This trip is open to members of North Carolina’s local Audubon Chapters and is also open to the public. The trip will benefit Audubon North Carolina’s ongoing conservation efforts. For more information on Audubon North Carolina, and the important conservation work that they do, please go to our Resources Page and click on the Audubon North Carolina Link. A FEW SPACES ARE AVAILABLE.
11 Day Birding and Natural History Trip from February 12 – 22
Optional 6-day Post-trip Extension to bird the Caribbean Lowlands
This special ecotourism trip is designed to support the continuing research and conservation efforts of North Carolina Audubon in Nicaragua. EcoQuest Travel has been leading trips to Nicaragua for ten years and is proud to invite you to join us as we explore the many habitats that make Nicaragua such a special place to visit! Although this will be a natural history trip, we will focus on finding as much of Nicaragua’s spectacular birdlife as possible! We will concentrate our efforts in several 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 shade-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 an area of cloud forest. While exploring the dry tropical forests we will stay at the Hotel Alhambra in the old colonial city of Granada and at Montibelli Private Reserve near Managua.
We will also offer an incredible post-trip extension to explore the Caribbean lowlands along the San Juan River. This is a wild and remote area of Nicaragua that offers a chance to see an entirely different suite of animals than we will observe on the main trip. Come with us on this adventure and help in the continuing conservation efforts that are so vital to Nicaragua’s future!
Day 1 – Sunday, February 12: Raleigh to Managua, Nicaragua and on to Finca Esperanza Verde
An early morning flight from Raleigh/Durham International Airport takes us to either Houston or Miami for our connecting flight to Managua, Nicaragua. Please arrive at our departure gate no later than two hours prior to our scheduled departure time. After clearing immigration and customs, and gathering our luggage, we will travel up into the Matagalpa highlands to Finca Esperanza Verde. Once we arrive we will settle into our accommodations and have a chance for some late afternoon birding before the sun sets over the mountains and we get our first delicious taste of Nicaraguan food. (D)
Day 2 – Monday, February 13: Finca Esperanza Verde
We will spend today exploring the forests in and around Finca Esperanza Verde (FEV). The area is beautiful and rich in wildlife, especially birds. Keel-billed toucans, swallow-tailed kites, parrots and numerous tanagers could all be spied from the veranda prior to breakfast. Various species will be attracted to the fruit and hummingbird feeders. Some of the birding highlights could include black hawk-eagle, violet sabrewing, pale-billed woodpecker, royal flycatcher, masked tityra, rufous-browed peppershrike, rufous-winged tanager and blue-crowned chlorophonia. Throughout the day 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 like violaceous and collared trogons, blue-crowned motmots and Montezuma’s and chestnut-headed oropendolas. Various species of treefrogs may be out and about at night. After a full day we will have a great dinner and perhaps a night hike before retiring for the night. (B,L,D)
Day 3 – Tuesday, February 14: Finca Esperanza Verde and General Nestors Farm
Today we will have the early morning to bird at FEV. After breakfast we will travel from the Finca to General Nestor’s farm. This farm is located in a much drier habitat and the river that cuts through it is home to many species of birds and numerous reptiles. Especially common are several species of hummingbirds, white-throated magpie jays, Inca doves, orange-fronted and orange-chinned parakeets, common tody-flycatchers and scrub euphonias. Basilisk lizards are frequently seen on the river and may even run across the surface of the water as we approach. We will have a picnic lunch along the river and, because it will be very hot, a swim in the river will bring welcome relief. In the afternoon we will return to the Finca and the opportunity to explore more of the well developed trail system. Delving deeper into the forest we may spot crested owls, bat falcons, emerald toucannets, variegated squirrels, helmeted iguanas and either, or both, two-toed and three-toed sloth. After dinner we will enjoy an entertaining evening of traditional Nica folk music. The local villagers always look forward to this fiesta around the bonfire under the stars. It will be a memorable evening of music, dancing and great food. (B,L,D)
Day 4 – Wednesday, February 15: Finca Esperanza Verde to Selva Negra and on to El Jaguar
Today we will pack up and travel from Finca Esperanza Verde to Selva Negra. This spectacular primary forest is a little higher in elevation than FEV. Selva Negra is home to some specialty birds that we are unlikely to see elsewhere during our trip including the spectacular resplendent quetzal. We will also search for three-wattled bellbirds, collared forest falcons, bushy-crested jays, and hopefully some of the antbirds and woodcreepers that follow army ant swarms. The forest is also a great place for mammals and we could see agouti, troops of mantled howler monkeys and perhaps even collared peccaries. After our hike at Selva Negra we will have a picnic lunch before departing for El Jaguar. El Jaguar is a shade coffee plantation and ecolodge located in Jinotega Province. The lodge is situated above 4,000 feet and protects a significant area of cloud forest. Along with a great variety of resident birds, the Matagalpa highlands are an important 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 late afternoon to bird. (B,L,D)
Day 5 – Thursday, February 16: El Jaguar
We will have a full day to bird the misty patches of cloud forest that drape the hillsides of El Jaguar. El Jaguar is home to a spectacular variety of birds including many that are difficult to observe elsewhere during our trip such as highland guan, barred forest-falcon, green-breasted mountain-gem, white-bellied emerald, white-winged tanager, blue bunting and blue-hooded euphonia. We will hike some of El Jaguar’s many trails in the morning before taking a break for lunch. Because of the elevation it will be cooler and, although bird activity may drop a bit at midday, some activity should continue even in the heat of the day. As a result we will continue to explore El Jaguar throughout the afternoon until we break for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Day 6 – Friday, February 17: El Jaguar – The Highland Oak/Pine Forest
Today we will travel from El Jaguar to a special ecosystem located even higher in elevation – the endangered oak/pine forests at the very top of the mountains. This ecosystem provides a real mix of species including those more frequently found in the US and Mexico as well as those which occur primarily in Central America. Some of species we could observe includes: acorn and hairy woodpeckers; spot-crowned woodcreeper; tufted flycatcher; scaled antpitta; crescent-chested, Grace’s, hermit, golden-cheeked and olive warblers; painted redstarts; cinnamon-bellied flowerpiercer; flame-colored tanager, black-headed siskin; and red crossbill. Once we have fully explored this unique area we will return to El Jaguar for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Day 7 – Saturday, February 18: El Jaguar to Granada and Las Isletas
This morning, after breakfast, we will depart for the colonial city of Granada. Along the way we will make a brief stop to bird Las Playitas (a shallow wetland area) in hopes of viewing fulvous whistling ducks, least grebes, northern jacanas and numerous herons. After our stop at Las 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 head 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 dinner will be at Dona Conchi’s a local restaurant in Granada. (B,L,D)
Day 8 – Sunday, February 19: Domitila and Mombacho
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. Domitila is also a great place to observe mammals. Mantled howler monkeys are common and often seen closer to the ground. We have spotted kinkajous and prehensile-tailed porcupines on past trips and ocelots are sometimes seen. After a morning of hiking and looking for wildlife in the reserve we will enjoy a great lunch in the shade of Domitila’s veranda. After lunch we will travel to the slopes of Volcan Mombacho and 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 eleania and the spectacular 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, return to Granada and have a chance to freshen up prior to dinner at Gran Francia – a really nice restaurant with incredible food. We will stay overnight once again at the Hotel Alhambra. (B,L,D)
Day 9 – Monday, February 20: Granada and on to Montibelli
We will have a leisurely morning which could include some shopping time in Granada. We will depart Granada around 11:00 and drive to Montibelli Private Reserve in time for lunch. After lunch, during the heat of the day, we should have a chance to settle into our accommodations, rest, or watch birds coming to the water baths. In the late afternoon we will have our first chance to bird and explore the reserve. Montibelli is a fantastic dry tropical forest reserve located fairly close to Managua. Situated in a remote valley, Montibelli is home to a huge variety of birds including many species we are not likely to see elsewhere, such as plain chachalaca, northern potoo, painted bunting, rose-throated becard, dusky antbird, orange-billed nightingale thrush and yellow-billed cacique. After a full day we will have dinner and take a night hike to look for nocturnal birds and mammals. We could see northern potoo, Pacific screech owl, and several species of opossums. After our night hike we will settle into our comfortable bungalows for the night. (B,L,D).
Day 10 – Tuesday, February 21: Tisma Wetlands and Montibelli
Today we will depart early for the wetlands of Tisma. Tisma is a very important protected wetland and is home to several species that are difficult to view elsewhere in Nicaragua including lesser yellow-headed vulture, black skimmer, double-striped thick-knee and Nicaraguan grackle. The area is also great for waterfowl, herons and shorebirds. After spending the morning at Tisma we will have a picnic lunch before returning to Montibelli. We should arrive at Montibelli in plenty of time to take advantage of the afternoon birding. We will be on the lookout for white-fronted parrots, orange-fronted parakeets, lesser ground cuckoo, blue-throated goldentail, collared aracari, violaceous and elegant trogons, turquoise-browed motmots and hopefully lekking long-tailed manakins. We will once again have dinner and overnight at Montibelli. (B,L,D)
Day 11 – Wednesday, February 22: Montibelli to Managua and Our Departure for the US
This morning we will have the early morning to bird at Montibelli before breakfast and our departure for Managua and the airport. Those departing for the US have any early afternoon flight to our US gateway city and those continuing on the Caribbean extension have an early afternoon flight to San Carlos. Once 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.
Optional Post-trip Extension to Bird the Caribbean Lowlands and the Rio San Juan
Day 11 – Wednesday, February 22: Fly from Managua to San Carlos and on to the Solentiname Archipelago
This morning we have an early breakfast before we depart for Managua and the airport. We will need to depart fairly early in order to catch our early afternoon flight to San Carlos. Our flight will take us across the great expanse of Lake Nicaragua and past the islands of Zapatera and Ometepe. The flight will last about 50 minutes before setting down on San Carlos’s dusty airstrip. San Carlos is situated in the far southeast corner of Lake Nicaragua where the San Juan River begins its journey to the Atlantic. Upon arrival we will transfer to the city dock for our boat trip to the Solentiname Archipelago. These islands, located ten miles from San Carlos in Lake Nicaragua, will provide rustic, but comfortable accommodations for the next two nights. Once we arrive at San Fernando Island we will transfer to the Hotel Cabanas Paraiso for dinner and overnight. (B,D)
Day 1 – Thursday, February 23: Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge
Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge is sandwiched between the south shore of Lake Nicaragua and the Costa Rican border. The refuge is ribboned with rivers, dotted with swamps and full of wildlife. We will access this extraordinary ecosystem by private boat which will depart before dawn. After a six mile journey from Solentiname, we will arrive at the mouth of the Papaturro River. From here we will wind our way slowly through the meandering channels looking for wildlife. We could see white-faced capuchin and spider monkeys in the trees and green basilisk lizards and caiman basking on logs. The birdlife is prolific and we hope to see wood storks, rufescent tiger-heron, pinnated bittern, agami heron, boat-billed heron, roseate spoonbill, green ibis, snail kite, gray-necked wood-rail, limpkin, sungrebe, and both Amazon and American pygmy kingfisher. We will take a packed breakfast with us as our early morning arrival is key to our success – there are real advantages to being the first boat up the river. Eventually we will arrive at the Los Guatuzos Ecological Center. We will have a chance to hike some of the trails near the center to look for more terrestrial species and we will have lunch at the center before slowly winding our way back down the Rio Papaturro once again looking for wildlife. On the way back across the lake we will boat around Zapote Island and its bird rookeries. After a full day of exploring we will return to the Solentiname and the Hotel Cabanas Paraiso for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Day 2 – Friday, February 24: Boat from Solentiname to Sabalos Lodge
Today we will have an early breakfast before departing Solentiname for San Carlos and our journey down the Rio San Juan. From the mouth of the San Juan River it will take us around two hours to reach Sabalos Lodge. We should reach Sabalos Lodge in time to settle into our accommodations prior to lunch. After lunch we will hike some of the trails through Sabalos Lodge’s private reserve. We could spy monkeys, sloth and many new species of birds. Sabalos Lodge consists of comfortable thatched, open air bungalows situated on stilts directly above the banks of the San Juan River. Each bungalow has an attached bathroom and gives the feel of living in a tree house. The mosquito netting draped beds are very comfortable and each bungalow has plenty of space. Sabalos will provide a rustic yet comfortable and thoroughly unique retreat while we explore the Rio San Juan area. (B,L,D)
Day 3 – Saturday, February 25: Sabalos Lodge down to hike the Rio Indio Maiz
This morning we will depart very early for an adventure down river. Our goal is the vast and remote Rio Indio Maiz National Park. We will journey past the town of El Castillo and its imposing fort overlooking the river. After El Castillo the towns and agricultural lands begin to disappear giving way to the rainforest which envelops both sides of the Rio San Juan. Huge American crocodiles could be spotted along the river’s muddy banks. Eventually the river becomes the border with Costa Rica on the south bank and Nicaragua on the north. We will stop at the ranger station in Bartola to register with the national park before proceeding a bit further down river to the trail we will hike. From Bartola all the way to the Atlantic lies the huge Rio Indio Maiz National Park. This park is incredibly rich biologically and still protects jaguar, tapir and other large mammals. We are unlikely to see them, but tracks abound and we certainly will see some of the smaller denizens. Poison dart frogs hop through the leaf litter and monkeys are common in the treetops. With luck we could spot a coatimundi or a tamandua. The birdlife is incredible and we hope see short-billed pigeon, crimson-fronted parakeet, slaty-tailed trogon, rufous and broad-billed motmot, white-fronted nunbird, chestnut-mandibled toucan and black-faced grosbeak. Army ant swarms are common here and if we find one we should see many of the special birds that follow the swarms such as plain-brown woodcreeper, chestnut-backed antbird, bicolored antbird, bare-crowned antbird, ocellated antbird, spotted antbird and black-faced antthrush. We will have a picnic lunch with us and after a full day of exploring the Rio Indio Maiz we will return up river to Sabalos Lodge for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Day 4 – Sunday, February 26: Sabalos Lodge
We will have a full day today to explore the area surrounding Sabalos Lodge. The area is rich in birds and we could see pale-vented pigeon, red-lored parrot, black-throated trogon, slaty spinetail, fasciated antshrike, dot-winged antwren, bright-rumped attila, long-tailed tyrant, gray-capped flycatcher, black-throated wren, dusky-faced and tawny-crested tanagers, Nicaraguan seed-finch, orange-billed sparrow and black-cowled oriole. After a full day we will once again overnight at Sabalos Lodge. (B,L,D)
Day 5 – Monday, February 27: Sabalos Lodge to San Carlos, Fly back to Managua
Today, after an early breakfast, we will depart upriver for San Carlos. We will take a packed lunch with us and once we reach San Carlos we will transfer to the airport for our flight back to Managua. Once in Managua we will transfer to the Hotel Camino Real for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Day 6 – Tuesday, February 28: Fly back to the US
This morning we will have breakfast and a chance to pack before we depart for the airport. We will have an early afternoon flight from Managua to our US gateway city. Once in our 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.
$2,624.00/person all-inclusive tour package
$ 850.00/person estimated international airfare*
The 6-Day Post-trip Extension to the Caribbean Lowlands is: $1,168.00/person.
*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, or alternate city, to Managua, Nicaragua
All transportation within Nicaragua (Airfare from Managua to San Carlos and back is included in the cost of the extension, but this is subject to change – please see the rules above)
All accommodations – based upon double occupancy
All tours within the scheduled itinerary
Meals are included throughout the trip (see itinerary for details)
Permits, entrance fees and guides
The leadership services of EcoQuest Travel and Audubon North Carolina professionals
What’s Not Included:
Gifts and items of a personal nature
Gratuities (for Nicaraguan guides)
Fees associated with obtaining a passport
Arrival tax ($5.00 payable upon arrival at immigration)
Airport taxes for the extension (approximately $2.00/person each way)
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 – 10 people. Although 10 people are required in order to make this trip a reality; we are able to accommodate up to a maximum of 14 people. The cost for the optional post-trip extension to the Caribbean Lowlands and the Rio San Juan is based on 6 people. Although 6 participants are required in order to make the extension a reality; we are able to accommodate up to a maximum of 10 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 – and should be considered mandatory for those participating in the Caribbean extension. 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:
A deposit of $1,000.00 per person is required along with your reservation form in order to reserve space on the trip. This ensures airline seating space and necessary early deposits. We encourage you to send the deposit well in advance of the date the first payment is due, as paying the deposit is the only way to secure your spot. Personal checks, money orders and credit cards are accepted. If paying by personal check it should be made payable to EcoQuest Travel, Inc. and on the memo line please indicate: For Nicaragua Trip 2012. If paying by credit card you can include your credit card number and expiration date on your reservation form. This form is available on our website: HYPERLINK “http://www.ecoquesttravel.net”www.ecoquesttravel.net and can be filled out online and submitted via email, or downloaded and mailed. Alternatively, you can phone your credit card information in to EcoQuest Travel at: (919) 963-3038. EcoQuest Travel accepts Visa, MasterCard and most bank debit cards.
If you are participating in the main trip only:
A payment of at least $1,237.00 is required no later than October 21, 2011
The remainder of the trip expense ($1,237.00) will be due on or before January 6, 2012
If you are also participating in the optional post-trip extension to the Caribbean Lowlands:
A payment of at least $1,821.00 is required no later than October 21, 2011
The remainder of the trip expense ($1,821.00) will be due on or before January 6, 2012
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 of $1,000.00, 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.
David Davenport: Zoologist and President – EcoQuest Travel
Curtis Smalling: Mountain Program Manager – North Carolina Audubon