In search of the howler monkey

Everybody starts looking nervously for their camera and mobile phones to snap the first picture of Volcán Concepción, as the boat from Rivas approaches Isla de Ometepe. I’ll be staying on the island for a few days and I am determined to discover the best things to do in Ometepe! Which shouldn’t be that hard: the island has been recognized as one of the most authentic and beautiful spots of Nicaragua!

things to do in Ometepe

My first port of call is Altagracia. The town consists of a church, a few side streets and the Parque Central, which is awfully quiet and a bit rundown. In front of the old parroquial church are some ancient excavated statues. What era they date from or what they are supposed to represent will remain a mystery, explanations are nowhere to be found… except maybe in the small, local museum which is unfortunately closed…

things to do in Ometepe

The next day I continue my trip on a very slow bus to Balguë, where I will be setting up base camp for a few days.  I hire a bicycle and set off for a full day of exploring. It is wonderful to see how authentic everything has remained! There are hardly any cars or tourists. I am surrounded by banana plantations, beautiful views and secluded beaches. The beach of Santa Cruz is everything a great beach should be: miles of soft sand, a hinterland of virgin forest and magnificent views of the island’s smoking volcanoes.

things to do in Ometepe

things to do in Ometepe

I continue rolling down and pushing up the island’s hilly roads until I reach “La Presa Ojo de Agua” where a pleasant stroll through banana plantations leads to a shady mineral-infused lake. It is an incredible place to relax for a few hours!

things to do in Ometepe La Presa Ojo de Agua
Cycling in the midday sun is pretty tiring, so before heading back to my accommodation, I stop to watch baseball training, THE national sport of Nicaragua. I have no clue what the rules are but that doesn’t seem to matter. There is no real competition going on anyway, this is about local teenagers enjoying themselves.

“Asi es mi Tierra”, the name of the place I stay at, is very basic, but the short jungle track that leads from the rooms towards the rocky shores of the lake definitely makes up for it! According to the staff you can spot some howler monkeys at the beach just before sunset. I wait and wait and wait… alas, the monkeys aren’t coming tonight…

The next day I get back on my bike. I am off to explore another part of the island: Mérida. The main road soon turns into a dirt track scattered with boulders. It is pretty challenging cycling and I have to stop a few times, rolling down the hill just seems too frightening! At Albergue El Porvenir I take a small detour to spot some of the petroglyphs, rock engravings that date back to the pre-Columbian past, some of the oldest ones to 1000 BC!

things to do in Ometepe

Then it’s back on track for some more huffing and puffing until I reach Mérida. This is a very wild and untamed stretch of road with barely any civilization, except for a few dispersed houses.

I still haven’t given up on spotting howler monkeys, so I decide to try my luck on the “Sendero Peña Inculta“, a short interpretative trail meandering through the forest. I can spot quite a few birds, but the forest seems pretty quiet this time of the day. And then, to my great surprise, high up in the trees I spot him: my long awaited monkey! He is quite high up, but my luck continues in the evening when in the backyard of the hostel, I get clear views of some of them swinging in the trees. Happy girl!

things to do in Ometepe

things to do in Ometepe

I absolutely love Isla de Ometepe and decide to stay on for another day to check out the Charco Verde nature reserve. Several hiking trails take you to different view points over the green lagoon and the windy beach offers a welcome break from the walk. You are in the middle of nature, birds and butterflies and …yes, monkeys!

Catching a lift in the back of a pick-up truck, I end up in Moyogalpa. It’s the main tourist hub of the island and almost every house has been converted into a restaurant or small hotel. Probably my least favourite place on the island…

Next stop: the revolutionary capital of Nicaragua: León!

Have you been to Isla de Ometepe or Nicaragua?
Where in the world is your favourite escape?

6 Replies to “In search of the howler monkey”

  1. Katie Featherstone

    I love the amazing scenery and wildlife you find in this kind of tropical environment. Isla de Ometepe sounds just perfect. The colours in some of your photos are so vibrant, it really makes me miss that kind of sunshine!

  2. Jessica

    Looks like your trip was a little more successful than mine to the island! When I went it was a disaster with no where to stay when we arrived, our bikes being stolen, paying fines for riding around on mopeds…haha. Would love to go back and experience it again!

  3. Escaping Abroad

    Lovely pictures! I had a blast on Ometepe.. hiked all the way up Maderas for the most beautiful views! It’s a torturous time up and down that thing but so worth it!

    • Els Post author

      Thanks! I didn’t do the hike up Maderas, but I’m sure it must have been lovely indeed! When I was there, there was a marathon going on: the participants RAN up both volcanoes! Respect! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.