Exploring Granada’s Isletas

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In my first few days in Nicaragua I’ve gotten to know the lodge owner Gustavo, a biologist by training who moved here from Costa Rica for a change of career and scenery.  His Spanish is crisp and clear, and as I practice with him each day I begin to notice the subtle differences between the Costa Rican and Nicaraguan accents. He’s become my unofficial travel agent, making recommendations and helping me to arrange trips to the nearby lakes and volcanoes.


On his suggestion I take a late afternoon trip to Las Isletas, a small archipelago on the west side of Lake Nicaragua,where the high society of Nicaragua has built their vacation homes, each on a rocky private  island. Gustavo has called to arrange a boat for me and two other guests, a couple from New Zealand.

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On a small wooden boat we ply the tranquil sheltered water of the Isletas. The place is surreal.  As we wind through the serpentine conduit of canals, surrounded by tropical birds and verdant green, I translate for my Kiwi shipmates as the driver tells us in Spanish which islands are for sale and for how much.

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In the meantime we spot wildlife over the gunnels, like this “Jesus bird”, so-called by locals because it seems to walk on water.

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Finally we find ourselves at Isla de Monos, or “Monkey Island.”  Presumably too small for real estate development, our driver explains that a veterinarian relocated these rescued monkeys here to their very own island paradise where they can rub elbows with Nicaragua’s wealthiest citizens.

As I translate for my new friends, I can’t help but think how lucky I am to be able to do so.  While this would be a pleasant cruise by any standard, I realize that without knowing the native language, I wouldn’t have been able to speak with our boat captain, and would have no idea what a strange and interesting place Las Isletas truly is.

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Daniel McIsaac

Daniel S. McIsaac is a freelance writer and photographer with a particular interest in the frontiers of contemporary travel: cultural exchange, unconventional destinations, education, volunteer work and responsible tourism. A serious advocate with an affection and respect for every destination, his writing often ignores this, in favor of the ridiculous and irreverent. Traveling from an early age whenever possible, Daniel was encouraged to continue his world exploration while studying at Oberlin College. There, amidst the cornfields under a gray winter sky, he learned that he should leave the country as soon as humanly possible, preferably for somewhere warm and by the sea. This inspired idea has since delivered him to five continents, sixteen countries, and several states, territories, protectorates and future undecided locales, all with little more than carry-on luggage and a sense of adventure. Though a writer and English major, Daniel professes a serious distaste for the study of grammar in the context of language instruction and this has consistently sullied his prior relationships with foreign language, which have included a protracted courtship with Spanish and a torrid affair with Mandarin Chinese. In an attempt to remedy this, he is currently traveling through Central America and studying Spanish with Rosetta Stone. Rosetta Stone commissioned Dan to try TOTALe and provide his thoughts. In addition to writing for Rosetta Stone, Dan has written travel pieces for magazines and online publications. When not on the road, Daniel resides in the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he spends his time building wooden surfboards, playing acoustic guitar, surfing and sailing. More of his writing and photography can be found at www.crawlwalktravel.com.
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