Tours from San Carlos
Replies: 2 - Last Post: Feb 23, 2013 6:51 PM Last Post By: dominic77
Feb 20, 2013 1:33 PM
Tours from San CarlosAnyone know of places to book tours in San Carlos for the Solentiname islands or any of the reserves nearby?
I looked in my book at where the INTUR and CANTUR offices are supposed to be but I can't seem to find them. And one of the hotels that was said to arrange tours said they were not doing that.
If anyone in San Carlos is heading off on tours and looking for more people for their group, let me know.
Feb 21, 2013 5:46 AM
1I have not been to the Solentiname Islands, I only know you can take a boat there from San Carlos (twice a week, I believe).
As for other reserves nearby : we went to Los Guatuzos and loved it. We did not book a tour though. From San Carlos we took a boat to Rio Papaturro (4 boats a week, email Los Guatuzos (see below) for days and time). It took 4 hours. We did book a room at the Ecological Center. They reply fast to emails : firstname.lastname@example.org We could also have stayed at Comedor Caiman. We did several tours with the center and with Armando (Comedor Caiman) and they were all excellent. Saw lots of wildlife.
Feb 23, 2013 6:51 PM
2I also visited Los Guatuzos last July, in exactly the same way as poster soniaberode above describes. Below is my trip report, which used to be here on TT but is currently part of the "lost archive".
Hope it is useful. I also wholeheartedly recommend Armando for tours.
Los Guatuzos Trip Report
There is a paucity of information about the area here on the Thorn Tree, so hopefully this thorough report of my 3-day stay will help anyone who is intending to visit.
Los Guatuzos is a wonderful place with a huge diversity and abundance of wildlife, and judging from the visitors books at the Centro Ecologico and the Comedor Caiman, it seems very undervisited. I was the only tourist in the area throughout my stay.
I flew from Managua to San Carlos. The flight (in a small single-engined aircraft) takes less than an hour and is very enjoyable in clear weather with splendid views of Ometepe Island and its volcanoes (sit on the right hand side of the plane for best views). The cost was just over US$90 one way.
From San Carlos “airport” (which is little more than a one-room shack beside a dirt airstrip), shared taxis operate the short distance into town for C20 per person.
There is also a bus service from Managua to San Carlos. This used to be a long and very uncomfortable journey, but I heard that the road is now completed, cutting the journey time to 6 hours or less and increasing the comfort. Perhaps someone could confirm what this journey is like now.
Los Guatuzos is situated on the Papaturro river, a small waterway that flows into Lago de Nicaragua about halfway along its southern shore. Accordingly, the boat’s destination is advertised as “Papaturro”, not “Los Guatuzos”. It departs from the extreme westerly pier at the revamped waterfront/pavilions area in San Carlos. Note that this is NOT the same terminal where the Rio San Juan boats depart from.
The San Carlos – Papaturro boat runs only three times a week, departing at 9am on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. The one-way fare is C$105. You should go to the pier as early as possible on the day of departure to put your name on the list, to ensure you get a seat (I suggest doing this by 8am at the latest). Then you can go and get breakfast; there are several restaurants and cafes nearby.
The ride takes approximately 4 hours, mostly across the open lake. The seats are wooden planks without backrests so it’s not very comfortable and the scenery isn’t interesting for 90% of the ride, so take something soft to sit on, and something to read. My boat took a 20-minute pitstop part way through the journey, at an island inhabited by a single family who are apparently well-known for their delicious fish soup and fried fish. So you can get something to eat or visit the bushes there.
The last part of the journey – once the boat heads along the Rio Papaturro - cuts through the nature reserve and is very scenic and full of wildlife.
Returning to San Carlos, boats depart Los Guatuzos (next to the footbridge) at 7.30-8.00am on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
Where to stay
I contacted the Centro Ecologico de Los Guatuzos in advance, by completing the enquiry form on their website. I received a very prompt response and quick answers to all my questions from Oscar Bermudez, who is based in Managua.
Making an advance reservation was hardly necessary in my case, but the Centro does sometimes (quite rarely, I think) host larger groups so you would probably want to make contact in advance to check there is somewhere to stay before you make the long trek out there.
The Centro offers dorm accommodations with shared bathrooms for US$11 per person per night. There are also rooms with private bathrooms for US$13 pppn. I saw no need to stay in a private room, as I was the only guest in residence and my dorm was therefore plenty private enough for me. Two local staff members had been forewarned of my arrival and were waiting to greet me at the boat jetty. It was all very professional and the staff were endearingly eager to please, to the point of leaving fresh flowers in my dorm room and folding the towels into the shape of a swan. The dorm rooms, bathrooms and common areas are all spotlessly clean, and beds more comfortable than is the average for budget digs in Nicaragua.
There is free purified water for all guests (bring your own bottle). The Centro also supplies gumboots free of charge when rainy season conditions warrant their use. Towels are also supplied.
At times of low occupancy at the Centro, the generator is turned off, and when this happens there is no electricity. I could have asked for it to be turned on but I didn’t feel I really needed it. I had a flashlight, and candles are provided.
There is now another recently-opened sleeping option in Los Guatuzos village. Armando and Aillen, owners of the Comedor Caiman in the village and also local tour operators, have recently built a cabana with a comfortable private room (and its own bathroom) for US$14 per night including a very good breakfast. There is also a multi-bed dorm in the same building that could also serve as an alternative to the Centro Ecologico. I had a look at the rooms and they seemed very good for the money.
The Centro Ecologico offers a variety of inexpensive tours. You can do as many, or as few, tours as you please. There is no pressure to do anything at all but the tours definitely help you make the most of the area. My guide was friendly, knowledgeable and patient. One important thing to note is that only Spanish is spoken. This would probably mean a less interesting and shallower experience for non Spanish speakers, but that’s no different from most less-visited parts of Central America.
Tours vary in price from US$5 to US$15 per person. I enjoyed the “Paseo el Perezoso” tour including visits to the caiman and turtle nurseries and tree platform walkway (US$8, 1.5 hours), a daytime kayak tour along the Rio Papaturro to look for birds (US$13, 2.5 hours), and a night trip, also by kayak, to observe nocturnal species (US$15, 2 hours).
Self-guided walks are possible, and you can visit the tree platform walkway without a guide if you wish. There are a few trails in the humid forest behind the Centro. It was very muddy and mosquito-infested in there. There are also two wider, drier, more open trails (driveable by car), leading out of Los Guatuzos village, at least one of which goes to the Costa Rica border 4km away.
Another highly recommended option for tours is Armando at the Comedor Caiman. He is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about local animals, birds and plants. I did a specialized bird-finding tour with him by small boat along the Rio Papaturro, heading south towards the Costa Rican border, and thanks to his expertise we succeeded in finding several of my rare target bird species. This cost US$35 (probably cheaper per person for more than one). He said the tour would last about 3-4 hours but we were actually out there for nearly 6 hours, such was Armando’s dedication to finding a rare Kingfisher species for me, which we did eventually succeed in tracking down.
I also did a morning boat trip with Armando, heading north along the Rio Papaturro to the lake, in search of rare herons (and succeeded in finding all 3 target species). This trip cost US$20. We timed the end of the tour so we met the San Carlos-bound boat on the lake, and I was able to transfer boats and head back to San Carlos.
The Centro Ecologico does not supply food. A short walk away, in the village, 3 restaurants are affiliated to the local tourist scheme and provide breakfast, lunch and dinner as required. I ate all my meals in the Comedor Caiman, next to the footbridge. The food was standard Nicaraguan fare but surprisingly good (and varied) considering the remote location. Each meal cost C$100. Beer is available for C$30.
Birds and wildlife
The area is astoundingly rich in wildlife. Howler Monkeys can be frequently seen and heard everywhere, even around the Centro Ecologico buildings, while around the tree platform walkway behind the Centro I saw the other two species, Spider Monkey and White-faced Monkey. I had 3 sightings of Two-toed Sloth and one sighting of Three-toed Sloth in the general area during my stay, and two sightings of Otters. Caimans are present in the river in good numbers but they are hard to see as they quickly retreat underwater at the first sign of danger. I had one decent view of a Caiman during the day, and on the night tour their glowing red eyes were easy to spot. Iguanas and the so-called “Jesus Christ Lizard” (due to its habit of running across the water) are common and easy to see. Other wildlife including bats, fireflies, frogs and of course mosquitoes are abundant.
The bird life around here is very special, with an exceptional range of wetland and forest species present. I saw 91 bird species during my stay. Particular highlights included Chestnut-bellied Heron, Tricolored Heron, Boat-billed Heron, White Ibis, Green Ibis, 5 species of kingfisher including the rare Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, Nicaraguan Seedfinch, White-necked Puffbird, 9 flycatchers, 5 woodpeckers, and both of the trogon species that occur at Los Guatuzos.
Contact me if you would like to see the full list of the birds I saw in the area.
Centro Ecologico: Oscar Bermudez. www.losguatuzos.com. Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel: (505) 22703561 or (505) 87729630.
Comedor y Cabanas Caiman (and tours with Armando): Aillen Mejia Velasquez. www.cabanascaimanlosguatuzos.com. Email: email@example.com. Tel: (506) 87043880 or (505) 86762958.
Panama CityBook now
(4 star Hotel)
From US$189.00 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$153.39 per night
Panama CityBook now
(0 star Hotel)
From US$13.00 per night