Nicaragua - Corn Islands

Trip Start Feb 05, 2008
Trip End Apr 24, 2008

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Where I stayed
Sunrise Hotel (Little Corn) and Sweet Dreams (Big Corn)

Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Monday, March 3, 2008

Hola Charlotte here:

Monday morning we bought our airline tickets in Granada to fly out the same afternoon to the Corn Islands. We were picked up at lunch time and drove the 1hr journey to the airport in Managua to catch our plane at 2pm. WeŽd been told that we were lucky to get tickets to fly out the same day because the plane only accomodates 15 people, so I had no high expectations of the plane or the terminal weŽd be flying from. But I had thought that the terminal would be more than a shack (it wasnŽt!), and that the plane would at least be from this side of World War II (it wasnŽt!). Anyhow, the $165 we paid for the return ticket couldnŽt go to waste so we boarded the..."thing"... with shaking knees, a rapid heart beat and, although not religious, we both prayed to God...just in case. Once onboard the small twin prop, the flight was actually fairly pleasant. We didnŽt seem to fly at a very high altitude (not sure whether that was intentional, or a result of the inability to pressurise the cabin!) so we had an amazing view of Lake Nicaragua, the lush jungle and ultimately the Carribean Sea, as we flew towards the islands.

The Corn Islands are two islands (affectionately/ridiculously known as "Big Corn" and "Little Corn") about 70 km east off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. The islands have only very recently been brought to the attention of guide books, and have until now therefore been off the gringo tourist trail. Accomodation is basic, Little Corn doesnŽt have a single road on it, and both islands are like little pockets of untouched paradise. The population is an interesting mixture of Garifuna (of mixed Amerindian and African descent) and Miskito Indians. Their Caribbean life style is as laid back as weŽd experienced in Belize. To top it all off, the islands consist of lush tropical jungle inland, surrounded by white sandy beaches and tall coconut trees. The water is luke warm and perfectly turqouise, and the unspoilt reefs that surround both islands make them a perfect place for snorkeling and diving.

WeŽd decided to spend a few days on both islands so when we landed on Big Corn we immediately went down to the docks to catch a small boat willing to do the bumpy 30min trip to Little Corn. By the time we arrived in Little Corn it was late afternoon, and we didnŽt have a place to stay. Sunset starts at 17:30 in this part of the World, and it goes from bright and sunny to pitch black in the space of 20 minutes. We figured that weŽd have about 45 minutes to find a place. To cut a long story short we ended up trekking all around the island in the pitch black, through dense jungle and along deserted beaches, for two hours before ending up by the dock right where we started! We went to nearly every single guest house on the island but all were full. Ironically, back at the docks, we got talking to a friendly Texan guy who had just opened a brand spanking new hotel - so we ended up being his first guest ever in a nice clean room right next to the pier where weŽd arrived two hours earlier!

As seems to have become the norm on this trip we treat ourselves to little luxuries when we feel that something has been hard going. As a result, the first eveningŽs dinner (and the second evening as well...oops) was two lobster tails each with all the trimmings!

The rest of our stay on Little Corn proved to be a lot more relaxing, and we spent the days snorkeling the reef (saw both nurse sharks and eagle rays on top of the thousands of smaller tropical fish that we now almost take for granted), tanning and exploring the island.

Only Big Corn has an airfield, and as we had an open return ticket we had to get back to the main island to confirm our departure date. We decided to spend two days in Big Corn, but didnŽt expect much off it as the general consensus amongst travellers seemed to be that this bigger island doesnŽt have much to offer. That couldnŽt be further from the truth.

The first funny experience on Big Corn was to try and confirm our return flights. They have a small fence around the airfield with a gate in it that gets closed whenever a plane is expected (only happens twice a day) - at all other times the gate is open and you can conveniently cross the runway to get to the shack on the other side which doubles as a "terminal". When Ian and I requested to fly back the next day, the lady behind the desk just passed us a sheet of paper with a list of names scribbled on it in pencil. All we had to do was add our names to the bottom of the list , and that apparently took care of our reservation. Easy does it.

The absolute highlight for me on Big Corn, however, was to watch the sunset from "South West Beach". The beach is about 1km long and 50m wide and absolutely deserted except for two small local restaurants. Both nights we sat at the end of a wooden pier, coconut rum in hand and watched the most stunning sunsets over the Caribbean sea with our feet dangling in the crystal clear water below. Evenings donŽt get much more romantic than that. To add to the absolute magic of it all we had a squid swim up to us on the first night, and a small sting ray come to visit on the second night. Both were just swimming peacefully around the pier (the squid constantly changing colour as it went along) and it was a humbling experience to be allowed to witness it.

The Corn Islands are relatively expensive and difficult to get to, so the jungle and beaches are completely unspoilt. In my opinion these little gems should be removed from the guide books all together in order to keep it this way.

The trip must go on, and next stop was the vulcano island of Isla de Ometepe in the heart of Lake Nicaragua. Ian has more about that next.
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