This trip is being conducted for students of the Biology Department at Catawba College. Although this trip is primarily for Catawba students, we have taken members of public along in the past and this trip is open to the public. If you are interested in this trip, or in Nicaragua as a destination, please contact us. A FEW SPACES ARE AVAILABLE.
10 Day Natural & Cultural History Trip from December 27, 2011 – January 5, 2012
This special ecotourism trip will focus on the natural history, conservation issues and culture of Nicaragua while supporting a growing sustainable tourism industry in the country. EcoQuest Travel has been leading trips to Nicaragua for eleven years and is proud to partner with Catawba College, and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, on this educational excursion! Throughout this trip we will explore many of the habitats that make Nicaragua such a special place to visit! We will concentrate our efforts in two locations in the Matagalpa highlands and the dry tropical forests of the Pacific Slope. While in the Matagalpa highlands we will stay at Finca Esperanza Verde and El Jaguar, both award-winning coffee plantations and ecolodges. Located in the central highlands of Matagalpa Province, Finca Esperanza Verde straddles an area where both Caribbean slope and Pacific slope fauna come together. Because of this convergence, bird diversity is relatively high and includes large numbers of neotropical migrants. El Jaguar is located at a higher elevation and protects a fantastic area of cloud forest. While exploring the dry tropical forests we will stay at the Hotel Alhambra in the old colonial city of Granada. Nicaragua is blessed with spectacular scenery, diverse wildlife, a rich cultural heritage and warm welcoming people! We invite you to join us as we journey to the land of wildlife, coffee and volcanoes!
Day 1 – Tuesday, December 27: Raleigh to Managua, Nicaragua and on to Finca Esperanza Verde
An early morning flight from Raleigh takes us to either Houston or Miami for our connecting flight to Managua, Nicaragua. Please arrive at our departure gate for Managua no later than two hours prior to our scheduled departure time. After clearing immigration and customs and gathering our luggage in Managua, we will board our private bus for the three to four hour drive to Finca Esperanza Verde. (D)
Day 2 – Wednesday, December 28: Finca Esperanza Verde – Birds and Other Wildlife
We will spend today exploring the forests in and around Finca Esperanza Verde. The area is beautiful and rich in wildlife, especially birds. Keel-billed toucans, swallow-tailed kites, parrots, and numerous tanagers can all be observed from the veranda prior to breakfast. In the morning we will hike some of the Finca’s trails in hopes of glimpsing mantled howler monkeys, leaf-cutter ants, and many more species of birds, such as trogons, motmots, and oropendolas. Various species of treefrogs may be out and about at night. After lunch we will learn how to make tortillas and also have a talk about the shade grown coffee produced at the Finca and its importance to wildlife conservation. In the late afternoon, if time permits, we will have another opportunity to explore the trails in search of wildlife before a sumptuous Nicaraguan dinner. (B,L,D)
Day 3 – Thursday, December 29: Finca Esperanza Verde and San Ramon
This morning we will continue our explorations of the environment surrounding the Finca. Delving deeper into the forest we may spot bat falcons, emerald toucannets, variegated squirrels, and helmeted iguanas. After lunch we travel to the community centers of San Ramon – the library and the artisan center. There, we will hear from community leaders and students about the importance of eco-tourism to the local economy. The youth of San Ramon will perform several traditional dances and art students will be available to sell their artwork. During the evening, we will have dinner at the San Ramon bakery, owned by two sisters. We will learn how to make the national dish of Nicaragua – nacatamales! A local band will play traditional Nicaraguan folk music as we eat our nacatamales and after an evening of dinner and dancing we will return to the Finca for a welcome night’s rest. (B,L,D)
Day 4 – Friday, December 30: Travel to El Jaguar
Today we will pack up and travel from Finca Esperanza Verde to El Jaguar. El Jaguar is a coffee plantation and ecolodge located in Jinotega Province. El Jaguar is set among some spectacular primary cloud forest that is located a little higher in elevation than FEV. The misty patches of cloud forest that drape the hillsides are home to a spectacular variety of birds including many that are difficult to observe elsewhere during our trip including three-wattled bellbirds, bushy-crested jays, highland guan and an array of fantastic hummingbirds. Along with a great variety of resident birds, the Matagalpa highlands are a critical wintering area for neotropical migrants. Just like Finca Esperanza Verde, El Jaguar has significant populations of wintering neotropical migrants and it will be great to watch some of “our birds” mingle with the resident species in mixed foraging flocks. Once we arrive at El Jaguar we will settle into our accommodations and should have the afternoon to bird. We will also have a short presentation from co-owner Georges about the challenges of coffee operations and bird conservation in the region. (B,L,D)
Day 5 – Saturday, December 31: El Jaguar Bird Bandin
This morning we will actually begin bird banding. Under the direction of John Gerwin, Curator of Birds at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and El Jaguar owners Liliana and Georges, we will open up a series of mist-net stations that form the foundation of a permanent bird banding station at the El Jaguar. Many species of birds are captured that are rarely observed while birding such as eye-ringed flatbill, tawny-winged woodcreeper, slaty antwren, northern bentbill and spot-breasted wren. We will open up the nets early in the morning and begin banding birds before taking a break for breakfast. After breakfast we will continue to bird band until lunch. We will have some down time right after lunch before we hike some of the trails on the property. One of these trails will provide Georges an opportunity to explain the many uses of native plants and the conservation issues surrounding them. After a full day we will have a relaxed dinner, and perhaps search for owls, before turning in. (B,L,D)
Day 6 – Sunday, January 1: El Jaguar Bird Banding
We will have another morning of bird banding at El Jaguar. As we check the nets along the trails, we will also be on the lookout for species such as barred forest-falcon, green-breasted mountain-gem, white-bellied emerald, white-winged tanager, blue bunting and blue-hooded euphonia. In the afternoon we will make an excursion to a nearby lake/wetland to look for waterbirds. After another day at this extraordinary place we will have dinner under the stars before settling in for the night. (B,L,D)
Day 7 – Monday, January 2: El Jaguar to Granada
After an early morning to bird, we will have breakfast before departing for the colonial city of Granada. We will take a picnic lunch with us and will stop along the way at Las Playitas (a shallow wetland area) in hopes of viewing fulvous whistling ducks, least grebes, northern jacanas, and numerous herons. After our picnic stop at the Playitas we will continue on to Granada and our accommodations at the Hotel Alhambra. The Hotel Alhambra is a beautiful old hotel located directly across from the main plaza. After settling into our rooms we will have the rest of the afternoon free to explore the city and do some shopping. In the early evening we will meet in the hotel lobby and walk to Tele Pizza for dinner. (B,L,D)
Day 8 – Tuesday, January 3: Domitila and Las Isletas
We will depart very early this morning for Domitila Wildlife Reserve to explore what is arguably one of the best examples of dry tropical forest left in Central America. The reserve is home to many birds found only in these dry Pacific-slope forests like black-headed trogon, thicket tinamou, and Hoffman’s woodpecker. Mammals are plentiful and fairly easy to see at Domitila and have, in the past, included kinkajous, howler monkeys and prehensile-tailed porcupines. After a morning of hiking in the reserve we will enjoy a great lunch in the cool shade of Domitila’s veranda. In the afternoon, we will travel to the shores of Lake Nicaragua for our late afternoon boat trip through Las Isletas. The 365-island archipelago of Las Isletas was formed 20,000 years ago when Volcan Mombacho erupted, hurling its top half into the lake and forming dozens of small islands. Today Las Isletas are covered in lush vegetation and provide a haven for birdlife. We will wind our way through the many meandering channels separating the islands and could see snail kites, pinnated bitterns, ringed kingfishers, bare-throated tiger herons, and numerous other water birds. We will return to the boat dock as the sun begins to sink beneath Lake Nicaragua and then transfer back to Granada. Dinner tonight is at Dona Conchi’s restaurant and we will overnight once again at the Hotel Alhambra. (B,L,D)
Day 9 – Wednesday, January 4: Volcan Masaya, Artisan Markets and Volcan Mombacho
This morning, after breakfast, we will depart for our visit to Masaya Volcano. Masaya is a large active volcano and we will be able to look straight down into the crater as it belches gases into the air. The national park surrounding the crater is home to a wide variety of Pacific slope species including white-throated magpie jay, orange-fronted and orange-chinned parakeets, turquoise-browed motmots and, among the lava rocks, large black iguanas. We will spend some time viewing and discussing the exhibits in Masaya’s small museum with a focus on the area’s geology. After witnessing the grandeur of Masaya we will depart for the artisan markets of the city of Masaya. Masaya is famous for its shopping and we should have time to explore both the National Artisan Market as well as the municipal market. After shopping we will have lunch at Laguna Masaya before traveling to the slopes of Volcan Mombacho. At Volcan Mombacho we will transfer to one of the Park’s trucks for the steep climb to the summit. Once we reach the summit, we will hike the caldera trail and explore the diverse cloud forests that make Volcan Mombacho so special. These high altitude forests are a haven for plants and animals. A wide variety of bromeliads and orchids festoon the tree branches and some of the orchid species grow only on the slopes of Mombacho. The dormant volcano is also home to an endemic salamander and many higher elevation birds such as mountain elaenia and purple-throated mountain gem. If not obscured by clouds, the views of Lake Nicaragua from the summit are fabulous. As the sun sets we will descend Mombacho and return to Granada and the Hotel Alhambra. Dinner tonight is on our own. (B,L)
Day 10 – Thursday, January 5: Granada to Managua and Departure for the US
This morning, after breakfast, we will depart for Managua and the airport. Once we arrive at the airport we will check-in for our flight to either Atlanta or Miami. After we arrive in our US gateway city we will transfer to our flight back to North Carolina. (B)
* Please note that EcoQuest Travel will make every effort to adhere to this itinerary, but dates, times, activities and prices are subject to change depending on scheduling and availability.
$2,236.00/person all-inclusive tour package
$ 850.00/person estimated international airfare*
*Note: It is EcoQuest Travel’s philosophy to provide an all-inclusive price, but due to the volatile nature of the airline industry, we are only able to provide an estimated airfare at this time. The actual date of ticketing will determine the price. Typically, we are accurate in our estimates, but please note that there may be a slight difference in pricing at the time of ticketing. If ticket prices at the time of booking are lower than our estimate the savings will be passed on to you. If they are higher you will be invoiced for the difference.
- Round-trip airfare from Raleigh/Durham to Managua, Nicaragua
- All transportation within Nicaragua
- All accommodations – based upon double occupancy & dorms at Finca Esperanza Verde
- All tours within the scheduled itinerary
- Most meals are included throughout the trip (see itinerary for details)
- Permits, entrance fees and guides
- The leadership services of EcoQuest Travel professionals
What’s Not Included:
- Gifts and items of a personal nature
- Gratuities (for Nicaraguan guides)
- Passport fees
- Arrival tax ($5.00 payable upon arrival at immigration)
- Some meals (D on 1/4 is on our own)
- Travel insurance (please see the Travel Insurance Section below)
- Costs associated with pre-trip medical planning (such as vaccines)
A passport valid for at least 6 months after our arrival is required for travel in Nicaragua. No visa is required for US citizens.
The trip cost is based on a minimum number of participants – 8 people. Although 8 people are required in order to make this trip a reality; we are able to accommodate up to a maximum of 14 people.
The Nicaraguan Government does not require any vaccinations; however, there are several vaccines that would be prudent to consider prior to traveling to Central America.
These include Hepatitis A, Typhoid, and Hepatitis B. One should also check to make sure that vaccines against Tetanus/Diphtheria and Polio are up to date. Malaria is present in Nicaragua and anti-malarial medications are highly recommended. Information on travel- related diseases and vaccines to prevent them can be found on the Centers for Disease Control website at: HYPERLINK “http://www.cdc.gov/travel”www.cdc.gov/travel
We highly recommend discussing all medical issues related to travel with your doctor well in advance of the proposed travel date.
Payments and Reservations:
All funds for this trip will be paid directly to Catawba College. If you have any questions regarding the trip’s cost or payment schedule please direct them to Dr. Joe Poston – (704) 637-4443.
The initial deposit, as well as subsequent payments, will be used to purchase airline tickets and pay deposits for accommodations, travel arrangements, etc. in Nicaragua. Therefore, if you must withdraw from the trip, irrespective of reason, a refund will not be possible. We strongly suggest that you protect yourself with the purchase of trip cancellation insurance. We will try to retain a wait list for this trip and it is possible that if you end up not being able to participate we will attempt to find a replacement for you, however, it is your responsibility to find a replacement or to have insurance.
Please note that in the event EcoQuest Travel, Inc. does not have enough participants for this trip a refund of the initial deposit, and any subsequent payments, will be issued.
EcoQuest Travel, Inc. partners with Access America to provide the best possible travel insurance for our clients. They offer trip cancellation and worldwide emergency services (such as emergency evacuation and emergency medical services) as well as a host of other benefits. You can find more information on EcoQuest Travel’s website (HYPERLINK “http://www.ecoquesttravel.net/”www.ecoquesttravel.net) including how to get quotes and sign up. You do not have to use Access America and may choose to use another company. Either way, EcoQuest Travel, Inc. strongly suggests the purchase of trip cancellation/medical insurance.
Note: Pre-existing conditions will be waived by Access America if you purchase travel insurance within 14 calendar days of your initial trip deposit. For more information please see our website. To locate the travel insurance section of our website look on the destination page in the “click to go to” section on the right hand side of the screen under “purchase insurance”.
Upon receiving your deposit and reservation form you will be sent an information packet containing flight information, baggage requirements, trip cancellation insurance information, hints on what to bring and other useful information. The climate will vary from potentially hot and humid in the rainforest to hot and dry in the lowland areas. It is likely to be quite cool at night. You will want to bring a camera, film and binoculars. Again, a more exhaustive list will be provided after you are registered for the trip.
Dave Davenport: Zoologist and President – EcoQuest Travel
John Gerwin: Curator of Birds – North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Dr. Joe Poston: Associate Professor of Biology – Catawba College