Imagine the rainforest the way it looked 100 years ago, the way it should look…wild, green, towering. Imagine the sounds of the toucans and howler monkeys conversing with the trees, the sight of sloths and white-faced monkeys making their way through the forest canopy, the scent of rain. Now imagine the evenings swinging in a hammock under a covered deck looking out over the forest, waiting for your locally prepared dinner to arrive, browsing books in three languages about wildlife before retiring to a soft bed for a good night’s sleep.
This isn’t Costa Rica or the Amazon. You aren’t paying $200 a night to be here and you are likely the only international visitor this week, maybe this month. This is the Kahka Creek Reserve, a hidden jungle paradise that has yet to be discovered.
Kahka Creek Reserve is a study in sustainable development. It is an initiative by FADCANIC, the Foundation for Autonomy and Development on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. Spanning about 600 hectares, the reserve is home to countless species of plants and animals, including colorful tree frogs, leopards and pumas, howler, spider and white-faced monkeys, boas and much, much more. In addition to saving a huge tract of rainforest from local cattle ranchers, the reserve maintains a woodworking shop that utilizes deadfallen trees from hurricane Ida to teach local students how to build furniture, is powered by 2000 watts of solar panels and maintains several kilometers of trails through the dense forest. In addition to the main lodge, there is also a small classroom where conservation, forest management and other classes are taught.
Hidden in the jungle are motion detection cameras set up by students from Michigan State University that have captured some amazing shots of big cats, tapirs and other mammals that roam relatively unseen. Check out photos from Dr. Gerald Urquhart’s The Virtual Rainforest site for a better idea of what’s out there.
The amenities are basic, but comfortable. There are three rooms with several beds and one room with a double; cots are available for larger groups. Meals are served with a local flavor (think rice and beans, fried or boiled banana, chicken or fish (armadillo if you are lucky!) and bread or tortilla) with a variety of delicious juices or coffee. And there is plenty of space to hang a hammock. A short walk from the lodge is a lookout tower that brings you eye-level with the rainforest canopy. The local forest rangers can give you a guided walk through the jungle and tell you all about the medicinal properties of the plants, local lore and legends of the forest and help spot the animals that normally live in the woods hidden from view.
Things to bring would include a flashlight (with fresh batteries!), insect repellent, sturdy dirty shoes or mudboots (especially if you opt to walk there from Pueblo Nuevo!), a raincoat, your camera and a sense of adventure. Things to leave behind would be anything with excess packaging that would get thrown away. The Kahka Creek Reserve is very remote so make sure to bring any medications you may need!
Getting to Kahka Creek Reserve is no easy task. Arrangements must be made beforehand by calling the coordinator of the reserve. Then it’s off to the jostling Caribbean port town of Bluefields, which means either a flight from Managua or a bus to El Rama and then a panga ride. From Bluefields there are pangas that leave every Wednesday and Sunday at 7am to FADCANIC’s Wawashang agroforestry center. From there they will guide you to the cowboy village of Pueblo Nuevo, where it is another half hour by foot or by horseback to the reserve.
You can make arrangements to visit Kahka Creek directly by emailing the coordinator Miguel Galeano (en espanol) at [email protected] or calling +505 8725-0766, or the Susanne Thienhaus (german, spanish, english) at [email protected] or calling her at +505 8944-2292.