. Each leaf fragment is meticulously scraped and licked until clean. Later it is cut into smaller pieces, chewed, mixed with saliva and formed into a soft wad. The ants then place some fungus starter material, called mycelia on the medium and place it beside other newly planted fungus in a suitable chamber.
From that point another caste, the fungus caretakers, step in and take over the process. These ants are responsible for keeping the fungus clean and free from impurities and infection. They do this partially by physically removing any foreign life form that tries to grow on either the medium or the bread-like fungus.

A bacterium that lives in a patch on the ant’s skin produces an antibiotic that controls the mold. Beyond that, they have learned how to handle technologies more skillfully than the bumbling civilization above their heads. They can grow a monoculture and they have also learned how to deploy an antibiotic without the target pest’s becoming resistant to it.”

Another thing about leaf-cutter ants. Their homes are HUGE:

And this one is just a small part of it !

Read Jack Ewings “There is a Fungus Among us

We saw lots of other animals as well during this hike like the Woolly opossum, the Northern Raccoon, the White-nosed Coati, A few Red Tailed Squirrels, Bats, 2 Frogs (of a species I don’t remember), several species of fireflies and firebeetles.

It was a lovely trip and I had a great time!

After the Hike we went for dinner at Amigos Restaurant. The bar was full with Gringos as the Superbowl was on. However they had good food and once Superbowl was over all the Gringos left. We had an early night.