Volcan Poas, Costa Rica   1 comment

Felipe del Bosque Blog Nov 10 2010

Despite their domination of the local landscapes volcanoes are notoriously difficult to view from the top.  There is generally a heavy cover of cloud obscuring the views of the crater.  Most of my trips to the top of Costa Rica’s volcanoes have been repeated several times in order to see any volcanic activity within the crater.  Poas has been no exception to this particular rule.

My last visit to Volcan Poas must have been about fifteen years ago.  Volcanoes, along with the countries high biodiversity, were the original attractions that drew me to Costa Rica.  That lure served to have me return time and time again, bringing with me friends, who I knew would appreciate all that this special little country could offer any natural scientist.

Trips to the two volcanoes close to the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose, Volcan Poas and Volcan Irazu are easy to complete and so are almost essential.  I had a few days to kill in San Jose so I thought it might be an opportune time to revisit Volcan Poas to get some photos of the craters and maybe some of the wildlife at the top of the volcano.  On previous occasions, as on this, the day started bright and sunny.  As I walked the short distance to pick up the bus, there was not a cloud in the sky.  This in itself was a welcome change to the five months of constant rain I had just experienced and was desperately trying to get away from.  So, there was an optimism that I may get to see into the depths of the crater today.

The bus set off pretty empty, most of the travelers being Ticos out for a Sunday excursion.  A stop at Alejuela saw the bus fill up though; Poas is a popular day out for many of the locals.  We stopped half way up the Volcanoes slope, at a roadside café for a quick bite to eat.  The sky was still blue and things were looking good.

We arrived at the top and the temperature was noticeably cooler.  We had several hours to spend exploring the top of the volcano.  I set up the camera and headed off up the path towards the main crater.

Volcan Poas is an active stratovolcano, one of many distributed along the west coast of North, South and Central America.  They are explosive volcanoes that build in height following continual eruptions over a period of time, which result in the deposition of lava and ash producing the stereotypical tall cone shaped mountain that everyone imagines when thinking of a volcano.

Since 1828 Poas has erupted 39 times.  Although all around the world, people live in close proximity to if not on the slopes of volcanoes, it would be folly to underestimate their power and ability to destroy, even with a small eruption.  In 2009 Poas exhibited a heightened level of volcanic activity, pre-empted by an earthquake that resulted in the loss of more than 40 people in the area.

But today all seemed peaceful.  I arrived at the main crater and had but a fleeting glimpse of the crater floor before the heavy cloud rolled in.  I did not even have enough time to get the camera lens cap off.  I waited but the view was for no more than a few feet in front of your face.

I had noticed some blooms on my walk down so I changed my objective and decided to get some open blooms instead.  The first were some distinctive pinky/red flowers blooming around the crater.  The plant’s specific Latin name describes it accurately, Monochaetum volcanicum.  An extract from this particular plant has been demonstrated as possessing anti-cancer properties.

Next I found what would appear to be very familiar plants to a biologist from Northern England.  One looked very much like heather and indeed belongs to the same plant family Ericaceae.  Pernettya coriacea has beautiful small bell shaped flowers so typical of heathers but here, rather than covering the rolling Northumbrian hills, found on the upper slopes of a Central American volcano.  The other plant was very familiar to me, but not from Costa Rica.  Gorse, Ulex europaeus is a common plant in England and I was surprised to find its distinctive yellow blooms nestling amongst the spiny leaves of these low growing bushes, here at the top of Poas.  I can only assume that, not being native, it has somehow become introduced or escaped from gardens and naturalized itself.

Poas has two craters and it didn’t look like the cloud cover was going to clear from the active one, so I made my way to the southern dormant crater, Botos.  It was a pleasant uphill walk through dwarf trees dripping with dew.  When I arrived, the view was clear and the greeny/blue lake was visible.  This crater has been inactive for about 7,500 years.  It is surrounded by a plant that looks like giant rhubarb, Gunnera insignis, which is known locally as Poor Man’s Umbrella, due to its large leaf surface.

Before returning to the bus for the journey home, I took another brief return to the main crater, only to find it still obscured by heavy cloud cover so I guess it is going to take another trip to the top of Poas.  Maybe not leaving it another 15 years though.

Philip is a biologist, writer and photographer as well as the onsite naturalist guide at Bosque del Cabo Rainforest lodge on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.


Photo Feature


Monochaetum volcanicum

Pernettya coriacea

Ulex europaeus



Watch out for the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison


Posted November 10, 2010 by felipedelbosque in Travel

One response to “Volcan Poas, Costa Rica

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Welcome back Philip, have missed your daily updates.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: