BL17 FINAL - Page 39

The author tests the
waters with a cigar
Opposite: the rooftop
view across Granada,
with the dome of La
Merced church, dating
to 1534. Above: an
anteater in the
rainforest; right: the
crater of Masaya
volcano, which sprang
into life in 2016. It’s one
of 50 volcanoes dotted
across the country.
The Caribbean east coast is home
to the second largest rain forest in
the Americas covering 1.8 million
very sparsely populated acres. The
majority of its inhabitants occupy the
mountainous north and the sweeping
Pacific west coast, with a third of the
population living in its six major cities.
Remarkably, nearly 20 per cent of the
entire country is designated as national
park, and Nicaragua boasts 10 per cent of
total global biodiversity. These include
wildlife refuges and nature reserves
sheltering myriad ecosystems.
The infinitely varied landscape
includes 50 volcanoes; several UNESCO
Biosphere Reserve freshwater habitats
including Lake Nicaragua, Central
America’s largest lake, with indigenous
fresh water sharks and dolphins;
spectacular marine environments off
two incredibly different coastlines; and
seven different types of forest, from
rainforest and cloud forest to mangroves
and tropical dry forest.
You’ll be delighted to know that
our expedition will experience
the country in a responsible and
sustainable fashion! Nicaragua is a
careful custodian of its ecology and
environment – 80 per cent of its energy
is supplied from renewable resources.
Eco-tourism is promoted as a model of
sustainable development, and in 2017
Nicaragua was given the Sustainable
and Responsible Tourism Destination
award by the UK’s Latin American
Travel Association. We in the west
should take a leaf out of Nicaragua’s
forests, or perhaps not!
The people of Nicaragua, from my
experience, are notably warm and
friendly. Due to it being a relatively
new and pleasingly unspoilt travel
destination, Nicaragua really does
take you back in time. It’s up to you
to decide how far. It all started with
small isolated groups of Paleo-Indians
travelling from North Asia, prior to
any tourist packages being available,
sometime towards the end of the last ice
age. They were following vast herds of
game over a land-and-ice bridge across
the Bering Strait to Alaska, that existed
between 45,000 and 12,000 BC. Just
imagine how thrilled they must have
been to eventually arrive in the warm
tropical climate of bountiful Central
America and with no other humans
there at all, not even one German to
compete with for sun loungers on the
fabulous beaches. As always, though,
someone comes along to spoil the fun,
and this time it was not the Germans.
By the time of the Spanish invasions
of the late 15th century (I think we all
know what happened then…) these
nomadic colonists had evolved into
several indigenous Mesoamerican
peoples like the Mayans and the Aztecs.
Not that they knew it then, and it
wouldn’t have helped them anyway,
but these were in fact globally advanced
civilisations, having moved from hunter
gathering to cultivation around 7000 BC.
They developed great cities from 2500
BC, sophisticated forms of script from
600 BC, and thereafter extraordinary
feats in architecture, metal work,
sculpture, astronomy and mathematics.
ast forward to today, and the
population is mostly Mestizos
(mixed European and Native
Indian ancestry), with the rest of
European or African descent – just
5 per cent are pure Native Indian.
Impressively, Nicaragua has doubled
literacy over the last 40 years to nearly
90 per cent of the population, and is
the fifth most gender-equal country in

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