Today is another super early start and a five hour drive across the country to the Arenal Volcano national park. The journey for me goes quickly mostly because I am catching up with sleep following our late night and the exciting activities that we have done so far. Jonathon, our guide, continues with his interesting commentary but his words fade into the background as I drift in and out of sleep. We stop for lunch en route where some students and I are more interested in photographing hummingbirds than eating. Hummingbirds are such a joy to watch. They are unique to the Americas and constitute the family Trochilidae. They measure between 7.5 and 13cm and are among the smallest of birds. Hovering, like insects, in mid-air their wings flap typically around 50 times per second, allowing them to fly at speeds exceeding 34 mph. Unfortunately for us there is pressure to hurry up as we have to enter the national park by a given time and it is already afternoon. Nevertheless we steal a few moments to capture the other exquisite birds, butterflies and lizards that decorate the flowerbeds.
Arenal volcano is stunning, it is the type of volcano that I can remember drawing incessantly as a child. Known as a stratovolcano, it is a tall, symmetrical volcano that is built upon successive layers of rock, ash and lava.
At 5,437 feet, it looms large over the pastured green hillsides that surround its base. Although currently in a resting phase, it is the country’s most active volcano and is stunningly beautiful. Once entering the park, we pile out of the bus and head upwards along a trail. There is not very much wildlife to see apart from fascinating ants that have a symbiotic relationship with cecropia trees protecting them from vines and also from birds. As we get closer to the volcano, a Tayra (rather large black marten type creature) is foraging nonchalantly on the forest floor completely unphased by our presence. From here we climb upwards; the ground beneath our feet turning to lava. This is the lava flow from the 1968 eruption.
We are extremely lucky with the weather, the sun is out and the sky is blue. The volcano stands proud and overlooks the wetlands and the reservoir below us. There is time for pictures and then we must head down the volcano before dark. By the time we reach the bus, the sky and the volcano turn an exquisite pink as the sun dips below the horizon. There is little time for photos or to soak up this moment as our guide hurries us up into the coach. From here we travel to a hot spring spa where my colleagues and the students indulge in the hot water pools and slides. I take the opportunity to catch up with some work before joining them for dinner after which there is only time to head to our hotel for another good night’s sleep.