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Monday, December 26, 2011

Volcano Masaya National Park

Any nature-loving tourist in Nicaragua must visit Volcano Masaya National Park. It lies west and north of Masaya, practically adjacent to the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. 
volcano masaya lava
Lava flows over two hundred years old still have not been overtaken by vegetation. The process of ecological succession can be noted according to the ages of the earth surface layer. Photo by Henyrk Madsen.
The Masaya volcano is composed of three craters. One of them erupted twice during the past five hundred years of recorded history. Lava flows are stark, with only islands of vegetation, mostly grasses which burn every few years during the dry season. Two lava flows-one of which destroyed Nindiri-have occurred since the Europeans arrived in the area, and they both cross the main access road to the craters.
laguna masaya
Lake Masaya, seen in the distance, lies inside the caldera of  Volcano Masaya, which is several kilometers wide. Our staff at Estacion Biologica is conducting a study of potentially new fish species in the lake. Photo by Henryk Madsen.
One of the larger well-protected patches of tropical dry forest in Nicaragua lies in the Masaya volcano caldera. Soils over the volcanic scree are thin and water drains from them easily. so that in some areas, where grasses take hold, trees may not be able to withstand the periodic fires which burn through the vegetation.
Volcano Nicaragua
Laguna Masaya and the Masaya Volcano, as seen from Coyotepe. Photo by Hans Rademaker.
At the foot of the Masaya volcano is Lake Masaya, which from a distance is beautiful, but it is contaminated from municipal runoff from the city of Masaya. Several species of fish inhabit the lake, including likely undescribed species. A couple of alligators are found there, having escaped from a private zoo nearby. The fish of this lake are the subject of a continuing study conducted  by Gaia scientists.
Masaya Volcano National Park
Two volunteers at Estacion Biologica, Helen and Simone, prepare their cameras for some spectacular views. Photo by Henryk Madsen. 
Masaya volcano ecotour
The Santiago crater emits large quantities of smoke. The glow of red-hot lava is usually visible  during the night tour of the volcano. Photo by Henryk Madsen. 
The three craters of the Masaya volcano complex are all different. The earthtones are very rich in the volcanic atmosphere, with purple, white, red and brown seen, One of the craters holds a forest in the crater which is impenetrably deep.
Masaya volcano crater
Along the steep banks of this crater, parakeets nest. How they survive the acrid smoke is not understood. Photo by Henryk Madsen. 
Masaya volcano
The stark Santiago crater of Volcano Masaya presents a variety of colors. Photo by Henryk Madsen. 
Santiago crater
A cross was placed on the edge of the crater because the first Spanish colonists considered the Masaya Volcano to be the mouth into hell. Photo by Hans Rademaker.

Nicaragua volcano
Volcano Masaya is very active, with lots of smoke emanating from one of its craters. Photo by Hans Rademaker.

ecotour masaya nicaragua
The interior walls of the Masaya Volcano show dramatic colors. Photo by Hans Rademaker.

ecotour volcano
The interior of the Santiago crater is stark, due to large quantities of acrid smoke. Photo by Hans Rademaker.

National Park Nicaragua
Visitors can approach the Santiago crater easily. Photo by Hans Rademaker.

Nicaragua ecotour
A lava tunnel at the bottom of the Santiago crater can be seen through dense smoke. Photo by Hans Rademaker.
Masaya volcano volunteer
The eastern edge of the Santiago crater is tourist-friendly, given the prevailing westward winds in Nicaragua. Photo by Henryk Madsen. 
Skink Nicaragua
Skinks are among the commonly seen fauna in the dry tropical forest habitats of Volcano Masaya National Park. Photo by Henryk Madsen. 
The stark differences between the different parts of the Volcano Masaya National Park-lake, tropical dry forest, lava flows, caves, and three very different volcanic craters-make an excellent ecotour.
Masaya volcan crater
The San Fernando crater contains a remote forest beneath steep crater walls. Photo by Henryk Madsen.  
Hiking trails at the top of the craters provide great views both of the craters and the park, and also of Managua, the Great Lakes, and Masaya. Night visits to the park are possible, in which visitors penetrate a cave, as the bats are departing for their evening activities.
Masaya Volcano National Park
Smoke emanates from the Santiago crater at Volcano Masaya National Park, Nicaragua. Photo by Henryk Masden. 

Masaya volcano volunteer
This strangling fig (Ficus sp.) near the entrance of the park awaits your visit. Photo by Henryk Madsen. 
cave tour
An evening excursion to Volcano Masaya includes a lava tunnel visit. Photo by Tammy Cameron.

A mural in the interpretive center depicts the confrontation of religions with the lava-filled crater. Photo by Tammy Cameron.
For a day trip, plan about three hours while there for a day trip, and spend at least one-half hour in the interpretive center. Take sunscreen, a hat, and something to drink.
Masaya volcan parque nacional
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