We arrived in Managua after an easy flight from Atlanta and were quickly spirited an hour away to Granada by private taxi to the Hotel Consulado. The hotel had been converted years ago from a large private residence; it retained its colonial charm and the staff was most accommodating. We were two blocks from the central square of Granada and spoiled with breakfast, a pool, Wi-Fi, and air conditioning. There was certainly an old world feel as the city was founded in 1524. We met our CME participants as they arrived from Managua and introduced ourselves to each other over snacks. After a quick outline of the education program and itinerary, we gave a brief talk on wilderness medical kits and wilderness medicine in general.
The next day we headed out for a boat and bicycle tour of the Asese Peninsula and the Isletas, hundreds of small islands created from the eruption of nearby Volcan Mombacho. We cycled to a small boat that toured us through the Isletas, where we enjoyed views of Granada, the volcano, and the blue waters of Lake Nicaragua. We also saw kingfishers, osprey, oropendula, parakeets, jacanas, limpkins, and several species of herons, along with locals throwing their nets from dugout canoes. The boat dropped us off (with our bikes) on the end of the Peninsula where we continued on bike back to Granada. As we pedaled along, it was interesting to observe the rural lifestyle of very modest homes, small plots of bananas, and other tropical fruits, and cows, chickens, and pigs. Along the way, howler monkeys seemed to enjoy watching us as almost as much as we enjoyed watching their antics. The shade of massive tropical hardwood trees and cool lake breeze were a welcome relief from the intense sun.
The group on the ferry from Granada to Ometepe with Concepcion Volcan in the background.
Later that afternoon, we departed Granada to catch the ferry to Ometepe Island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. Our driver had failed to show and a last minute back-up plan had us very thankfully arriving moments before the ferry departed. We quickly loaded our gear onto the ferry and settled in for the hour-and-a-half ride. We were treated to sweet views of Ometepe's stunning volcanoes, capped by sun-tinted lenticular clouds, and a magnificent sunset. Landing on the island just at dusk, a shuttle took us to Hacienda Merida - our home for the next near week - where we were greeted by a wonderful buffet. The evening was cool with a nice breeze off the lake.
The next morning's daylight revealed the idyllic beauty of our setting, perched between Lake Nicaragua and the heights of Volcan Maderas, with great views of the classic cone-shaped Volcan Concepcion. Magpie jays, herons, screaming parakeets, and osprey competed with the crowing of locals' roosters and the occasional hooting of howler monkeys. Our rooms were a bit more rustic but with wonderful views of the lake and large hammocks for afternoon siestas.
The group at the San Ramon Waterfall, 164 feet high.
We climbed through the trees to 1,300 meters to summit the Maderas Volcano
After classes, we took bikes from the hacienda and headed out for our first hike to the spectacular 164-foot Cascada San Ramon waterfall. We jumped into the water to cool off and refresh ourselves for the ride home. Calamity struck in the form of a simulated wrist fracture and our participants quickly put their newly acquired orthopedic skills to use with an improvised splint and sling.
We practiced our splinting skills in a trip and fall scenario.
Each night we dined on an incredible buffet of food with fresh fruit, rice and beans, fresh fish, and tasty deserts. We sprinkled the CME lectures into the mornings and evenings depending on our activities, and enjoyed amazing sunsets off the swimming pier in full view of the incredible symmetric cone of Volcan Concepcion. At night we were treated to clear skies and an astronomy tour (including the Southern Cross) by one of our participants, Jaime Tome, who shared his deep knowledge of the stars.
After lectures in the morning, we enjoyed amazing food at Hacienda Merida, resting up before ascending 1,400 meters up the Maderas Volcano.
We enjoyed two kayak tours, one to Mono Island where we were able to get very close (but not too close!) to a family of capuchin monkeys. Afterwards we paddled to a beach, and enjoyed the afternoon sun and the freshwaters of the lake. The afternoon breeze blew up some impressive waves, the splashes of which were a cool relief from the hot tropical sun. The second kayak trip led us past locals herding cattle and doing their laundry in the lake to Rio Istiam. We paddled up an incredibly rich, if short, waterway, spotting nine species of herons and egrets alone, along with caimans (a species of alligator), turtles, and dozens of other species of birds.
Our most strenuous adventure was most certainly the hike up Volcan Maderas. Our guides brought us past lower dry pastures, ox carts bringing down firewood, and petroglyphs, and then up more than 4,000 feet through a number of microclimates including a cloud forest. Along the way we gazed out on stunning views of Volcan Concepcion, the rich jungle flora, and the beaches of Ometepe. Near the summit, another calamity struck as several of our leaders came down with various forms of simulated altitude illness. Our participants quickly treated us and we continued along our way to the summit. It was a long day (five hours up and three down) and we quickly found our way back to the buffet to fill our empty stomachs.
On our one free afternoon, some elected to take bikes through local villages to a local swimming hole while others elected to enjoy the cool lake breezes, hammocks, and Wi-Fi. The region is very arid during the dry season. It never rained, and while lounging in a hammock in the shade one was always quite comfortable. We headed back to Granada via ferry, enjoyed an evening out to dinner, experienced the local markets, and took a dip in the pool.
After paddling up the River Istiam and spotting over 25 species of birds, we took a dip in the lake to cool off.
On our final full day we walked around Granada a bit, experiencing its old world charm and incredible views from a church tower. A visit to the crowded local market was colorful and aromatic, and a great window into local culture. Late that afternoon we embarked on a shuttle to the town of Masaya and Nicaragua's top tourist market, followed by a guided tour of Volcan Masaya. There we peered into the hellish active crater, complete with strong smells of sulfur and mysterious shrouds of volcanic vapors. After a short hike we sat and watched the sunset through the vapor cloud over Masaya, with 360-degree views of the caldera and a half dozen surrounding volcanoes. We then quickly made our way to a lava tube that was inhabited by bats and watched thousands of them exit the cave. We enjoyed our last night together out to dinner and went to bed early for our early departure taxis back to Managua to make our flights home.
On our last day, we watched the sunset over the active crater of Masaya Volcano.
Overall the WMS Nicaragua Adventure CME was a superb expedition with a lot of learning. Eighteen CMEs were earned, with learning reinforced by the lovely setting and a number of real world scenarios and hands-on practice. We experienced local culture, nearly 500 years of history (and some pre-history), beautiful scenery, incredible wildlife, a number of tropical environments, and new friendships. As one of the participants stated, "Location and activities were outstanding, and tied in very well with the course. "Participants rated the overall program a perfect 10 out of 10. When asked what they'd tell colleagues or friends about the program, comments included: "By all means, take it!" "I'd highly recommend it!" and "A must do!!"We all agreed we looked forward to more WMS CMEs and a return to Nicaragua.
Interested in one of the WMS Adventure CME Events? See our Conferences page for information!