Poas & Sarapiqui 2008

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February 10, 2008 - Sunday - San Jose to the Sueño Azul Hotel. I had a nice omelet for breakfast this morning in the Marriot before we left. Our new group assembled outside the hotel at 7:30am and we departed a little after 8am. After driving north out of San Jose through coffee plantations and through the Alajuela area, our first stop was the Doka Estate Coffee Plantation for a rest break. I had a cappuccino, which was very well-made using locally roasted beans.

Coffee cherry & wet beans Central Valley from lookout on Poas Central Valley from lookout on Poas Map - San Jose - Poas - La Selva

Poas Volcano was our next destination, however the weather is notoriously fickle on top of this volcano. Our group hikes from the visitor centre to the main viewpoint, and as we arrived the clouds part for about a minute. Unfortunately I don't take any photos before the clouds completely obscure everything! We waited for perhaps a half hour, and eventually the clouds blew away for 10 minutes or so. I took lots of photographs with my little Olympus point-and-shoot camera, including a couple of videos.

Clouds atop Poas Volcano Poas volcano caldera Poas volcano caldera
Steven O'Meara talking about volcanoes Our group waiting for the clouds to clear at Botos Lagoon, Poas Dead leaves caused by acid rain from Poas volcano

Steven O'Meara is on this trip as an expert on volcanoes. While we were waiting for the clouds to part, he stood on his Pelican camera case and gave us an impromptu lecture on the special features of Poas, and gave a general dissertation on global warming and how volcanoes are contributing to the problem in a major way. Steven proposes that just one active volcano can contribute as much greenhouse gas to the atmosphere as would all the vehicles in the world.

The Poas Volcano facilities are crowded with Costa Ricans.  Apparently, the children will return to school tomorrow after having a few weeks off, so everyone is making the best of their last vacation day.  Traditionally, Costa Rican children have helped harvest coffee during this break, but that is not as common anymore. Costa Rica imports labor from neighboring countries, especially Nicaragua.

After leaving Poas Volcano, our next stop was to see spectacular La Paz Waterfall, where there is a bridge across the La Paz river.  We see a second spectacular waterfall as we follow the Sarapiqui River northward and then east over the mountains through the town of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui. We have a late lunch along the way at Hacienda Pozo Azul Adventures restaurant. I only have a few minutes to take some photos of some very nice tropical butterflies I found in their butterfly house before we depart for our hotel.

La Paz Waterfall La Paz Waterfall Waterfall near San Miguel, Costa Rica
Blue Morpho Butterfly, wings closed White and orange butterfly The Postman butterfly
Black and white striped butterfly Blue & white butterfly

Suspension foot bridgeWe pull off onto a side road and park while our luggage is loaded into a pickup truck and taken to the Sueño Azul Resort. Then we drive a bit further, and everyone walks across the river on a foot bridge to the hotel grounds.  Some of our group are a bit freaked out about this, but everyone makes it without a problem.  Once I get settled in my room overlooking one of the many lagoons on the property, I observe several birds from the deck overlooking the lagoon in front of my room: a Snowy Egret, Northern Jacana and a Green Heron are fishing in the lagoon, and also Passerinis Tanagers and several other birds are in the trees.

Blue-coloured water bird Northern Jacana wading in the lagoon Snowy Egret
Green Heron Passerinis Tanager Rust-coloured bird

We leave the hotel after dark for the Tirimbina Rainforest Center located in nearby Sarapiqui. We are given a wonderful introduction to bats which are found in the area. One of the rangers safely captures several bats and brings them inside so we can look at them up close. They are fascinating creatures, and so small and cute. Their little faces are all screwed up, since they are so frightened by being handled, but they are soon released back into the night. After we return to the hotel (navigating the bridge once again), we have a very nice late dinner served to us at 9pm.

Bat - outstretched wing Bat - outstretched wing Bat up close
Long-nosed fruit bat

Long-nosed fruit bat drinking nectar

February 11, 2008 - Monday - Sueño Azul Hotel - We went to La Selva Biological Station today, which is nearby. La Selva is a biological research station run by the Organization for Tropical Studies, which is focused on the tropical rainforest. This is the only place where we have to fill in  a waiver form before we are taken on our trek.  Our guide Rudolpho was a bird nesting researcher, so he was very knowledgeable about the many birds we encountered on our walk, but also had interesting stories to tell about La Selva itself, as well as the flora and fauna to be found in the preserve. We ducked under a classroom porch for about 2 minutes during our walk while the rain just poured down.  We observed a large number of birds, a sloth, an alligator, and a Blue Jeans Dart frog. La Selva is tropical, so this area sees about 4 metres (about 15 feet) of rain per year - it is an exceedingly wet place!

Our guide Rudolpho - a bird expert Rudolpho using a Walkman and portable speakers to call birds using pre-recorded birsongs
Rudolpho using an iPod and portable speaker to play bird sounds from the Cornell database to call birds to us
Rudolpho holding a Blue bird Blue Jeans Dart frog

Diego conducted a walking tour this afternoon back at our hotel, but I needed some down time, so I just sat on the deck outside my room overlooking the lagoon.  It was so relaxing to just observe the wildlife (which is so close) and listen to the rain come down in showers. When the rain stopped, I wandered around the resort and took a few photos of the facilities and flowers.  Some of the facilities strike me as kind of goofy:  a trapeeze and a rodeo ring??

My room overlooking the lagoon Main buildings and pond Trapeeze
Rodeo ring "Bird of Paradise" heliconia Pale pink flower

This evening we had a very nice dinner in the dining room, and afterwards Steven O'Meara gave us a talk on his volcano photographic research activities. Tomorrow we leave Sueño Azul Hotel, traveling northwest to see Arenal Volcano.

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