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Refugio Bartola

A huge swath of tropical forest covering most of the south-eastern corner of Nicaragua has been declared a protected area as the Biosphere Reserve of Indio Maiz. While most of the 3,180 km2 of rainforest is basically off-limits, and can only be entered for the purpose of scientific investigation (and with proper credentials from Marena in Managua), some parts can be visited on guided tours.

The Refugio Bartola is one such small reserve situated by the Río Bartola, just 6 km downriver from El Castillo. Within Bartola, two different paths can be followed: Sendero Bartola, which makes for a two-hour hike, and Sendero Aguas Frescas, one hour longer. The paths are extremely muddy and rubber boots are indispensable. If you are leaving from El Castillo, boots can be rented for $1 from Hotel Victoria, Hospedaje Universal or Albergue El Castillo, or lent for free if you are a guest. Other items to consider would include:

  • A rainproof jacket.
  • Mosquito repellent.
  • Hiking boots.
  • Binoculars or a spotting scope.

With some luck, some of the least shy denizens of the forest can be spotted, since the reserve literally teems with wildlife.

Three different types of monkeys roam the treetops: the howler monkey, spider monkey and white-headed capuchin. In addition there are sloths, toucans and all types of tropical parrots. Iguanas and the tiny venimous green and red treefrogs are also common sights, as are caimans, river otters and kingfishers as you follow the Bartola river. While it is very rare luck to come face to face with a jaguar, a tapir or feral pig, you might come across their footprints. And of course, your guide will point out the hundreds of species of giant trees and plants, explaining their medicinal uses - in fact, each and every one seems to be the ingredient of a snake-bite cure potion!


Other places nearby Refugio Bartola: Islas Solentiname, San Juan De Nicaragua, San Carlos, El Castillo, Boca De Sábalos and San Miguelito.

By Andrea Davoust
After more than two years of working and living out of a suitcase in Eastern Europe and in various improbable African countries that no-one has ever...
08 Dec 2009

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