Day Trip! Exploring Nearby Islands
By Linda Pudder
There's no doubt that most people who come to the Ranch feel reluctant to leave.Who can blame 'em…five spectacular beaches, world class surfing, bountiful wildlife, a restaurant, bar and seaside pool.
If you also happen to be a born traveler unable to resist the urge to get out and explore, there are a number of short trips you can take from the Ranch that will quench your thirst for local culture and have you back in time to quench your thirst for a late afternoon sundowner. Catarina's "Garden Mile" (featured last month) is one of those places.
Another amazing daytrip destination is the dense archipelago in Lake Nicaragua located just off shore from the colonial town of Granada. This chain of small islands known as The Isletas qualifies as a daytrip excursion thanks to its close proximity to the Santana main gate – less than a two hour drive away. However, after seeing the sheer number of islands to explore and the rich diversity of birdlife (and local life) to observe, you may want to turn your day outing into a vacation from your vacation at the Ranch.
"The howler monkeys are always hanging around watching their transient neighbors fly by. Local Nicaraguans row around on wooden boats each day on their way to school, to fish or to visit a friend."
The initial attraction of this network of 350-plus little islands lies in the individual islands themselves. For each one is actually an ancient pile of basalt rock blanketed in thick layers of fertile soil and topped with some of the tallest mango trees you'll ever see or SMELL.
Depending on the season, egrets, ospreys, kingfishers, bare-throated tiger-herons, Limpkins, and dozens more species take refuge around the Isletas. The howler monkeys are always hanging around watching their transient neighbors fly by. Local Nicaraguans row around on wooden boats each day on their way to school, to fish or to visit a friend. Then there are the many tourists who play witness to it all.
If visiting as a one of the day tourists, your main objective should be to get a small glimpse of that flourishing island life. Renting a kayak, hiring a boat tour, having lunch at the marina will help you do just that and get you back to the Ranch in time for sunset.
If your desire is to learn about Isleta life up close and personal, then make a reservation for a night or two at Jicaro Island Ecolodge. "Jicaro" is Nicaragua's newest eco luxury hotel catering to guests who want to be engulfed in a natural environment showing little sign of impact yet complete with all the creature comforts. The entire sustainable island resort was designed and fabricated by Matthew Faulkner and team – Simplemente Madera masterminds and creators of Morgan's Rock. The hallmark Simplememte private two-story tropical wood prefabs situated along the island perimeter provide the perfect observation deck for surveying the Isleta life passing by along the water.
You'll surely feel at home in your private casita, but it's the staff at Jicaro who'll make you feel like a born islander. They kindly call you by name from the moment you step foot on the Jicaro rock, personally guide you around the Isletas and nearby mainland towns, quietly deliver coffee to your deck in the early mornings and turn your bed down at night. Your job is to just sit back and assume the Isleta life style.
Head Chef Calley Prezzano is Jicaro's own culinary mastermind. Her Gallo Pinto Wrap with mint and papaya chutney is proof of her genius. A California Culinary Academy grad and former chef of San Francisco top kitchens, Calley is the queen of fusing unlikely flavors and textures. Together with the help of her local cooking staff, she is redefining typical Nica fare.
From feasting to birding, volcano hiking to lake kayaking, Jicaro sets the perfect stage for an active island vacation. For practicing yoga, indulging in spa treatments or simply relaxing and reconnecting with loved-ones, it's the ultimate little island haven. And much like at Ranch, once you're there, it won't be a question of what to do, but rather how you'll ever leave!