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We really enjoyed our trip to Nicaragua from 12/26 until New Year's Day. I wouldn't call it exactly a safari destination, although they have some animals you don't see in Africa. I will post a few pictures.


One thing that is interesting about this nation is that it is both the safest and the poorest country in Latin America. Walking around, at no time did we feel insecure. (For those of you who have never been to Latin America, there are some parts of Mexico and Guatamala that are pretty unsafe). I always thought that poverty breeds crime, but not true here. And they seem to have decent paved roads between the major towns. We were told that the good paving is very recent.


The country still suffers from its reputation from all the civil wars, and in particular the Contra- Sandinista mess, when the US was illegally financing the Contras back when Ronald Reagan was president. But all of that is in the distant past, and it is quite a pleasant place now, although poverty persists. But there were a surprising number of American tourists there and some Europeans as well. Some describe it as Costa Rica 20 years ago.


A couple of my favorite pictures (the monkey is a Howler Monkey in the Los Guatusos reserve and the street scene is in the mountain town of Matagalpa).


We went to 3 totally different parts of the country to get a feel for it. First in the mountain cloud forest at Selva Negra on a coffee plantation where the owners have set a sizable portion of it aside as a nature reserve. Next to the extreme southern part of the country where we stayed on the Solentiname Islands and visited the very wild and pristine Los Guatusos refuge near the border with Costa Rica. New Year's was in the colonial town of Granada on the north coast of the gigantic Lake Nicaragua.





Edited by USAnimalfan
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The agouti is a large rodent, but with thin legs and smaller than the Capybara that is so common on the Pantanal of Brazil. They have been hunted for food in populated areas of Nicaragua and are more uncommon than they used to be. This one lives in the protected area of the Silva Negra Resort cloud forest where we first went and ran away before I could get a good picture in better light.




I was surprized how cool and windy it was here at about 5,000 feet. Definitely long sleeve weather. People from Managua visit here for a change from the heat they get most of the year. Also saw some Howler Monkeys here, but too much vegetation to get any kind of a picture. Our guide says that is the problem with cloud forest habitat- you often can't see the animals well. But, unlike its smaller and more densely populated neighbor El Salvador, there are still enough wild areas in Nicraragua that the animals are there.

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Thanks for information on a destination that does not get a lot of coverage. Nice howler!

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A few more pix coming. We have unusual heavy snow and ice here in Atlanta tonight- something you are used to in Chicago Lynn, but it shuts everything down here in the south!

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After 2 days in the mountains at Selva Negra (we didn't see a quetzal), back to Managua for a flight to the tiny southern town of San Carlos on the southeast corner of Lake Nicaragua. One unpaved airstrip with the only flights being just a single flight to and from Managua each day. Then a boat trip to our accomodations in the Solentiname Islands. We stayed on the island of San Fernando at the Celentiname guesthouse. Beautiful place, but without hot water for showers. But this is the very remote southern part of the country. The locals in these islands have become very good at primitive paintings, which are relatively cheap here- we got a very nice small one for just $35.00. They are sold worldwide.


Next day to Los Guatusos Wildlife Refuge which is essentially most of the southern shore of Lake Nicaragua to the border with Costa Rica. It is essentially a wetlamd area with just a few tiny settlements along several rivers. On the way we cruised by Isla Zapote, or "Bird Island", which is set aside and protected as a rookery for comorants, spoonbills, storks, ibises and a lot of other water birds.






Then south to the Rio Zapote, where we spent the morning and didn't ever see another boat. Lots of birds there. The spectacular flower with the red stamens is from the Money Tree or Guyana Chestnut (Pachira aquatica) and is as big as your hand and fragrant. Too bad it won't survive freezing temperatures or I would grow one in my yard.




In the afternoon we went west along the lakeshore and to explore the Rio Papaturro, which has a little more wildlife. The iguanas were plentiful, and this big male was basking on a tree branch right at the mouth of the river.








Howler Monkeys are common here and we also saw Spider Monkeys, but missed the other monkey that is here, the Capuchin or White-faced monkey. Couldn't get a good picture of a Spider Monkey as they were always on the move in the trees. Unlike most African monkeys, the ones from Central and South America have prehensile tails that they use as a fifth hand. The caimans would lie motionless until you got too close and then they would lunge away suddenly into the water. This Dwarf Kingfisher didn't mind posing for the camera, unlike a lot of other larger birds that didn't like us getting too close.








There is a tiny settlement called Papaturro Town down this river with a Costs Rica border crossing station and a small biological research center. They have a system of shaky canopy bridges there so you can see the environment from the vantage point of the monkeys. On the way to the bridges we encountered this Two Toed Sloth in a tree, not very interested is posing for us.









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After Los Guatusos, back to the island where the next morning we took a nature walk and then back by boat to San Carlos for our afternoon flight back north over the big lake to Managua again. This is a Tiger Heron from San Fernando Island.




The last two days of the trip were not animal oriented, but we checked into the Plaza Colon Hotel in the colonial city of Granada, the most attractive city in Nicaragua. We were able to get this fantastic hotel room with a balcony overlooking the square downtown with the Catholic Cathedral on the opposite side of the park.




Next day we visted two volcano parks. In the morning, the dormant Mombacho volcano, another cloud forest environment and the active Masaya Volcano in the afternoon. Masaya still sends up noxious fumes and a few years back spewed up some rocks that damaged a bunch of cars. You are required to park your vehicle there with the front facing out for a rapid escape in case it decides to do that again and visitors are limited to about ten safe minutes breathing the noxious vapors.




Although there are several cats native to Nicaragua (margay, jagarundi, puma, ocelot and jaguar) it is extremely difficult to see them. That is unless you visit the Managua Zoo like we did on our last day. One of the jaguars attempted to urinate on me through the bars, I guess "marking" me as part of his territory, or else expressing his general opinion about humans. I dodged it, which was fortunate as I had to get on an airplane in a couple of hours. I particularly liked this coati, who liked climbing and seemed as interested in us as we were in him (or her). We had seen them wild in Belize and they are really fantastic animals.






That's about it. My wife and I have learned to keep our wildlife expectations in check when we visit places other than Africa. Even after the Pantanal, India and Denali in Alaska, I still believe nothing comes anywhere close to Africa for wildlife. We usually only get to Africa every second year or so. But this was a perfect place for us to visit between Christmas and New Year's, an easy flight from the Atlanta airport and a place where the $US goes a long way. We had filet mignon dinners and several glasses of wine at the best restaurant for steak in Granada on New Year's Eve. $US 40.00. No regrets and I would recommend Nicaragua as a safe and inexpensive place to visit that most tourists have yet to discover. We really enjoyed it.


But this IS the second year, so this summer, Uganda and gorillas- here we come!

Edited by USAnimalfan
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Oh, and we booked through Tours Nicaragua out of Managua. They took my credit card for their deposit. Our guide Lenin (I don't think he was a communist) was excellent.

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I would take the urination attempt as a compliment. It's great you saw a sloth. The Capuchins may be tough photo subject, but the Howlers aren't easy either. Nice job on those Howlers.


Let us know what Uganda looks like.

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