Day 3 and we left early to travel to Arenal – an area dominated by a volcano. The journey was in a cramped minibus on unmade roads – gravel tracks for over 2 hours constantly up and down the hillsides. The scenery however was stunning and almost Alpine. We then had to cross a lake on a 45 minute boat ride.As we approached Arenal the skyline was dominated by Arenal volcano, which is 1 of 5 volcanos in Costa Rica that is still active. We then had tarmac roads (bliss) and arrived at Arenal Oasis Eco lodge in time for lunch. ‘Rustic’ is the word that best sums up this place – set in acres of trees, each bedroom is an individual cabin.
We were the only ones having lunch at the restaurant which cooks mostly organic food to order and is delicious. Next to the open sided restaurant are bird feeders, and fruit is put out each day to attract a beautiful variety of birds and squirrels.
Whilst enjoying a leisurely lunch we got chatting to the owner, who takes guests out on a trip to find sloths and toucans. Nobody was booked onto that afternoon’s trip, so I jumped at the chance to go with my own private guide whilst still paying the same price as I would in a group of up to seven. He knows all the sloths territory areas and it was at the second location that he spotted one not too high up in a tree. I was able to get clear photos of it and was delighted to see it.
Sloths spend all their time in the trees and only come down once avery 7-10 days to defecate. As soon as they’ve finished their business they crawl up a tree again, as being on the ground makes them very vulnerable to predators. Because they only eat leaves there is very little nutrition in them. Together with their slow metabolism and small muscle mass, this is why they move so slowly. Male three-fingered sloths develop a patch on their backs as they reach sexual maturity at approximately 2.5 to 3.5 years old. On mature adults they are always yellow or orange in colour. The type of hair within the patch is completely different in texture to the rest of the sloth’s hair and doesn’t grow any algae, (which is what makes it look green). Interestingly, the patch appears to be covered in an unknown oily secretion and if you rub it, the yellow/orange pigment rubs off!
During the afternoon we also saw a few toucans, a tiny bright red frog with blue legs, and more birds. All in all, a very successful afternoon.
Day 4. Started with a visit to a beautiful waterfall that was 500 steps down the hillside, and a very hot and hard 500 steps back up!
We then spent the afternoon hiking on the volcano which almost finished us off!
Part of the walk back down took us through an amazing bamboo grove
After feeling exhausted after our day’s walking, we decided to finish at some natural hot springs – an area of about 25 different pools, all differing temperatures. Some were just too hot to stay in for long, others were hot bath temperature, and then others had been left to cool down and not be fed by the constant hot water. All fed from the volcano. It was quite strange to swim in a pool that is bath temperature, but just what our aching muscles needed.
Day 5. I wouldn’t have done this were it not for Jayne – but we went white water rafting. I was pretty nervous about the idea but we were able to split the guests into two boats – one for the more adventurous, and one for myself, Jayne, and another couple – one of whom was also pretty nervous. We had a long safety briefing and got kitted out with lifejackets and helmets before clambering in to the boat. Parts of the river were quite intense and we got absolutely soaked but I actually really enjoyed it – there were plenty of rapids, followed by areas of calm and at one point we all slipped out of the boat into the river and floated downstream on our backs enjoying the peace & quiet and looking for wildlife. The river wasn’t too cold and the day was baking hot at 34º, so it was a nice way to cool off. Halfway down we stopped and got out for a fruit break – pineapple, melon and watermelon was cut up by the guys and laid out for us whilst we chatted about how we were feeling about the trip. The guy in our boat had nearly been bounced out at one point which was a bit heart stopping, and I made sure that my foot was firmly wedged underneath the seat in front, which is the only anchorage stopping you from being thrown out! Our instructor/guy in charge was excellent, and we felt that he really knew what he was doing. All in all, a great day out 🙂