The delicate brown little bird with its bright yellow beak dances elegantly on its high grey legs on a large waterlily leaf. It is a challenge to capture it from my unstable 1-person kayak that rolls violently on the waves caused by a lancha (a small passenger motor boat) passing by. I am kayaking around Las Isletas de Granada, (the islets of Granada), in Nicaragua. According to the legend, there would be 365 islands scattered around the peninsula, one for each day of the year… Quite a lot to explore!
Walking the long paved road along the lake, passing by many lancha and kayak outfitters, we go straight for the best spot: all the way where the road ends and waterways start. With our dry bags ready, we jump into the kayaks and paddle straight into the quiet canals where we find ourselves surrounded by a lush vegetation with kingfishers, white and grey heron’s, white throated magpie-jays,… Following the birds, we stir our kayaks through waterways that get narrower and narrower, sometimes having to paddle through dense waterlilies, or finding a dead end. Navigating through this maze of islands, which are close to each other, is challenging.
The islets were created by a massive eruption of the Mombacho volcano (article to come, stay tuned!), thousands of years ago. Rocks were blown out all the way to the peninsula, creating this peculiar landscape of hundreds of scattered islands of various sizes, from a few rocks to a few dozens of hectares, all covered in vegetation and home to many birds.
Flowers hang above the water. A big tree is filled with hundreds of weaved Montezuma bird nests. Women are washing their clothes in the lake by their crooked wooden houses. Fishing nets are set out to catch the daily meal. Kids bath in the water. A bit further, luxury houses, each set on its own private island rise above the lake.
One of our objectives of the day was to reach Monkey Island. Given the amount of monkeys we have seen since arriving in Central America, we are a bit disappointed by this tiny island inhabited by about half a dozen of black faced capuchin monkeys. They put up a nice show though, trying to grab our kayaks; that makes up for it!
A splash prompts me to look up. “Mango’s!” Paddling right underneath a massive mango tree, the ripe orange fruit has just fallen… We are fast to land on this rocky island to reach the foot of the tree where about two dozens of delicious, sweet and juicy mangos, are ready to be picked up. We could not think of a better lunch!
Cleaning our hands and faces covered in yellow mango pulp, we go for a very quick swim as the waters of Lake Nicaragua are inhabited by crocodiles and aggressive bull sharks! Despite the fresh waters, these seawater sharks were captured within the lake when it got isolated from the Pacific Ocean after another massive volcanic eruption. Thousands of years of evolution allowed them to adapt and they now evolve in Lake Nicaragua.
It is already the late afternoon and the golden colour of the sunlight shines on a fisherman throwing his net from his wooden boat. The waterlilies are closing. Paddling back, before mosquito time, we are attending the last show of the day: a colourful bird, the Calamoncillo Americano, feeding itself on a plant. We shoot some more pictures before we walk back to the city center of Granada with our catches of the day: a dry bag full of fresh mangos and some nice photographs.
Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen (text & photographs)
- The islets are easily reached on foot or by taxi (about 3km) from Granada.
- Just take a stroll along the Centro Turistico road to find your embarkation for the day.
- Kayaks are best to spot wildlife.
- There are restaurants along the Centro Turistico road and on some of the islands.
- For more photos, take a visual tour!
- Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area!
If you like this adventure, you will like these (just click on the image)!