The people of Nicaragua are friendly and life certainly moves at a different pace in this Central American country. My first stop of my agenda was a trip north of Managua to the city of Esteli, a prime spot for cigar making. After the Cuban revolution, the city was flooded with refugees who found the soil content great for growing tobacco. There are 23 cigar factories in town but I went to visit the Drew Estate, which has been in Nicaragua since 1998. Started by Jonathan Drew and Marvin Samel, fraternity brothers from New York, the 2 businessmen started selling cigars in 1995 before opening their own factory in order to control their supply. Currently 1000 people work in the factory producing a million cigars a month. Drew Estate prides itself that everything needed for making their cigars is produced in Nicaragua. Although I am not a cigar smoker I did find it very interesting that it took so much effort to make a cigar and fascinating that people take great pride in the development of quality cigars.
Mombacho Nature Preserve
From Esteli I headed south through the jungle on the way to Granada, the 2nd largest city in Nicaragua that sits on the edge of Lake Nicaragua, central America’s largest lake at 170 km wide. I stopped for a visit at the Mombacho volcano which is 1344 meters high. The Mombacho Nature preserve is protected and home to many plants and animals that are native to areas near volcanoes. The volcano has not erupted since 1570 but is becoming a popular tourist destination because of the vegetation, animals, hiking trails, views and even adventure. I enjoyed the canopy tour which took me on 13 different cables of up to 100 meters in length through the forest of Mombacho. The trip is fun and close to the city of Granada so you might want to give it a try. Ziplining is fun for everyone!
Coffee in Selva Negra
In an area southeast of the town of Estelli near the city of Matagalpa is a full-service ecolodge, organic farm, and bird-friendly coffee estate in the Highlands of Northern Nicaragua called Selva Negra. I discovered Selva Negra because I was filming a television show about the best coffee in the world. The coffee beans produced in this location of Nicaragua are some of the most expensive beans grown anywhere. So while I learned about how coffee is grown I also visited this farm that prides itself on its sustainability.
Selva Negra Eco Lodge and Coffee Estate is an estate with an eco lodge as the primary tourism destination, a coffee estate exporting organic and sustainable coffee, and a world-class sustainable farm.
Our nature lover’s destination, not only offers the pristine rainforest with wonderful wildlife spotting including our impressive list of reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds. We also offer the best in sustainable and organic living. The Selva Negra Estate tour is the best way to learn of the many sustainable works and fascinating integration that makes Selva Negra a special and unique place. Starting at the eco lodge with it’s over 300 acres of nature reserve, solar water heaters, unique mountain chapel and organic food products served at the restaurant and produced at the estate. Following to the coffee estate with it’s multiple reuse and sustainable efforts that make it a model coffee farm where nothing is wasted and every waste product is used to a benefit. Such as the reuse of coffee wastewater to generate methane gas, the compost production from the coffee pulp and the kitchen fueled by coffee husk. The tour will also guide you through some of the many projects at the farm including free range pig raising, intensive cattle ranching, sausage and cheese production areas, compost and vermiculture production, organic laboratory, poultry production, as well as the methane gas generation from both human and farm animal excretes.
After my visit to Granada I headed to a nearby town called Masaya in the Barrio San Juan area to visit the hammock workshops. It was a great experience to see all of the work involved to make a colorful hammock from Nicaragua. It takes 3 people 3 days of work to make an average-sized hammock. I had to buy a few as presents for family. There is nothing more relaxing than swinging back and forth in a hammock on a nice spring afternoon.