Imagine gently gliding through the smooth waters of Lago Cocibolca, Nicaragua’s largest lake, at the magical hour of sunset. As the local fishermen are throwing out their nets for the next morning catch and the school children are paddling home on dinghies from a long day at school. Imagine being the only passenger on a 20-seater boat with a Spanish-speaking fisherman steering the way.
That is where I found myself a few weeks ago at the end of my epic day of touring Granada on foot. In the serendipitous calm of the deep blue waters of Lago Cocibolca freckled in streaks of orange, purple and pink. Just me, my driver and the “Guapotona“, the “handsome tuna”
How did I feel in this beautiful place that nourished my tired soul after a long day discovering the treasures of Granada? At utter peace.
Lago Cocibolca (Lake Nicaragua) is the largest lake in Central America, covering an area of 3,191 square miles ( 8,264 km2). It is home to many islands small and large, with the biggest most well-known island being Ometepe and the smallest group called Las Isletas which are off the shore of Granada.
When the mighty Mombacho Volcano erupted over 20,000 years ago, it blasted huge rocks into Lago Cocibolca which resulted in the formation of 365 small islands known as Las Isletas. Las Isletas can be reached via boat or kayak from Puerto Asese in Granada, and today are home to a community of over 1,200 locals and expats as well as hundreds of species of birds.
As I glided into the lake just before sunset, I was amazed by the hundreds of snowy white egrets I saw. I also saw pelicans, cormorants, parrots, hawks and numerous colorful birds that I could not name.
I felt like I was on an expedition into a magical land of the unknown. I had no idea what to expect given I booked my tour entirely in broken Spanish. Perhaps that was half the fun of the adventure. Not knowing exactly what I’d find.
I admit I was shocked and somewhat disappointed to see that many of the islets were developed. Local fishermen and their families live on some of the islets alongside very wealthy Nicaraguans and expats. Some of the elaborate homes took up almost the entire island.
I’m not sure what the environmental impact of all this development is on the abundant wildlife in the area but I’m sure it can’t be good. I tried to research more on the topic but came up with nothing. It was hard to crop out the electrical wires linking islet to islet, from my photos. I can only imagine how pristine Las Isletas once were before all the development. It made me rather sad.
As sunset neared, the warm humid air kissed my face as we sailed through the calm waters. It was the golden hour, that magical time of day when you feel so incredibly good to be alive.
“When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator”. – Mahatma Gandhi
“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky”. – Rabindranath Tagore
I remember my favorite words of Rabindranath Tagore. If only I could take all this sensational color and bottle it up for later. Instead, it will remain here as a memory.
I didn’t want the ride to end. But it was getting dark. As we slowly pulled into shore, I thought of all the ethereal bird life I saw. I hope they are there for future generations to see.
This post was written as part of Travel + Social Good, a community of change makers united by a love of exploration and doing good. Every month, a group of dedicated travel journalists and bloggers will share stories about sustainable travel. To follow along on Twitter search #travelgood.
The lake and the isletas were so relaxing, and they appear even more so in the evening!
Yes it was surreal out there at night Lexi!
Despite the development it looks like a very beautiful place. And you got some really fabulous photos. Gorgeous! Nothing quite like the golden hour on water.
Thanks Alison! I had many more photos of the homes but chose to out the more beautiful photos of the tranquility instead. 😊
Nicole, your images are examples of nature’s wonders.
Thanks Sally! 😊
Stunning photographs. Looks like an amazing place. Let’s hope more people inhabiting the islands doesn’t spoil it!
Thank you! Yes I was sad to see all the development.
Nicole, my soul is refreshed by looking at your photos. Reading your word, I can’t help thinking that all those people who can afford to live on some of these islands may value the beauty and peace as much as you and I do. Money doesn’t negate the need for rest and refreshment. Hopefully, they’ll strive to leave a small footprint, no matter their reason/s for living in this place, as will the visitors, and it will be there for many generations to enjoy. I love to see all the birds you described.
Yes I am sure they do! For Westerners it is much cheaper to live in Nicaragua (it is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere) so you and I could live like kings. I think it was hard for me to see though because most Nicas are relatively poor and the only ones with the big homes on the Isletas were corporate execs. There is a lot of inequity there and I noticed the taxi drivers and boat drivers and locals pointed this out to me a lot. But yes I can see why it is such a beautiful place to live! It is gorgeous yet I worry about the environmental impact. Hopefully it can coexist.
I understand, Nicole. Hopefully that inequity, too, can be gradually changed, not only in Nicaragua.
Yes, it is a sad reality. I always feel worse about it when I travel to the developing world as I realize so many of the people I met will never be able to ever travel. Then again, even here in the US at my children’s own school there is much imbalance.
Nicole, gorgeous post…once again. I am sharing this on the Facebook expats of Granada page. Once a monkey was trapped on one of the isletas without food and no way to get off the island. People would boat out and drop off fruits for the poor thing until a compassionate woman who has lived in Granada for more than 25 years decided to rescue the monkey. It took several tries because the monkey didn’t want to get in the boat, but they were finally able to rescue it.
The environmental impact of the homes on the islands won’t be anything compared to the damage of a giant canal through the lake. Let’s hope the Nicaragua Grand Canal is never built. Right now, most people believe it is a fantasy canal and mainly a land grab by the Chinese.
And, by the way, living in Nicaragua is about 1/4 of the cost of living in the states. We actually save money by living here, which is good because we can travel more with our savings. 🙂
Thanks Debbie! Wow, 25 % of the cost. That is purely amazing. If only we could live there too! It is wonderful because it gives you culture, a beautiful place to live and you can also live well and travel. Maybe down the road we will have to give it a try too! 🙂
Nicole I have been having a very busy day. As I sat down to read your post a feeling of calmness came over me. So peaceful are your photographs and your eloquent words so soothing. This does seem like a magical spot.
Thanks Sue! Yes, I’m sure you have given your recent trip to Australia! Must have been magical!
Beautiful photos Nicole, what an absolutely stunning and peaceful place. It’s amazing, and kind of sad, how development follows us everywhere, even in a paradise like this.
Thanks Miriam! Yes it was so incredible there. 🙂
Lovely series and of course particularly loved your majestic heron 🙂
Thanks Andrew! Yes I wish I got more captures of the birds. They were everywhere! So incredible!
magical sunset colors, indeed. And I’ve had similar experiences when I travel; especially when going back to places where I was 20 or 30 yrs ago and now see the contrast with excessive development, overpopulation, too many cars, trash, etc…
Thanks for the comment! Yes the world is changing sometimes not for the better.
Beautiful photos and article!!!Thanks for sharing!!!
Im moving to Nica soon and have travelled extensively…,,,and know this for SURE …..
EVERYTHING CHANGES ,,,FOR THE GOOD AND ,,,FOR THE WORST ,,!!!!
Wonderful! Good luck!