Birding tips for Beginners

Black-collared Hawk

Black-collared Hawk

Among the many activities and tours you can take part at Jicaro one of our most popular is the birding tour. Every year more and more people take this activity as a dear pass time and they travel to locations such as ours in Nicaragua to catch a glimpse of the most spectacular birds in the world.

Here are 4 very important things to remember and that will make your experience even more enjoyable if you are just starting your career as a birdwatcher.

1- Get a Guide; even experienced birders look for a guide’s expertise when traveling to a new location, so if you are just starting make sure you use a guide and use his/her knowledge to locate birds and learn about them.

2- Invest in a good pair of Binoculars. Yes, this is not the ” No need to get a good bike until you get really good at biking” case. If you don’t get a good pair of binoculars all you will see is a fuzzy ball of feathers. Although you can see lots of birds at Jicaro using only your eyes, binoculars will enhance your experience, specially if you have decided this is an activity you wish to carry on with.

3- You need to know what to expect in the area and read about the birds. Knowing what you are looking for,  and knowing about what your looking for (where should you look, at the top of a tree, near the bottom, at a lake etc)  will make your first experience so much more exciting.

4- Take a tour with other birders, sometimes this tours are designed for beginners, but often you will have the expertize of a seasoned birder joining in. Birders are very friendly and love to share their knowledge.

Birds are waiting, come and find them!

Jabiru

Jabiru

Little known facts of Lake Nicaragua

Lake Nicaragua, or “Mar Dulce” (Sweet sea, which refers to the fresh water) is a huge freshwater lake in Nicaragua. It is the largest lake in Nicaragua, the largest lake in central america, and the 19th largest lake in the world!

Lake Nicaragua is the largest fresh water source for residents of Nicaragua and it’s importance to the culture and heritage are huge.

A group of kids going to school by boat on Lake Nicaragua

A group of kids going to school by boat on Lake Nicaragua

For guests to Jicaro Island Ecolodge the activities on the lake are endless. Fishing, kayaking, boating, birdwatching, SUP, or swimming.

Kayaking on Lake Nicaragua

Kayaking on Lake Nicaragua

The biggest secret of this lake that not many people know is that we used to have pirates roaming the lake. Granada is actually a port city and there were many pirate groups in the 1600s who attempted to attack the city itself.

Pirates have been taken over by SUP

Pirates have been taken over by SUP

Direct flights from Mexico

Aeromexico now has a direct flight from Mexico city to Managua! Starting in December 2014 Aeromexico will be flying from Mexico city straight to Managua six times a week. News like this is fantastic for travellers everywhere, not just those from Mexico. More flight access means easier transfers, less time spent in airports and further options.

Aeromexico is the latest airline to announce direct flights to Nicaragua.

Aeromexico is the latest airline to announce direct flights to Nicaragua.

The flights will carry over 900 customers per week. More information is available on the Aeromexico website.

Safety when travelling to Nicaragua

It’s common to be nervous and anxious when going to a new country. Many people email us ahead of time just to make sure that everything in Nicaragua is safe. Despite what your neighbor might tell you, Nicaragua has consistently been named the safest destination in Central America.

Cheers from Nicaragua, the safest country in Nicaragua

Cheers from Nicaragua, the safest country in Latin America

According to a recent Cid Gallup poll, Nicaragua is the safest country in the whole Latin American region! Cayuga wrote a blog post about this recently which dispels many of the myths associated with travel to Nicaragua.

Now just because it’s so safe it doesn’t take away from the adventure in any way! Think of what those same nighbors will think when you let them know you just retunred from Nicaragua! It’s an adventurous destination because of the experiences available such as climbing a volcano, working at a local school, or kayaking on Latin America’s largest lake!

A Floridian’s Nicaragua Experience

Nicaragua is still one of those ‘less traveled’ destinations. Most would question it as maybe not being the best place to visit, but I completely disagree, so should you and here is why. I recently visited on a solo trip to the country and had nothing short of an amazing experience. In a world where we all want to find the next best thing, now you can help discover the incredible country of Nicaragua. This post shares just a few of my favorite things, but hope that it will help guide you in building your ideal Nicaragua vacation.

Sunseting on the lake at Jicaro Island Eco-lodgeChoosing the right property is key. When I first arrived to Jicaro Island Ecolodge, I was unsure where I was arriving to because I arrived late in the night. It was pretty dark, aside from the candles and minimal lighting to help guide you to the common area. The property immediately intrigued me to want to see more. Once I had a good night’s rest, I woke up on a little piece of heaven situated right in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. I had to actually take a second and realize where I was. It was amazing. The two-story casitas made me feel as though I had my own haven amongst this unique private island. Yes, I did say private island and let that sink in one more time. You are in your own private two-story casita on a secluded private island.

During a vacation, it is also the small things that count. From the welcome drink to being able to paddle board and kayak around the lake at any given time, nothing went unnoticed. The paddle boards and kayaks are accessible to you at any time and the wonderful staff will get you all set up in second, completed with water and towels upon arrival back. Cocktail hour was also a great way to interact with the staff and other guests.

Cocktail hour!

Cocktail hour!

When at Jicaro, you become a part of the family. From before you even arrive to after you leave, you are immediately connected to the staff at Jicaro Island Ecolodge. Aside from the remarkable food, every dining experience offered up something incredible. Breathtaking views, delicious meals and the lovely staff made each meal memorable. I also never wanted to leave the property, but during my day tour of the volcanoes, the city of Granada and a trip to the central market; I felt even more connected to the wonderful country. I explored and met tons of locals who embraced me with open arms. We additionally visited the local school and learned about all of the amazing initiatives that Jicaro Ecolodge actually implemented there. It was remarkable.

I could go on and on, but I think that this helps give a great overview to what a few amazing days in Nicaragua at Jicaro Island Ecolodge are like. What are you waiting for, head over there now!Masaya, Nicaragua Market

Dining at Jicaro

Written by: Josh Newmark

During your stay at Jicaro, the culinary team will make sure you’re more than well-fed. The menus for each meal are varied and there is always a local twist so that upon departing, you will have had a taste of Nicaragua. The restaurant is all-inclusive so you can have a meal as fulfilling as you like, and the staff are super friendly and attentive and will accommodate any preferences or dietary requirements.

For breakfast there is a fantastic variety of options: a cooked breakfast might take your fancy, including the eggs and bacon with which you are familiar but accompanied by gallo pinto (a favourite local dish of rice and beans) and Nicaraguan dry cheese. Or perhaps you would prefer fresh, locally-sourced granola with yoghurt and a plate of fresh mango, grapefruit and pineapple slices. And if you are after something sweeter, the menu offers amazing pancakes accompanied by caramelised banana. My recommendation would probably be the ‘island french toast’: thick slices, dusted with grated coconut and accompanied by a jug of pineapple syrup. And make sure to ask for the smoothie of the day! Also, every meal is accompanied with freshly baked bread, which at breakfast includes a fresh pastry and locally-produced fruit jelly.

Jicaro Island French Toast

Jicaro Island French Toast

The lunch menu has several traditional local dishes. The ceviche is a delicious cold starter made of sliced fresh fish, new potatoes, and avocado with olive oil, served alongside crunchy plantain fries. Red bean humous is a Nicaraguan twist on an international favourite. There are also three different flavours of refreshing gazpacho to choose from. For the main course you might decide to try the vigoron, a traditional meal of yucca mash with fried pork. The tacos (chicken, fish, or prawn) are another delicious option, served on corn tortillas and accompanied by refried beans and salad. Then there is also the option of a simple three-cheese toasted sandwich, a burger, or steak, as well as vegetarian options.

Dinner can be preceded by a salad or soup (the fresh crab soup is brimming with flavour), or by another starter such as the eggplant stack, which is served alongside a slice of camembert. Although I am not a vegetarian, I tried the tortilla española and the plantain lasagne, and they did not disappoint. On the non-vegetarian menu are two delicious steak options, as well as delightfully exotic coconut shrimp dish. And despite being someone who rarely enjoys fish, I requested the orange-glazed fish of the day multiple times because it was so tasty – served upon a delicious sweet quequisque paste, alongside roasted eggplant. Desserts include exotic ice cream flavours (coconut, dragonfruit, passion fruit), chocolate or citrus cakes, and ‘choco banana’ – a frozen, chocolate-coated banana on a stick.

A delicious eggplant stack

A delicious eggplant stack

Finally, if your stay at Jicaro coincides with a Saturday, you might be lucky enough to experience ‘Nicaraguan food night’, a buffet of traditional dishes.

Nicaraguan Food Night

Nicaraguan Food Night

¡buen provecho!

Artisanal Fishing Classes

Written by Josh Newmark

josh2

Traversing Lake Nicaragua, local fishermen are a common sight, using a traditional method involving a net which is cast out in a circle and then pulled tight with a rope. Jicaro offers guests the opportunity to learn this style of fishing and give it a go out on the water.

We started on the floating deck, where Zelso and Jobert, two Jicaro staff members who grew up by the side of the lake, showed us the technique for casting the net.

After my first attempt I could see why it has been labelled an “art”: although the fishermen throw a perfect circle each time and make it look like the easiest thing in the world, it’s a tricky method to learn. You have to gather the rope in one hand, find the halfway point of the inside of the net with your other hand, and hold it open with your teeth! Then, in one movement, you twist your body as you cast the net outwards in a round motion so that, ostensibly, it should open up in a circle. However, it took a few attempts before we were able to get the net open at all, let alone in a circle!

josh3

Nonetheless, the Jicaro staff were patient and helpful and clearly enjoyed showing us this locally-developed skill. Once people had managed to catch a few fish from the floating deck (all the fish we caught were released back into the water straight away), it was time to take it up a notch, and we got onto the boat and traveled further out onto the lake to test ourselves some more. It was great to be able to try out this activity which is an integral part of the life of the local community, and it was very satisfying to be able to catch a fish using such a manual, skill-based method. It quickly became addictive trying to see who would get the biggest catch, and before we knew it, it was getting dark. Time to head back to the lodge, after a great couple of hours learning something completely new and unique. Just one of the many great cultural experiences you can sample at Jicaro.josh1

My first view of Lake Nicaragua was of a pitch black nothingness: I arrived at around 10pm, and my boat trip over to the island took place in total darkness. However, the next morning I was able to appreciate the reality of how beautiful a setting it is for Jicaro. The veranda of my casita overlooks some shallows in between Jicaro Island and an adjacent islet, where I can always spot waterfowl diving for food, and turtles padding around the rocks. Walking around to the front of the hotel, there is a much greater expanse of water: the sun gleams off its surface, and clouds roll over the distant mountains through a bright blue sky. Dock

Maybe three days into my internship on the island, I was invited out on the kayaks by Sustainability Manager Gorge Carcache, one of the friendliest guys you could meet, with oodles of knowledge about the local community and a real passion for the sustainability programme. There is one individual kayak and one two-person kayak, both available for guests at any time during the day. We paddled past the floating deck and headed off on a route through many of the local islets – of which there are over 200, created by the Mombacho Volcano, Gorge explained.kayak

Kayaking is a wonderful activity: it can be whatever you want it to be – a session of ultra-relaxation, a great workout, or simply an easy and eco-friendly method of local travel. With the lack of engine noise we could glide in silence across the gentle surface of the water: when we stopped paddling, the only audible sounds were the breeze through the trees, the birdsong, and the occasional casting of a fisherman’s net. Although there was no cover from the sun high in the sky, a lovely gentle breeze rolls constantly across the surface of the lake, so that as long as you remember to apply sunblock, the weather is your friend while you are out on the kayaks. Lake Nicaragua

The kayaking trip was a great way to see some more of the lake area: you can get up close to a very different way of life – with each local household living on their own little islet, in houses built by hand with whichever materials could be found at the time. You will pass women washing clothes or bathing children in the shallows, and men hard at work catching fish or transporting fresh mangoes. It’s an incredibly tranquil experience, but also a great way to see the area which surrounds Jicaro without all the disturbance of a big boat with a noisy engine. A greatly rewarding activity that I would definitely recommend to any visitor to the island.

This was was created by Josh Newmark who is working at Jicaro as an intern for the next month and a half. 

All Fun and Games

We have written so many amazing blogs about the stunning wildlife guests enjoy at Jicaro Island Ecolodge, the activities that are made available being situated on Lake Nicaragua, and why Nicaragua is such a wonderful place to visit. However, we have never written a blog about games to play in the beautiful infinity pool on our property, and we really feel that has been an oversight.

Since the beginning of time humans have enjoyed rough-housing and frolicking in bodies of water. Well, here is a list of some of the best games to play in the swimming pool. Also, we do not discriminate based on age, and we hope that even adults can enjoy some of these childhood classics!

1. Mermaids
Since Ariel made the whole idea of mermaids a little less scary and a little more fun, children have enjoyed pretending to be these half-human-half-fish sea creatures. Those rock structures that make up the edge of the pool are perfect for perching your mermaid/merman-self, to await a curious sailor, or perhaps the merman, or mermaid, of your dreams.

NIC_131213_004782. Marco Polo
This game, named after the renowned Venetian explorer who introduced Europe to Central Asia and China, is timeless. One person is it, and they close their eyes, and everyone else tries to keep from getting tagged. When whoever is “it” says “Marco” you have to reply with “Polo”, giving them a clue as to where you are!

3. Penguins
This one is particularly fun if you’re okay with jumping in and out of the pool, many times. One person is the leader, and everyone else stands on the edge of the pool. The leader begins to say words that start with the letter “P”, and when they say “Penguin” everyone has to jump in the pool, swim to the opposite side and back, and get out of the pool again. The last one out loses! A very fun and active game.

NIC_131213_004754. Somersault competition
This one may be just as timeless as “Marco Polo”. In this game, participants simply see how many underwater somersaults they can do in a row. It is a test of how long you can hold your breath while doing a little physical activity. This game is a little quieter too, so if the pool deck is full of people serenely enjoying their books, as it often is, this would be a good game to play!

5. Handstand competition
Finally, the handstand competition. Contestants have to do a handstand, with just over half of their body in the water. Often there is a judge, who rates the handstand based on duration, style and form. Also a good quiet game, and one that can entertain for hours, until those hands go all pruney!

NIC_131213_00480We hope that gets you excited for a tropical vacation in Nicaragua!

Happy Hour in Nicaragua

We all know how exhausting and stressful it is to spend the day laying out by the pool, wandering the beach and observing the beautiful lakeside wilderness that surrounds Jicaro Island Ecolodge…

So, at Jicaro we make a point of starting happy hour right on time, so you can move from the day into the evening seamlessly! So how do we make all those delicious cocktails? Well, we begin with some high quality ingredients.

NIC_131213_00490Then we get chopping! We love adding as much fresh fruit as possible. It accents the flavor of the chosen alcohol, while lending the drink a delicious and tropical quality.

NIC_131213_00496Our masterful bartenders squeezes some fresh ingredients into the mix.

NIC_131213_00503Then comes the fun part. With a full bar, we can make guests their favourite drink! Rum is one of Central America’s main exports, and because of its abundance it is used as the alcoholic component in many drinks. Gin, vodka and tequila are some of our other favourites!

NIC_131213_00508Finally, it is time to enjoy your beverage! Our staff are always friendly and excited to help any guest have their needs and wants satisfied. Cheers!

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