Nicaragua Sustainable Travel Guide
For many of us, Nicaragua may not be on top of our must-travel list. This stigma comes from the civil conflicts that took place during the 1970’s and 80’s that left the country in physical damage that’s still evident today. The tourism infrastructure may not be as developed in Nicaragua as it is in neighbouring Costa Rica, but if you’re thinking of keeping Nicaragua off your bucket list, you may be missing out on an amazing cultural experience.
Nicaragua has been peaceful for over 16 years now, and because of that, its tourism industry has grown at a steady pace. Trips worth making while in Nicaragua include walks through volcanic landscapes, white sand beaches and cultural hotspots like Managua and Granada. However, a trip to Nicaragua is not complete without a stop to its crown jewel, Nicaragua Lake. One of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, it’s also home to a diversity of wildlife. Any trip in Nicaragua should be organized with a local tour guide or tour operator with strong responsible tourism policies. This not only increases your safety, but will also make your trip much more entertaining.
Nicaragua also boasts a wealth of natural beauty. In fact, about 25% of its territory is protected, has the largest rainforest north of the Amazon, and makes up for about 7% of the world’s biodiversity. Its eastern shoreline is home to manatee filled mangroves and important habitat for green sea turtles. The Indio-Maiz biological reserve contains more birds, insects, and trees than all of Europe. Indigenous communities like the Miskitu and the Mayanga manage the Bozawas biosphere reserve.
But precisely because of the country’s wealth of natural capital, animal rights’ problems have begun to occur. The most common is the illegal trade of products made from animal parts. Amongst many of the unethical animal products openly sold at local markets include: iguana meat, exotic bird and reptile eggs, and Green Macaws. Although these products are illegal according to CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species), proper enforcement is often difficult in Nicaragua. Thus when buying souvenirs, it’s incredibly important to avoid any products that could be feeding into the illegal wildlife trade, and if possible, report any suspicious products to CITES. For more information on sustainable souvenir shopping, please check out our souvenir advice page here.
UPDATE: In April of 2018, the Nicaraguan government proposed new laws that would affect people's pensions. This of course has sparked outrage by the locals. Constant protests have marred the streets of busy cities such as Managua and San Salvador. As of this writing, many travel warnings have been made encouraging travellers to avoid all non-essential travel. Until the civil unrests dies down, we recommend you take the advice of your government's travel advisories for Nicaragua. Unfortunately, this may mean avoiding travel to this destination for the time being.