Travel article: El Castillo & Indio Maiz

Travel blogger: Christelle & Cedric

Trip story: Discovering The Americas in 6 months!

Image for blog article: El Castillo & Indio Maiz

San Carlos, Nicaragua

Nicaragua 5 days - February 2018







A bit off the beaten track is the Nicaraguan Jungle. When I heard we could see monkeys, parrots, basilico (lizard walking on the water!), poisonous frogs, many birds and potentially caiman I put it on our to-do list for Nicaragua ! Cedric was a bit scared as we saw the movie Jungle just a few months before and kept thinking that we could get lost as well!


The San Juan river is the natural border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. It took us 4 chicken buses (Playa el coco - San Juan Del sur- Rivas- Managua- San Carlos), one boat (San Carlos to El Castillo) and 16 hours in 2 days to reach El Castillo, a really nice and charming village on the doorstep of the jungle and only accessible by boat.

On each bus we've been lucky to have seats which made this long trip a bit easier. But a lot of people were standing for 7 hours... When you think the bus is full in our French/Australian standard you are wrong (or a bit naive!) there is always room by having 4 people on 2 seats, people standing in the alley, people sitting at your feet. All of this with street food merchants coming into the bus and trying to get through by pushing you (with his/her butt). Always an adventure these chicken buses ! All of this with smells of sweat and food! (and trash being thrown away by the window...)


After 2 days in transports we finally made it to El Castillo where we quickly negotiated an overnight trip to the jungle for the day after.

The Indio Maiz reserve is at the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica and is still subject to conflicts hence all the military present in town.

The little village has a fortress built by the Spanish in the 17th century to protect the town from the pirates and today offers amazing views on the San Juan River. We loved it!



8am on the 21st of February, it was time to leave for our adventure in the Jungle!

We decided to do it with Basecamp, a cooperative managed by families from the Ria Bartola who share the profits.

It took us 2h by boat to reach the remote community.

We saw many herons, cormorants and colibri on the way already so we were really looking forward to the rest of the adventure!

Little did we know that it would start 2 hours later when my plastics boots got stuck into the mud and Cedric had to dig and I had to remove my boots to get out. It took us at least 10 minutes and a lot of effort to get out of the situation and I couldn't stop thinking that if I was by myself I would still be stuck there ! (And maybe eaten by crocodiles who knows? ) it sure was muddy and lush  with all the torrential rain we had in 2 days. 5 minutes rain- 1h sunshine cycles!





We saw many parrots on that day, flying around the camp as well as colibri, pigs, roosters and monkeys! Indeed after a quick dip into the river to wash us from all the mud some spider monkeys got close to watch us. So cool!




At night we did a night cruise on a mini canoe to look for animals living here. It was so quiet, many stars were shining and all we could here were the sounds of the animals.

Such a nice feeling! We saw many giant Todd, birds sleeping, small poisonous spider and a basilico (a fluo green lizard which can walk on the water also nicknames Jesus Christ!)

At some point on our way back, the silent have been interrupted by a massive noise exacerbated by the power of the silence coming from behind. A tree fall over into the river, lucky we were not there anymore !

Time to go back to the camp and head to bed into a really nice tent with mattress and bed sheets. We were happily surprised by the quality of the camp! Sleeping into the jungle isn't it supposed to be a roots experience ? ;)


The night was really quiet and dark (we took a shower thanks to the moon light!) and around 5am we got woken up by the many sounds coming from the jungle and cedric singing happy birthday ! I turned 30 in the jungle !

Monkeys, parrots, sloths, exotic birds all woke up and started flying around for our biggest delight !

It was time to head to Indio Maiz and do a 3 hours hike in the mud. We've been amazed by the size and density of the jungle. It was super lush and home to many poisonous species. We saw red, green and black poisonous frogs (of the size of a coin), monkeys, plants the locals use to cure many stuff, more monkeys, salamanders, 300 years old trees , torrential rain and mud mud and mud !

We stopped at some point at a waterfall and Cedric didn't resist doing an advertising for shampoo jumping around and playing in the waterfall.

A beautiful hike!



We spent a couple more hours on the camp and started heading back to civilisation (as far as we can call a village of 300 inhabitants with no road access , civilisation!).


A beautiful birthday with monkeys and new friends we met on the camp!

What a cool expedition it was.


Some recommandations:

# bring a rain jacket! It rains pretty much every 2 hours and when it rains it pours !

# wake up early to attend sunrise and the jungle waking up.

# we went with Base camp who has a camp in Bartola. It was really well organised. Just negotiate BEFORE going the activities as we had to negotiate hard to do the hiking (they were asking for even more money but was supposed to be included in the price we paid already). It kind of ruined the experience as they really were dishonest. Besides we didn't really feel welcome and heard a lot of time "we don't want gringos here etc...

# boots are necessary and provided by the camp. If you go with another tour, make sure they include boots !

# $80 USD per person for 1 night- 2 days- 2 activities

# from Managua, there are 7 buses a day to San Carlos. It takes 7 hours and costs 150 cordobas. Go quick inside to get a seat!

# el Castillo is really nice . We slept at Nena Lodge and we recommend it.

# fortress visit in El Castillo: 45 cordobas per person.

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