By McGuire McManus
As we made our way from lower Guanacaste Province to Monteverde, our travels led us to the Rincón de la Vieja. This volcano is one of the largest in Guanacaste, and last erupted in 1998. Surrounding the volcano is a national park that draws many tourists and environmentalists. Here we had the opportunity to take a two-mile tour led by Javier Perez Chavez.
Photos of our time at Rincón were shot with a Lytro camera, a camera that allows you to change the depth of field within the same photo. Press the play button to have a short visual of all the different points of focus within the photo. You can also click on different areas of the photo to bring a certain point into the foreground and put others in the background. Feel free to play around and visit http://www.lytro.com for more information on this camera and technology!
Perez is the owner of what he calls a “small little” business named Costa Rican Northwest Tours, where he leads different tours in areas around Liberia and Monteverde. We lucked out with Perez; he was passionate about informing us all about Rincón’s wildlife, nature and other important Costa Rican environmental sustainability issues.
“You should never do this,” Perez said while taking a bite of a brown nut he picked up off the ground. Visibly shocked by his actions, he then let us know that this nut was from a gum tree as shown above, and that he knew exactly what he was eating. These gum trees have been here for centuries and are one of the strongest and sturdiest trees in Rincón de la Vieja National Park.
We began our tour in the park’s tropical forest. These red flowers attract hummingbirds, which pollinate them as part of a day flying to hundreds of flowers to drink nectar.
As we made our way deeper into the park, we stopped on a path where one side was made up of tropical cloud forest and five feet across the same path was tropical dry forest. One of the unique plants in a dry forest is the ant and acacia plant. This plant has a symbiotic relationship with ants, letting it live within the walls of its thorns, giving it protection. In return, the ants provide the acacia tree protection by attacking animals and plants that would harm the tree.
One of the more visible signs that reminded us we were hiking on a volcano was the mud pots. These large pools are filled with tons of different sediment, including minerals such as calcium and sulfate. Reaching 80 to 90 degrees Celsius, the steam from these pots can be felt over 20 feet away. Perez told us that many Ticos who visit the park ignore fences that surround the pots to take mud from these areas, because the minerals are supposedly good for the skin. Park officials plan to expand the area protecting the mud pots.
Along with his knowledge of all things environmental, Perez brought his telescope. He said the use of telescopes are very important, because you can find different species of plants and animals up in the canopy of the different forests, which he enjoys.
There were no blooms, but we all got the chance to look at the orchid plants growing on trees in the cloud forest part of Rincón de la Vieja National Park. Emily O’Connor looks up using Perez’ telescope. Ahías Marín Nünez, our bus driver, looks on from behind.
The “monkey bridge” was the hit of the hike. Crossing over streams by trees just as the monkeys do, Emily Rackers and Thomas Friestad hold on tightly enough to get a quick shot.
The hike in Rincón was one that everybody should try if they travel in Costa Rica. While we learned a lot from Javier, we also had a little bit of fun with the Lytro technology along the way.