This evening finds us on the Lava Tour. Even though it’s only a 15 minute drive, we have our own driver and a guide. Along the way our driver abruptly pulls over to the side of the road and our guide encourages us to quickly get out of the van. All the while he is grabbing his scope and setting it up in the middle of the road. We’re looking up on a cliff trying to figure out what he has found when he tells us to “look in the scope.” He’s still not saying what it is until we get a good look.
It’s a viper. The Eyelash Viper - Bocaraca; oropel (golden morph - endemic). This viper is small but very venomous. The name “eyelash” refers to the hood like scales over each eye. This amazing snake comes in six colors but the golden morph is known only from Costa Rica and blends well when concealed on ripe yellow palm fruits. Several fatalities occur in Costa Rica each year as a result of bites from this snake.
We get great looks at the snake then pile back in the van and head on down the road to start the Lava tour.
Our guide was very knowledgeable about the area.
Mark and our guide.Along the 1.2 mile trail we encounter banana and pineapple plants.
Our guide explaining how pineapples are grown.
There are plenty of birds to look at also.
Social FlycatcherAt the summit our guide has Sharon draw a picture of a volcano on his dry-erase board that he uses to tell us interesting facts and stories about the history and activity of Arenal Volcano.
Telling the history of the area.
In July 1968 the Arenal Volcano suddenly and violently erupted. The eruptions continued for several days, burying over 15 square kilometers with rocks, lava and ash. When it was finally over, the eruptions had killed 87 people and buried 3 small villages – Tabacón, Pueblo Nuevo and San Luís – and affected more than 232 square kilometers of land.
At the height of its activity, the volcano flung giant rocks – some weighing several tons – more than a kilometer away at a rate of 600 meters per second.
Lava rocks lining the trail.
Before the sun sets we enjoy great views of the volcano and Lake Arenal.
Our guide hands everyone flashlights and we head back down the mountain. It’s a little difficult navigating the very rocky downhill trail with just the puny light from the flashlight. About half way down he asks everyone to stay on the left side of the trail and to walk up to a certain point and stop. He will follow behind us. This was a very smart request because we were unaware of any danger and no one panicked. After we stopped and turned back around our guide pointed his flashlight on the other side of the trail. You guessed it, another snake. This one is the most dangerous snake in Central America. The Fer-de-Lance (Bothrops asper). It causes the most snakebite-related deaths among humans in Costa Rica. Venom from this species contains an anticoagulant and causes hemorrhaging. Other large vipers are more inclined to escape when they feel attacked, but the Fer-de-Lance is more likely to strike. We were lucky to have such a sharp-eyed guide!
Fer-de-LanceOur tour finishes at the Frog Pond. Even after the snake encounter we are looking forward to walking around the pond looking under plant leaves and in leaf litter for these colorful frogs. Although this is not the rainy season our guide finds several frogs for us, including the Red-eyed Tree Frog that is featured prominently in Costa Rica travel literature but is actually quite hard to see. The Lodge built this pond in a stream to encourage the natural presence of rain forest frogs.
Next time: Day 4 - Continuing our trip, another beautiful lodge, the Pacific Ocean, more birds and other critters.
Birds seen on day 3: 54
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Thick-billed Seed Finch
Rain Forest Frog
Red-eyed Tree Frog
Yellow Tree Frog
Narrow Headed Tree Frog