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Last week, we started a journey through the natural wonders of Costa Rica, and today we will be exploring the provinces of Alajuela and Heredia. With an area of less than 5,000 sq mi, our quest this week will visit two of the most important volcanoes of the country, also one of the most important wetlands in the world and more.

But first, let’s locate today’s journey on our map:

Cao Negro Wildlife Refugee

Home to some of the rarest species in the world, Cao Negro is considered the third most important wetland in the world and has been declared by the Ramsar Convention as a Global Protected Area. In addition, in 2007 the refuge along with other areas was declared a Biosphere Reserve named Aqua y Paz awarding its successful model of sustainable development tofight and stop climate change.

This wildlife refuge has an extension of 25,133 acres of which the Cao Negro lagoon occupies more than 1,900 acres.

Image by Travelling Costa Rica

Some of the flora and fauna found on these wetlands are unique and considered endangered. More than 200 species of birds inhabit the refuge, being the Northern jacana, the ibis, the jaribu and the roseate spoonbill some of the most attractive ones. Other fauna that can be seen around Cao Negro include the giantanteater, jaguars, ocelots, monkeys and caimans.

 

 

Arenal National Park

Certainly, one of the most visited protected areas in Costa Rica, the Arenal Volcano rises majestically from the forest with a perfect cone of more than 5,000 ft.

 

The importance of this National Park is not limited only to its monumental volcano, the complex biological processes that take place in the area makes it a living laboratory. In 30,000 acres, four different ecosystems can be found.

Image by arenalnatura.com

Besides the famous Arenal Volcano, this park also features the inactive volcano Cerro Chato (flat in Spanish), named like this because its peak collapsed opening a beautiful crater filled with bright green waters.

 

Keep your eyes wide-open if you want to spot any slots; the three types of monkeys found in the country: Howler, White-faced and Spider; lowland pacas, tapir and jaguars. Bird watching is also very important in this area, look for colorful Hummingbirds, all types of parrots, Red-winged blackbirds, and the sacred Quetzal.

 

 

Juan Castro Blanco National Park

Image by Costa Rica Guide

Even though this National Park is not popular among the tourists, this protected area possesses an invaluable importance in terms of water resources and biological wealth.

60% of the area of this park is primary forest, protecting the slopes of three extinct volcanoes and five different ecosystems including pre-montane rainforest, lower montane rainforest, pre-montane wet forest, montane rain forest, montane wet forest.

Fauna found in this area include the quetzal, the great curassow, the black guan, chachalaca, the Central American red brocket, monkeys, armadillos and more.

 

Pos Volcano National Park

With the largest geyser-type crater in the world, the Pos volcano is the main attraction of this National Park. Even though the volcano has been closed now for several months due to its activity, it is important to highlight is biological importance.

The volcano is formed by three structures: the main crater, the Botos Lagoon formed in a secondary extinct crater and the Von Frantzius cone which is the oldest of the three. The main crater has a diameter of 4921 ft with 984 ft of depth, it also has at its bottom a hot circular lagoon with about 350 meters in diameter rich in sulfur and acids. In 1989, the main lagoon started to dry up gradually, leading researchers to find a small lagoon with liquid sulfur with about 6,5 ft in diameter. This is the first observation of liquid sulfur that has been made on the surface of the earth.

Image by commons.wikipedia.org

At this park, the amazing scenery and the flora are more impressive than the fauna. It has several types of habitats, such as the stunted forest, areas without vegetation or sparse vegetation, the area of myrtles and the cloud forest. It is interesting to observe the adaptation of the vegetation in areas where the eruptions have destroyed the primary forest, where species like myrtles and the clusia rosea remain.

The fauna is composed mainly of birds like the quetzal, the emerald toucanet and other 70+ species.

 

 

Braulio Carrillo National Park

Last but not least, the Braulio Carrillo is an impressive evergreen area of 12,290 acres. Its dramatic topography and rain conditions make this park an invaluable hydric resource generator, the most important one for the central valley of the country.

This protected area is home for some inactive and extinct volcanoes like the Barva, the Cacho Negro and the Tres Maras, being the peak of the Barva volcano the highest elevation of the park with 9,534 ft above the sea level.

Image by Pucci

The denser, taller and richest forests are located on the lowest elevations reaching a total of 6,000 species of plants in the park, which represent 50% of the total species of the country. Tree species that are currently endangered can be found in this area, like the Nazareno or Purpleheart, the Calabash and the Geonoma.

The rich flora makes the park a paradise for birds, recording more than 500 species. Mammals that inhabit these lands are white-faced monkeys, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, the tapir, the jaguar, the anteater, the collared peccary, kinkajous, the red brocket, the Central American agouti and some endangered species like the lowland paca. Frogs and toads are abundant too, being of great importance the Holdridge’s toad, a Costa Rican endemic species that was declared in 2008 extinct but rediscovered in Costa Rica two years later.

The National Park has two areas that are open to the public: Quebrada Gonzalez and Barva Volcano; and the Ceibo Area is dedicated to research.

We invite you to explore the provinces of Alajuela and Heredia and its amazing protected areas. Contact us for more information and find more information about Costa Rica`s Biodiversity next week.

*Featured Image by Pucci