Nicaragua: Bird Banding Trip

Nicaragua: Land of Wildlife, Coffee and VolcanoesThis trip is being conducted for students of the Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology Program at North Carolina State University. This trip is exclusively for NC State students and is not open to the public. If you are interested in this trip, or in Nicaragua as a destination, please contact us. SOLD OUT.

Nicaragua 2014

Tropical Wildlife & Ecotourism Expedition

11 Days from March 7 through March 17

EcoQuest Travel has been leading trips to Nicaragua for eleven years and is proud to partner with North Carolina State University, and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, on this educational excursion! A central focus of this special ecotourism trip is to continue the establishment of a permanent bird banding station at Finca Esperanza Verde (Green Hope Farm) outside of San Ramon, Nicaragua. We hope that a systematic mist-netting and banding station will help us gather data that leads to improved scientific understanding of Neotropical resident birds, more effective conservation, and local education programs. Finca Esperanza Verde is a shade-coffee plantation and developing ecotourism center. Located in the central highlands of Matagalpa Province, the Finca straddles an area where both Caribbean slope and Pacific slope fauna come together. Because of this convergence, bird diversity is high, and includes over 20 species of wintering Neotropical migrants, making the Finca an ideal location for a permanent banding station. The Finca has rustic, but nice, accommodations and terrific Nicaraguan food. In 2005 the Finca won Smithsonian Magazine’s Sustainable Tourism Award. Students also will be immersed in Nicaraguan culture, learn about the importance of ecotourism in the country, and explore the natural history of both wet and dry tropical forests and cloud forests.

Day 1 – Friday, March 7: Raleigh to Managua, Nicaragua and on to Finca Esperanza Verde

An early morning flight from Raleigh takes us to Houston 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 – Saturday, March 8: 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. 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, such as trogons, motmots, and oropendolas. Various species of treefrogs may be out and about at night. We will also learn about shade grown coffee and its importance to wildlife conservation. 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 – the perfect way to begin our time at the Finca. (B,L,D)

Day 3 – Sunday, March 9: Finca Esperanza Verde – Bird Banding

Today we will actually begin bird banding. Under the direction of John Gerwin, Curator of Birds at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, we will open up a series of mist-net stations that form the foundation of a permanent bird banding station at the Finca. 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 it gets too hot. After lunch, we will learn how to make tortillas and hike more of the local trails. (B,L,D)

Day 4 – Monday, March 10: General Nestor’s Farm and San Ramon

After an early breakfast this morning 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, numerous reptiles and even a few mammals. 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. Mantled howler monkeys and both two-toed and three-toed sloths are frequently seen among the trees along the river. We will have a chance to swim in the river and have a picnic lunch before 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! After a full day we will return to the Finca. (B,L,D)

Day 5 – Tuesday, March 11: Finca Bird Banding and on to Santa Maria de Ostuma

Throughout the morning we will continue our bird banding efforts at the Finca. Between net checks we may explore more of the Finca’s many trails. Delving deeper into the forest we may spot crested owls, bat falcons, emerald toucanets, variegated squirrels, and helmeted iguanas. In the mid afternoon we will pack up, say our goodbyes to the Finca staff and transfer to Santa Maria de Ostuma. Ostuma is a coffee plantation and ecolodge located close to our destination for tomorrow – Selva Negra. The gardens surrounding the beautiful lodge are a haven for higher altitude birds including elegant euphonia, bay-headed tanager, and orange-billed nightingale-thrush. We will have dinner and stay overnight at Santa Maria de Ostuma. (B,L,D)

Day 6 – Wednesday, March 12: Selva Negra and Santa Maria de Ostuma

Today we will travel from the Ostuma to Selva Negra. This spectacular primary forest is home to many species that are difficult to see elsewhere including the incredible resplendent quetzal, three-wattled bellbird, collared forest falcon, bushy-crested jay, and hopefully some of the antbirds that follow army ant swarms. The forest is also a great place for mammals and we could see agouti or ringtails, and troops of mantled howler monkeys are common. We will have a picnic lunch before we return to Santa Maria de Ostuma. This afternoon we will have another chance to explore the forests and gardens of Ostuma searching for birds and other wildlife. After dinner the owner of Ostuma, Marcia Salazar, will talk about her perspectives on Nicaraguan history. We will overnight once again at Ostuma. (B,L,D)

Day 7 – Thursday, March 13: Las Playitas, Granada and Volcan Mombacho

We will depart very early this morning for the colonial city of Granada. Along the way we will stop to bird Las Playitas (a shallow wetland area) in hopes of viewing fulvous whistling ducks, least grebes, northern jacanas, and numerous herons. After a brief stop at the Playitas we will continue on to Granada and our accommodations at the Hotel Casa del Consulado. The Hotel Casa del Consulado is a beautiful old hotel located a block from the main plaza. After settling into our rooms we will transfer to the El Zaguan Restaurant for lunch. 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 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, return to Granada and have dinner at Bistro Estrada restaurant. (B,L,D)

Day 8 – Friday, March 14: Lake Nicaragua and Montibelli Private Reserve

This morning will begin just before dawn as we head to the shores of Lake Nicaragua for our early morning 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 take a packed breakfast with us and will return to the boat dock by mid-morning. After we return to our hotel to retrieve our belongings and check-out we will travel to Montibelli Private Reserve arriving in time for lunch. 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, Pacific parakeet, rose-throated becard, dusky antbird, and yellow-billed cacique. It also has plenty of lekking long-tailed manakins if they prove elusive at Selva Negra. After a late afternoon of birding the reserve we will have dinner and a night hike before settling into our bungalows for the night. Nocturnal mammals and birds are plentiful at Montibelli and could include several species of opossums, Pacific screech owls and pauraques. (B,L,D)

Day 9 – Saturday, March 15: Montibelli Private Reserve

This morning we will have an early birding walk in Montibelli prior to breakfast. If possible we will set up some mist nets and see what we capture as a way of comparing species between the dry Pacific slope and our efforts in the highlands. 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, banded wrens, and hopefully lekking long-tailed manakins. After our walk we will have breakfast and have another chance to hike and bird before lunch and a chance to rest during the heat of the day. In the late afternoon we will have more time to explore before dinner. Bats are plentiful and diverse at Montibelli and after dinner we will have a chance to capture and identify some of the many species that are found in the dry forest. Bats are a critical component to most ecosystems and it will be a real privilege to see these keystone species up close and personal! (B,L,D)

Day 10 – Sunday, March 16: Montibelli Private Reserve and Departure for Managua

This morning we will have more time to explore Montibelli both before and after before breakfast. We will stay at Montibelli through lunch and have a chance to pack before our mid afternoon departure for Managua. Once in Managua we will transfer to the Hotel Camino Real for dinner and overnight. This hotel is very comfortable with a large pool, a good restaurant and is located not far from the airport which will facilitate tomorrow’s early departure. (B,L,D)

Day 11 – Monday, March 17: Departure for the US

We will depart for the airport very early this morning for our departure to Houston. The hotel will send a packed breakfast with us. Once in Houston 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.


$2,525.00/person all-inclusive tour package
$ 850.00/person estimated international airfare*
$3,375.00/person all-inclusive

*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.

What’s Included:

  • 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
  • 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 ($10.00 payable upon arrival at immigration)
  • Travel insurance (please see the Travel Insurance Section below)
  • Costs associated with pre-trip medical planning (such as vaccines)

Travel Documents:

A passport valid for at least 6 months after our arrival is required for travel in Nicaragua. No visa is required for US citizens.

Group Size:

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.

Health Requirements:

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:

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. The reservation form is available on our website here .We encourage you to pay the deposit well in advance of the due date, 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 2014. If paying by credit card please phone your credit card information in to EcoQuest Travel at: (919) 963-3038. EcoQuest Travel accepts Visa, MasterCard and most bank debit cards.

  • After your initial deposit is made the following is the schedule for the remaining payments:

  • A payment of at least $1,187.00 is required no later than December 6, 2013
  • The remainder of the trip expense ($1,188.00) will be due on or before February 1, 2014


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. cancels this trip, due to circumstances beyond our control or low trip participant numbers, a refund of the initial deposit and any payments made will be issued.

Travel Insurance

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 “” 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”.

General Information

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.

Trip Leaders:

John Connors: EcoQuest Travel Naturalist
John Gerwin: Curator of Birds – North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Dr. Chris Moorman: Associate Professor of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences – North Carolina State University