The Ometepe island is definitely highly recommended by us to visit. We spent a couple of nice days here enjoying its nature and geography and also integrating with the local community.
Here is a bunch of interesting facts about Ometepe and the surrounding Lake Nicaragua:
Ometepe was formed as result of double volcano erruption, Maderas (1326 m) and Conception (1610 m), the latter of which was quite active in 2010! The island is soon to be named the UNESCO biosphere reserve.
It is the largest volcanic island on a sweet-water lake.
The volcanic origin of the island makes it very fertile. Among popular crop here are bananas, considered best in the world, plantains (green banana, tasting a bit like potato, and prepared in such a way, e.g. as tostones), sesame, tobacco, coffee. They local campesinos also raise a lot of cattle that wander everywhere including the main road.
There are two seasons on the island, just like in the whole region, wet season (from end of May till end of October) and dry season (rest of the year)
During the previous wet season the lake level rose by 3 m (10ft)! As a result, basically all of the beaches disappeared under high water.
The roads on the island are made of tiles/stones, not asphalt. Half of them are in a notorious condition and turn into streams of paddles and creeks during wet season (charco).
There are bull sharks living in the lake and they are quite dangerous for people.
Lake Nicaragua is connected with the Carribean Sea by the San Juan River. Before constructing the Panama Canal the San Juan River was the main transportation thourogufare connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.
Lake Nicaragua is also often called sweet-water sea (Mar del Dulce). It is 177 km long and 58 km wide.
Next to volcano climbing, kayaking, and visiting nature reserves you can spot here so-called petroglyphs, huge stones with ancient engravings on them. Some are over 2000 years old.
One of the most famous and honored priests on the island was Polish, Ladislao (Władysław) Chwalbiński. In Altagracia (second largest city on the island), where he is buried, there is even a school named after him.
On the church tower, next to a bell there is a huge wooden mechanism used during the Holy Week (Semana Santa) to summon instead of bell ringing. It looks pretty impressive.
One of the nicest places on the island is Ojo de Agua (The eye of water), a man-made pool based on the River of Success. According to local beliefs, bathing in the river brings good fortune and submerging in it on New Year’s Eve at the midnight hour could lead to a gender change .
The locals lead a simple and quiet life and there is only a handful of tourists here.
This peace is a bit misleading, though. Stay tuned for more in the next post …