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Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge - Trip Review

Los Angeles
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Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge - Trip Review

We recently returned from our 3rd visit to this area. Each time we have stayed longer and this time four days still wasn't enough for this amazing place.

Several things make this an incredible experience: first of all, it is absolutely beautiful. The boat ride San Carlos across Lake Nicaragua is pretty enough but once you enter the Rio Papaturo which leads you into the refuge, it becomes jaw-dropping for its scenery and abundant wildlife.

Once you get to the area of the Central Ecologico in the small village of Papaturo, there are only two places to stay and we by far prefer the Cabanas Caiman to the shared facilities of the Centro itself. The cabins are run by local guide extraordinaire Armando and his wife Aillen. To contact them you can send an email to armandogcarballo@hotmail.com or call their cell phone numbers (506) 87043880 (Costa Rica) or (505) 86762958 (Nicaragua). Be patient because reception if very spotty down there. You will also have to speak Spanish. I can't recommend them enough.

Their two adjoining cabins are right on the river and very comfortable and clean (and even have electricity). They prepare meals in their outside kitchen and you get an incredible feel for the way the locals live.

The wildlife in the area is consistently the best we've seen in frequent trips to Central and South America and Armando's skills are unequaled. He's lived there his whole life and can identify every bird, insect, flower, tree, animal, snake, frog, monkey, etc. And he knows where to find them. He offers a variety of tours on his boat or on foot, day and night.

One of the highlights on this most recent trip was Armando finding a fer-de-lance deep inside a hole during a night tour to find sleeping birds. The next day, we came across a caiman eating a fer-de-lance in a very nearby spot. Armando got us amazing views (and resulting photos) but kept us safe the entire time.

I haven't even mentioned the great food prepared by Nidia and Aillen and the warm people in the area. There are a couple of local bars to grab a drink or bite to eat in walking distance too but you will feel very remote and isolated in this area.

You can get to the area by an inexpensive public boat that runs a few days a week or more quickly in a more expensive private boat available for hire in an San Carlos. We used Empresa San Miguel run by Miguel and his sons. Their number is (505) 88480505 or (505) 88286865 (again, you'll have to have someone who can speak Spanish on the call).

Once you get to Cabanas Caiman, you can get by even if you don't speak Spanish. Just bring great flashlights.

This area is amazing for birders which is why we keep going back.

Managua, Nicaragua
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1. Re: Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge - Trip Review

Excellent trip report freshmani! Anyone considering a trip to this remote area should take heed of the details you so kindly provided here. Thank you.

New York City, New...
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2. Re: Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge - Trip Review

We cannot agree with you more! We just went there a few days ago and stayed there for one night. It took some effort to go there but it's well worth it. We thought we have already had great sighting of birds and wild life at Indio Maiz and along Rio San Juan until we visited Los Gutuzos! Since the Rio Papaturo is narrower, viewing of birds and wild life was simply non-stop! We did an evening boat tour w/ Amando and it's one of the highlight of our trip. Amando is truly very knowledgeable and knows where to find the animals/birds at night. We have never been so close to birds or the Cristo lizard standing on the tree branches! Highly recommend this place!

New York City, New...
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3. Re: Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge - Trip Review

We cannot agree with you more! We just went there a few days ago and stayed there for one night. It took some effort to go there but it's well worth it. We thought we have already had great sighting of birds and wild life at Indio Maiz and along Rio San Juan until we visited Los Gutuzos! Since the Rio Papaturo is narrower, viewing of birds and wild life was simply non-stop! We did an evening boat tour w/ Amando and it's one of the highlight of our trip. Amando is truly very knowledgeable and knows where to find the animals/birds at night. We have never been so close to birds or the Cristo lizard standing on the tree branches! Highly recommend this place!

Los Angeles
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4. Re: Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge - Trip Review

Yes, his night tours are particularly great. We've done about five with him now and have seen different birds and other animals every time.

Ohio
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5. Re: Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge - Trip Review

So glad you posted this. We are going to Nica in 3 weeks - woo hoo! First trip - cannot wait. Unfortunately, I cut it a little short and my one night in Los Guatuzos had to get cut. However, we are staying at Monte Cristo for three nights and have rented private boat for whole duration. I am trying to get their guide to take us to Guatuzos. However, they are concerned that if we don't get on the lake early enough, the ride will be really choppy to go all the way to Rio Papaturro. They suggested the Rio Frio. The Rio Frio to me looks like a lot more pasture amongst the forest. I see there is another river between the Rio Frio and the Rio Papaturro called the Rio Zapate (on my map). Augustin said he would be happy to explore a little with me if we cannot get all the way to Rio Papaturro. I was hoping you could tell me 1- how long was boat ride to Rio Papaturro from San Carlos?, and 2-does it look like we could get decent birding in one of the rivers in between San Carlos and Papaturro? and 3- what time did you take the boat ride and was is very choppy? My husband tends to get sea sick. Thanks a bunch. It was actually one of your posts that got me interested in the area in the first place. I love off the beaten track and have been all over Costa Rica. This is first trip to Nica. We are also doing Montibelli, Domitilla, El Guayabo when we are up in Granada. Have you done all of those, and do you have any other suggestions? Thanks!

Los Angeles
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6. Re: Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge - Trip Review

From San Carlos, it takes a little over an hour to cross Lake Nicaragua to get to the mouth of the Rio Papaturro. Once you were on the river you could easily spend a few hours exploring. The lake is usually choppy and can be VERY choppy at times, especially in the afternoon--it's a bouncy ride that might make some sea sick if they are prone to it. I think what you're being told is true, that you'd be better off getting a very early start. Of course, first you'd have to get to San Carlos so you're looking at quite a long day on the boat. And poor weather could make it even less enjoyable. It might make more sense to head in the other direction to Indio Maiz (you can search this area) which should be only about an hour or so from your lodge. Although we didn't see much wildlife the day we were there, many people have filed great reports. As for the Rio Frio, it is wider and more traveled that the Rio Papaturro, so the experience is not nearly as rich. (Not sure about Rio Zapate.)

A good guide will be key to wherever you decide to go. As much as the Los Guatuzos area is tops for wildlife in the entire area, I think it might be a lot for one day. It would be too good to want to rush it. You could do Los Guatuzos in half a day though if you wanted to. Or you could save it for your next visit and tour the area with Armando who I mentioned in the first post.

Of the other places you mentioned, we have gone to Montibelli, using it for a last night stay instead of Managua. We loved it and saw lots of birds (many turquoise-browed Mot Mots) in the very limited time we had. We'd go back there. On another trip, we bypassed our last night in Managua and stayed in Granada, which has been our least favorite place in Nica so far.

Hope that helps.

Ohio
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7. Re: Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge - Trip Review

Thanks. We are going to Indio Maiz also. What didn't you like about Granada? We are going to be there for a week also. Just curious.

Thanks for your comments.

Los Angeles
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8. Re: Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge - Trip Review

We just prefer to be away from crowds and tourists and found Granada to be over-rated. So, it's not so much anything negative about Granada, just personal preference. We'd return to Montibelli but not Granada.

Manchester, United...
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9. Re: Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge - Trip Review

Please can you tell me what costs were involved for this kind of trip. I would like to do it but I am travelling alone and want to know if I need to try and get a group together. Thanks for the tips!

Anchorage, AK
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10. Re: Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge - Trip Review

It all depend on how you want to travel. If you fly from Managua to San Carlos it's about $150 RT and then you have to catch one of the public boats that goes out to Los Guatuzos which I think is around $5. If you don't hit that schedule you'll have to wait a night or two in San Carlos or hire a private boat at a cost of $150 each way. Staying at Cabanas Caiman is around $25 a night per person including food. Each of the tours out of CC costs $10 per person unless it's a longer trip like out to Solentiname. Conceptually if you had a lot of time you can do this trip very reasonably by taking the bus to San Carlos, riding public transport, and staying local. However, flying and private pangas are faster and more comfortable.

Howard checks in regularly and has been a great help planning our trip for November. Hopefully he can chime in...

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