Hurtling down an active volcano at 80 km per hour may not be everyone's cup of tea, but for Caroline Crowley, a tourist who took the plunge with her husband on Christmas Eve two years ago, the opportunity was too good to pass up.
"[Volcano boarding] was a ton of fun and definitely one of the highlights of our three weeks in Nicaragua," she recalls. "My husband and I are in our fifties, but we still like to have a few adventures now and then."
To date, more than 20,000 people have trotted up - and down - Nicaragua's Cerro Negro volcano. The volcano boarding tours, which are run by a local company called Bigfoot Hostel, are open year-round - weather permitting. Peak season is between November and March and low season is during September and October. That's when wet weather moves into the region and the tropical rains, combined with the heavy winds that often accompany them, can make it dangerous to board.
But Philip Southan, owner and guide at Bigfoot Hostel, says that safety is always a top concern.
"We have experienced, bilingual guides who give a detailed demonstration on how to board to safely, and we provide … protective suits, pads and goggles," he says. "Our guides and drivers ... have a full medical kit on the truck, and we have English-speaking doctors on-call and access to a helicopter if need be."
Southan says the feedback has been "phenomenal" - and Crowley can attest to that.
"Bigfoot did a great job with everything," she says. "I’ll admit that it was pretty scary looking down at the run from up top ... [but] I took it slow and used my feet to brake, as we were instructed," she says, adding that the best part about the experience was seeing "the looks on people’s faces after we told them about it."
Southan is excited about the growing popularity of volcano boarding. “Over time we have made [our tours] into one of the most unique adventures in Central America,” he says, “and they’re accessible to pretty much anyone.”
To learn more about volcano boarding, visit Bigfoot Nicaragua.