Friday, December 17, 2021

Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna, Costa Rica: December 14-16, 2021

A male three-toed Sloth (Peresozo)

Our next three nights were spent at the gorgeous Nayara Resort in La Fortuna in the province of Alajuela. The resort was surrounded by lush gardens and every room is said to have a view of Arenal Volcano. We never saw the top of the volcano and one of our guides said that it is covered 80% of the time because the weather comes in from the west, stops at the volcano, and swirls around it.

The Nayara does have a map that shows sloth sightings. Our first morning after breakfast we checked out the map and saw that there was a sloth sighting just outside of the restaurant. When we got there a couple of hotel naturalists had their scopes out. The first photo was taken with my cell phone through the scope. I love the photo because this male three-toed sloth is smiling at us. He smiled and he used his claws to groom his hair. Sloths are appropriately called Peresozo which means Lazy Bear in Spanish. His greenish coat is due to algae growth. We both enjoyed watching him. The morning was our free time so we walked around the garden trails which are really like being in a well-groomed jungle with nice paths. We saw birds and we found another sloth.

Broad-billed Motmot
The clumsy Gray-headed Chachalaca
Scaly-breasted Hummingbird


Our room at the Nayara was beautiful even if we never saw the volcano. It had both an indoor and outdoor shower. Here it was warmer so I did shower outside in the enclosed garden. It felt decadent. There was a jacuzzi on the front deck which Dan thoroughly enjoyed. 

In the afternoon we were picked up for a hike of the volcano and a picnic. We were the only two guests for this tour with Rainforest Explorers. On the way into the Arenal National Park we saw more sloths. One was a smiling female with a baby.


In 1968 when Arenal Mountain (actually a volcano) exploded, there were no volcanologists in Costa Rica despite their many volcanos. Our guide, Minor, said that no one knew there was a volcano there. They probably never saw it! And, on July 29, 1968, at 7:30 am it suddenly exploded with poisonous gas killing 87 women and children who were still at home in the three small villages along the volcano's flanks. Multiple eruptions of lava flowed and completely encapsulated the villages. The hike took us near the villages where we could see glimpses of lava among the thickets of plants that have taken root since 1968.

Arenal Volcano with lava flows visible between the greenery
A Lady Slipper Orchid and a Social Flycatcher

In Costa Rica plants and animals have many methods of survival. The new leaves of this tree emerge brownish to dissuade would be predators from eating them. The Owl Butterfly has spots that look like owl eyes to keep predators away.

Owl Butterfly
A rainbow broke through the clouds as we worked our way back down the trail to the van. A picnic with sparkling wine, fruits, cheeses, and homemade chocolates was waiting for us.


The next day our tour, with Mario of Rainforest Explorers, was to Mistico Park's Hanging Bridges. The park is a privately owned rainforest sanctuary in the Arenal Volcano's foothills. Hanging bridges connect the hills. Along the way we saw Howler Monkeys, birds, bats, snakes, and fascinating plants and trees all identified and explained by Mario.

The first snake we saw was camouflaged on the side of a tree that was next to the trail. Our guide spotted it immediately. He said that these snakes have a habit of staying in one spot for weeks at a time so perhaps he'd seen it before. The Eyelash Pit Viper is a small, poisonous snake.

Guide Mario taking an iPhone photo of an Eyelash Pit Viper
Eyelash Pit Viper

During our walk Mario spotted four Eyelash Pit Vipers. Two were next to the trail and another, two yellow ones, were some distance away on tree limbs. They are very good at picking their resting spots where they will blend in with the surroundings. "Eyelash" is because of the spiky protrusions above each eye.




Another Eyelash Pit Viper
Coral Snake slithered across the path in front of us
I used to be terrified of snakes, but many years ago I got over it. These snakes didn't bother me except in the possibility of getting bitten. I was much more careful not to brush against anything along the trail and keep my eyes open. No more snakes will be entered in this post.


Monkey Ladder Vine (left) and some kind of pod that will blossom into flowers (right)


Crested Guan AKA Costa Rican Turkey
Trees that prefer to be socially distant from other Trees
Arenal Volcano mostly visible from a Hanging Bridge
A Coatimundi AKA Coati looking for food at the picnic tables

After the Hanging Bridges walk, we had lunch at Rainforest Explorers farm and restaurant. We had a tour of their pineapple field, their cacao trees, and a demonstration of how they make chocolate.
A ripe Cacao Pod
The ripe cacao pod is broken open to reveal a mass of cacao beans within a viscous sweet coating. The beans and the coating are dried for several days. The coating imparts a sweetness to the beans as it dries on the outer shell. We got to taste their homemade chocolates which were delicious. There is no added sugar but they do add hazelnuts or similar to the chocolate.


A baby pineapple


We were each given a ball of masa and instructed on how to make our corn tortilla. Guess which tortilla was made by Dan. However  they were shaped they were really good with our lunch. While we ate we watched colorful birds stopping in at the feeding perch.

Blue-Gray Tanager
Red-Legged Honeycreeper (center)
Red-rumped Tanager
Orange-chinned Parakeets
Our dinner was at the Mis Amores restaurant at Nayara Springs Resort. After our big lunch I wanted something a little lighter. I ordered the "La pasta fresca Grana Padano." While not low calorie or even a light selection, it was great. The sauce was created in a huge half round of Grana Padano cheese. The chef used a torch to make a basin of melted cheese. He added a liquid of some kind, more melting, then homemade fettuccini noodles were added until the pasta was coated. The finished pasta was lifted into a bowl and I ate it all. Delicious!



 
Dinner was amazing!

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