Leon – Isla Los Brasiles

Time to leave Leon and head to the beach for a couple of days over Xmas. I’ve found it’s best to ensconce oneself somewhere pleasant for the couple of days the whole place shuts down and had opted for an Eco resort out of the guidebook I liked the sound of.Over breakfast I had another look in the guidebook for directions to take the local transport to Poneloya on the coast. Fortunately, I picked up what I had overlooked previously – that the buses didn’t leave from the terminal I used the previous day, but rather another one in a part of town I would need to catch a collectivo to. Thus informed, I kitted up and walked the few blocks to Parque Central from where I could start my journey.

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The clapped out bus hurtled to the corner, came to a screeching halt half way around blocking the entire intersection and with Latino efficiency swapped out several of its occupants (myself included) in record time. As I hadn’t had time to put away my pack harness and it was a bit of an OSH issue (if such a thing exists here!!), I alternated between holding fast as Speedy Gonzales opted to see if he could get the bus airborne over the street’s lumpy surface and trying to secure my pack rigging before someone did themselves a disservice on it.

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I found the bus I needed to continue on to Poneloya and fortunately was able to secure myself a seat at the front of the bus to best take in the views. After hot, bustling Leon, I was looking forward to spending a couple of days at the beach. The bus ride down provided glimpses of everyday Nicaraguan life; tiny thatched roofed casas shaded by age old trees, vistas of majestic volcanoes dominating the landscape from afar, broad fields upon which cattle and horses were grazing, and a dozen locals trying to pull an upturned car out of a ditch.

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The bus pulled up in the centre of ‘town’ if that was what the few ramshackle buildings represented. A short stroll up and back down a small hill led to where the lanchas left to take people across the narrow channel to Isla Los Brasiles where my digs for the next two nights lay. A short walk on the other side along a sandy track deposited me at Surfing Turtle Lodge. This Eco-lodge is solar powered and nestled on the edge of the beach. Palm trees and gardens add to its lush tropical appeal. I had booked a dorm bed in the large upstairs screened dorm, which had a large deck jutting out and amazing views out over the Pacific Ocean. With a great bar and communal area below, I had picked well for my Xmas break!

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The lodge has a turtle hatchery attached and has released many thousands of turtles since it began operating. They have a local turtle specialist who oversees the whole operation, from monitoring the local beach for females laying eggs to purchasing eggs from local poachers who otherwise would sell them to restaurants for human consumption. Three species of these endangered sea turtles nest on Isla Los Brasiles – Olive Ridley, Leatherback and Green Turtle. The eggs are carefully gathered and buried in plots in a fenced off area on the beach to prevent loss from predators. When the baby turtles hatch, they are taken closer to the water were they waddle down to enable any females among them to ‘imprint’ the location so they can return to the same spot years later to lay their own eggs as adults.

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After sitting in the surf with a cerveza, I returned to the bar to make new friends. The lodge organises daily sunset beach volleyball games and after most people had eaten dinner, Christmas themed group games were spun out with raucous results. My team won and we were rewarded with shots of rum. It was then time to go down to the beach for the nightly bonfire and shenanigans around the beach bar.

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I noticed a shifty looking hombre on a pushbike by the bar and wondered what was going on. It turned out he was one of the local poachers who had ‘stolen’ a cache of sea turtle eggs from their mother and was looking for a quick profit. I found out later, that the poachers generally come to the lodge first to sell their eggs as they tend to pay slightly higher than the restaurants. I went with the staff and one of the owners to bury the eggs in a plot in the turtle hatchery. The date and number of eggs are recorded on a plastic sign so they know how many baby turtles to expect and when. A quick check of other plots that have been hatching recently revealed two more baby turtles. These were put in a container with beach sand and taken down to the beach to be released. As the tiny turtles made their way to the water, they were caught up in a small wave and finally made their way out to sea. Bon Voyage little Christmas turtles!

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