Tag Archives: Wildlife

La Fortuna / Arenal Volcano

After a couple of days in Santa Elena we headed out towards the active volcano of Arenal next to La Fortuna. The road from Arenal to the town of La Fortuna is back to back with expensive resorts and thermal spas which have been constructed with a view of the active side of the volcano where even today you can see the indentations made to the ground by previous eruptions.

Arenal Volcano: lava on the active side

The town of La Fortuna itself is not very big but seems to have been built up for the sole purpose of catering to the tourists arriving to see Arenal. For good quality and very affordable accommodation head to Gringo Petes Too, the original Gringo Pete offers the same facilities and prices but the newer, number 2, has bigger rooms and better facilities. We managed to get a private room with bathroom for only $14 per night and still had views of Arenal and Cerro Chato.

La Fortuna: view of Arenal and Chato volcanos from the hostel

During our time there we explored Arenal via the Silencio trail, which allows you access at the bottom of the volcano but not as far as the lava fields. We later learned that there were many access routes around the volcano as historically the land had been privately owned before it became a national park, as such, there are numerous “trails” with different costs and entry areas.

Reserva Mirador El Silencio: map of trails at the reserve

The Silencio trail takes you through a deep forest route which is great for seeing wildlife except you have no time to stop as there are hordes of mosquitos waiting to feast on you. The views from the view points are nice but not spectacular, partly because you have to get very lucky during the wet season to see the crater clear from clouds.

Reserva Mirador El Silencio: view of the Arenal

All in all it was a nice day out but I am sure it would have been better during the dry season and spectacular had it been active.

The next day we decided to visit a butterfly and frog conservation located on the outskirts of town. We had wanted to see one of these in Santa Elena but it had been closed for refurbishment.

The butterfly centre is made up of 4 large outdoor areas, each one with different climates for the various species. It is a beautiful experience to walk through and have all these colourful butterflies fly around you, some of which are also impressively large!

Butterfly Conservatory: owl butterfly with open wings

Unlike some places there was no time limit on the time you could spend there and we soon realised a couple of hours had gone by as we tried to photograph the butterflies.

Butterfly Conservatory: butterfly on a bench

We later headed onwards to an organic farm called Margot that we had seen on the tourist map, which was literally located at the end of a road. We weren’t sure as to what to expect and were slightly disappointed to discover they didn’t have a shop but soon cheered up when we discovered an all you can buffet of organically produced foods, including pork!

As we only eat organic meat this was a true treat for us, our first pork in 4 months, and needless to say we made sure we had our stomaches were truly full before leaving!

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Posted by on June 23, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Santa Elena / Monteverde

The Monteverde region of Costa Rica is home to a large area of cloud forest broken up into 2 main national parks; Monteverde and Santa Elena. They are located just a few kilometres apart and offer pretty much the same activities such as; canopy tours, suspension bridges and butterfly conservation areas.

We decided to head into Santa Elena instead of Monteverde as we had read that it was a little smaller and therefore received fewer visitors enabling you to have a higher chance of seeing wildlife.

The road to the area is unpaved, unmarked and unlit. We arrived from Liberia and up until you leave the pan-america highway you know where you are going. The minute you turn off you are left constantly second guessing which turning you should be taking.

The road goes through the mountains and is hazardous at the best of times, however we had the added joy of underestimating how long it would take us to arrive and ended up heading through the mountains in the dark.

When we finally arrived in Santa Elena we checked into Eddy’s Cabinas just past the main road and basically crashed out. The accommodation was centrally based and very good value with free breakfast, plus you got discounts on tours if you booked through Eddy.

The following day we decided to visit the national park of Santa Elena which is $10 p/p to get in and spent the better part of the day walking the various trails through the park. The path for the most part is paved or partly paved and unless it is raining is fairly easy to do.

Santa Elena National Park Height

There wasn’t a lot in term of wildlife around but we did spot quite a few birds. The park makes for a really nice day out especially as the temperatures in the cloud forest are a good few degrees lower, making walking enjoyable instead of an arduous task.

Santa Elena National Park

The next day we decided to do the suspension bridges in Santa Elena with Selvatura, a total of 8 suspension bridges located at tree height. We booked through Eddy and got a small discount of $3 each making entry $27 p/p. This time we also decided to rent a pair of binoculars from the tour company so we could hopefully spot some of the more elusive birds.

Longest suspension bridge in Santa Elena

The weather at this height in the cloud forest changes constantly and you could be in sunshine one minute and drizzle the next. Nevertheless we ended up spending the whole morning going from one bridge to the next trying to see rare birds. We got lucky and found a couple including a Quetzal and a 3 Wattled Bell Bird which makes a noise like “bonk” when it calls out.

Female Quetzal Bird

Procnias tricarunculata or 3 watled bell bird

When we finally arrived at the last bridge we were greeted with a unique sight. A male howler monkey walking along the railings of the bridge. We were able to get some shots before he made his way back into the trees.

Howler monkey at Santa Elena

The area is beautiful and you could easily spend more time there but it’s not cheap, especially the activities which range from $30+ p/p. Plus, you absolutely definitely need a 4×4 to get around on those roads!

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Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Uncategorized


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