Delving into the Indio Maíz jungles which surround the San Juan river makes one feel like an explorer. It’s like stepping back to a time when it wasn’t possible to whizz into the rainforest by plane and settle into a lodge with chocolates on the pillow...
Whether you peer into the water to see a stealthy caiman’s head silently emerge from the water, or hear the throaty roar of a howler monkey a few metres above your head, there’s little doubt in your mind that you’re the visitor. If you’re seeking something to take you outside your comfort zone, a trip to the raw jungles of southern Nicaragua will do the trick.
Retreating to a riverside lodge at the end of the day lets you step comfortably back into it at night.
Indio Maíz Biosphere Reserve The Rio San Juan is the principal river in the south, emptying Lake Nicaragua into the Caribbean. As you travel deeper into the jungle, caiman might lurk in the water, spider monkeys and sloths go about their days in huge almond trees, macaws and toucans zip through the skies, colourful kingfishers stalk their prey on overhanging branches.
Where the San Juan and the Bartola River meet is the gateway for guided hikes into the Indio Maíz Biosphere Reserve, a vast swathe of primary and secondary rainforest. Your guide will help you spot birds, amphibians, and maybe mammals, as well as informing you about medicinal plant uses.
El Castillo The nearby fort of El Castillo is perched atop a hill overlooking the tiny town of the same name. It was constructed in 1673 as a response to the likes of Captain Henry Morgan attacking Spanish towns and ships. This effectively put an end to any pirate attacks originating in the Caribbean for the next century or so, although Granada, and also León, was to suffer from assaults launched on the Pacific side in the late 17th Century. The area had long been looked at as a possible site of an inter-oceanic canal, and was indeed due to be the site of ‘the’ canal before US interests directed this to Panama in the early 20th Century.
How to visit the Indio Maíz Biosphere Reserve with Pura Aventura Just getting within shouting distance of the reserve feels like something of an adventure. From the town of San Carlos you’ll hop into a boat and sail south-east, towards Costa Rica, towards the bit where Nicaragua’s map reaches its darkest green. Your destination is a lovely ecolodge, surrounded by nature.
Your primary task on arrival is finding a nice spot on the terrace for a drink, hopefully as the sun sets over the river. Your next couple of days are dedicated to wildlife and getting to grips with the vivid history of this remote pocket of Nicaragua.
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