This morning I wake up around 05:30 because it is already getting light. I take a quick shower, pack all my things the right way, put on my Indiana Jones shirt and process a breakfast buffet. The breakfast is outside and the weather is nice, 22 degrees Celsius with a nice sun and some clouds. I figure out how to drive to the Poas Volcano Lodge and then I depart.
I have to get used to the traffic of course. It looks a bit different than in Europe and the people drive differently as well. During the first 20 minutes I get some honks and wild hand gestures because of my probably uncommon driving behaviour. I have to get back the Trans America Highway but now have to drive back in the direction of the airport and then to follow the signs for the Poas Volcano National Park.
I find those quickly and for a while all goes well. It is about 32 kilometers driving. There are a lot of small houses along the road, some small shops and companies. In all it gives a kind of an unorganised look.
Already I had the idea to film parts of the driving, but I will do that later. I notice that there are many people on the streets. Many of them are standing at bus stops but a lot of them seem to hang just around a bit without any reason.
The road keeps going upward and soon I encounter hazardous holes in the road. Some of them with a depth of 20-30 centimeters with a sharp edge. It looks like they just have been scooped from the road. They are quite narrow and opposite to the road direction. That is why you see them only at the last moment. It is clear to me that you should not hit these very often because that eats tires. Slowly going is the name of the game.
At a certain point I lose track. The plates to the volcano are still there, but somehow I must have missed the turnoff to the lodge. I am still 4 kilometers away from the volcano when I decide to turn around. Here the weather seems to be better. The clouds have become thicker and are more widespread as I go down again. Most of the time I drive through mist, very tiny water droplets.
Everywhere it is strongly advised to not park your car somewhere with luggage inside. The rental company indicated that as well. So I have to find the lodge before doing anything else. Some 1.5 hours of driving follows. Once I do see a sign with the name of the lodge and a telephone number. Kilometers further down the road I decide to turn around for the so-maniest time. I continue to La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Here I ask for directions and the lodge appears to be very close. Within 4 kilometers I am at that same sign with the name of the lodge and there is indeed a very small tractor road that I have to take. There are no clear signs and at first I doubt whether this is actually a farm or something, but somewhat further are some small wooden signs with ‘lodge’, so it should be all right.
Soon after I have my room. Nice people overhere. They are all working to make the lodge even bigger and better. As the volcano is most probably covered by cloud cover by now, I decide to visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens instead. That is very nearby and I get some discount via the lodge as well.
It is a kind of private park around a couple of waterfalls. But they do have monkeys, butterflies, frogs, cats, birds and snakes as well. I am very curious about it.
First to the monkeys. Here they have two of the four monkey species living in Costa Rica. Fun to seem them already. Then to the butterflies. Most of them are hand sized butterflies with a blue top and camouflaged back. For a while I try to shoot some photographs but this is far from easy. Most butterflies close their wings and if they do have them open you have to move into the most uncomfortable positions to be able to focus on them. After a while I am fed up with it.
This particular photo consists of two sets of three exposures. Each set has a different focus and still not all parts of the butterfly are sharp.
This one consists of three sets of three exposures with each set a different focus.
There are some Sloths too, snorring in a tree. Little more than a bunch of hair and a three-towed hand can be seen here.
Via the bird cages I enter the Colibri garden. There are many feeding places and many birds are flying around. Some are green, the size of your pink, while others are purple with the size of a Starling and a lot of sizes and colours in between.
Just after I have assembled my camera gear it starts to rain. After waiting for a while it starts to dry up. All other have gone to lunch which is included in the price. I decide to use this for an hour of quite photography before the whole bunch comes back.
First I try to photograph them flying but that proves to be difficult as they are very quick. Disadvantage is also that on every photo you will have that fire-red sugar dish. The other thing is that the background is way to light.
Suddenly I notice a pattern. For a minute or 10 they fly around like idiots from one sugardish to the next. Some fly so close to my face that I feel their wings flutter against my skin. After that they rest for a few minutes on a little branch after which the pattern repeats.
Those few minutes resting time is the moment they are really easy to photograph. First I try it without tripod but these are not as sharp as is possible. After that I photograph with a total of 600mm on tripod with flash unit to light up the eyes and feathers and this setup results in some amazing photographs. I am surprised by it myself.
Sometimes they seem to be get startled by the flash, but usually turn their little heads towards the camera, perfect for the next photograph. One of them seems to like the flashes and actually strike some nice poses and even moves to a branch a bit closer.
The kind of purple on these birds is not part of the color palet of the camera; it turns out blueish instead.
After an hour I am fulfilled. There are only so many birds here and they each tends to have their own favorite spot. After a while you don’t get new photographs anymore.
After photographing some flowers I have seen earlier, another rain cloud opens the gates. I have to get everything in the bag as quickly as possible to prevent damage. Meanwhile I am completely soaked myself.
This is a good time for the lunch buffet which is quite rich: fries, hot-dogs, vegies, pasta’s, beans, fish, sweet baken bananas. Especially the latter are delicious. Furthermore, various fruit juices. I eat two full plates and can taste everything they have here. Several tastes are new for me. I take the opportunity to refill on fluids at the same time, as losing water goes very fast here. You are sweating almost constantly.
After lunch I go to the cat department. First I see two puma’s. One is sitting quite nicely and I think I can photograph her through the bars. It takes a few minutes to have everything ready and meanwhile both cats have started a nap. I am still able to photograph the head of one of them though.
In between the cathousings I notice some nice Papyruses.
Next are some small en medium sized cats. The smallest is like a domestic cat but has longer legs and a longer neck, coloured brown with black spots: the Margay.
It’s neighbour is somewhat bigger, and is an Ocelot.
Then a Jaguar. These are really big! Especially the male.
His head is bigger than mine and I think it weighs at least 80 kilo’s.
I stay for a while here to have a good look. There are two cages connected by a small door. Both stay in one of the cages but look at each other constantly. The male walks the same pattern looking very obsessed at the female and decides to pay her a visit. The female does not seem to like this at all and the male pulls some dirty faces that I am able to photograph.
Photographed without tripod, through dirty glass with ISO1000 they are not completely sharp but that’s fine. I like them though.
The male also deposits his scent at one of the poles. That is not a good place to be when he does that. It looks just like a spray of perfume. A whole cloud of that foul stuff sprays more than a meter backward. The few photographs of the female are of such low quality that I do not post them here.
I continue to the waterfalls. A bit stupid, but the whole route through the park progresses a few hunderd meters downward. From there you can take a shuttle back to the top. I was not aware of this and thought it would be an easy walk back to the frogs and snakes.
The waterfalls are not that photogenic by the way. There is too much spray and too much water as well. Then I notice that you can have a look behind one of the waterfalls. The people that are standing there don’t seem to get wet. Photographing the waterfall from the side is an original perspective I do not encounter that often.
Magia Blanca Falls
Combining several exposures results in more details in the rocks behind the falls.
Hereafter follows the steep ascent back to the rest of the park.
Next are the frogs. Looking very closely I can spot only two. One red and blue the size of the top of my pink and the other a complete traditional green one. There should be many more, but I check all plants and do not find anymore. If it is already difficult here in this controlled environment, then it will be very difficult to spot them in the wild.
The last are the snakes. I have been curious about them. Despite they are all in small glass boxes, sometimes you have to take a really good look to spot them. They have such a good camouflage. This is especially the case for vine-snakes that look like lianas. Most snakes are quite small. They have both real and false coral snakes. But these are only 40-50 centimeters as well. The coral snake is the most venomous of all.
I was very curious for the fer-de-lance or Terciopelo. Man what a frightening thing this is. So big and fat! And that camouflage pattern, he is almost black with a large triangle shaped head, just like a … indeed the tip of a lance. This is the most dangerous snake in Costa Rica. On average, every 5 weeks someone in Costa Rica dies of these snakes. They are exceptionally aggressive and there are a lot of these on plantations because of the many rats. Brrrr, I do not want to encounter one in the wild.
They also have a Bushmaster. This is the largest venomous snake hier, but it seems to be quite docile. This snake can wait up to 25 days for a snack to pass by.
Now a heavy rain storm breaks lose. It is already 15:00 and I have seen everything by now. The clouds have become thicker even and within 2 hours it will be dark. I return to the lodge to dry everything. Nice set of photographs for the first day. I could not have predicted something like this.
I had reserved for dinner here in the lodge. After that rich lunch I am not particularly hungry, but I’ll have to cope with it. Around 19:00 as I leave my cabin for dinner I notice a clear sky with starts. So the weather did clear. In the restaurant I am able to access the internet and I reserve two nights in the Arenal Observatory Lodge. Here I will have a room with a view on the volcano. Arenal is an active volcano and at night you should be able to see the lava flowing. Also here the food is very good. Really thick tomato soup and a chicken dish. I will have to compensate for that tomorrow. In the morning I will try to photograph the Poas volcano from the lodge and do a few walks on the volcano itself.
Maybe that the weather pattern will repeat itself. Volcanoes tend to make their own weather. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. Today was a good day for starters.
Maps, Charts & Downloads
GPS Map with color coded altitude information
Color coded distance/altitude chart
Download the original gpx file here.