Today we had arranged to go lake diving at Lake Apoyo, a huge volcanic crater lake which used to be connected to the sea and so has some of the same species and some that have evolved and now can only be found there. We had booked through Estacion Biologica – which is a research station that conducts surveys of the lake and allows divers to go along and get involved. Unfortunately, the night before when I had emailed to confirm the plans the guy we had booked through explained that the centres air compressor had broken and so we could not dive with them today. This was a bit of a surprise as we had paid the money up-front and no-one had mentioned to us until we contacted them that in fact the activity had been cancelled. Thankfully, because we had Anry with us he was able to contact Dive Nicaragua who arranged very last minute for us to do a single lake dive with them from the Monkey Hut.
Firstly we went into Granada town again and had breakfast at Kathy’s Waffle House. I had pancakes and bacon which were huge and also came with a side of eggs. It was amazing and a welcome change from the usual gallo pinto. The coffee here is also fantastic and so I have been making the most of that at breakfast time. We headed out of the city and made our way to the lake.
As we arrived and caught our first sight of the sun shimmering over the lake we were completely taken aback by how beautiful it was and decided to have a quick swim before the dive instructor turned up. We then got kitted up for our first ever lake dive. It was quite a different experience diving without a wetsuit and in non-salty water, as well as getting used to the American system of diving itself (we both trained in Asia where they use the British system). We headed down to the water and descended to the wonderful underwater world.
We saw a lot of fish and a couple of endemic species which are only found in this lake in the whole world! We also saw some crabs and a cool tube shaped fish. One of the coolest parts was feeling the hot spring water in certain areas of the lake bubbling up underneath you – we were in a volcano after all. The company were only able to offer one dive due to the late notice for booking so we sat in the sun and enjoyed the amazing views out over the lake for the rest of the morning.
At lunchtime we headed into Masaya market to do some souvenir shopping. The town is famous for shopping and is thought to be one of the best places to get local crafts in Nicaragua! We wandered the colourful stalls picking up a few things and then had one of the best meals we have had so far at a small stall in the market. We tried the Jamaica juice which was great and then had fried pork skin and beef with plantain cooked lots of different ways and some Yuca (another potato-like vegetable). It was great to finally check out some local street food, it’s always the cheapest and best food
As the afternoon wore on we left the small town of Masaya and headed to Masaya Volcano which is nearby. We were here to do the famous night tour and after purchasing our tickets we headed to the small museum to learn more about the volcanoes of the area as well as the local flora and fauna. After out quick stop we drove up to the steaming crater of the volcano itself and got out to take a look. The smell of sulphur was not too bad and we managed to get really close to the edge next to the carpark to feel the gases escaping which was really cool. After getting suited up in hiking shoes we started to walk up to the meeting place.
Anry was not sure exactly where the tour started from and so we hiked down to where he thought was the meeting point and met a lovely local lady who was walking home to a tiny blue dot in the distance. As the sun began to set the mosquitos came out and so Anry ran back to the car to get our bug sprays and we walked up to the rim of the crater from the other side. There was no safety barrier here (it used to be the carpark but was destroyed in a recent eruption) and so it was pretty scary looking over the edge with the smoke billowing up and vultures flying around overhead. We also saw swarms of parrots coming in to roost inside the volcano for the night.
We made our way back to the hut and the local guides turned up but were really angry with us for being there and insisted that we were not allowed to be here and had to leave right away. This was obviously quite a shock to us who were just waiting on our guide to come back but after trying to explain in broken Spanish we admitted defeat and got back in the guides van. As soon as we got back to the main road area we saw the other tourists all lining up and Anry explained to the guide that we did in fact have a ticket for the tour he was extremely apologetic for being so rude and took us up a hike to the look-out point explaining that Masaya Volcano is not actually where everyone thinks it is and the crater with the smoke coming out is actually Nindeiri, Masaya is the crater you can see from the look-out point. As we made our way back down the sunset was absolutely spectacular over the volcano rim and we did a stop in order to admire the amazing sight.
After hiking back down we then drove along to the hut where we had met the guides before and were given hard hats and torches before heading down the now pitch black trail to the lava tunnels. When we reached the end of the trail we had to clamber down a sort of rock-made staircase before entering the tunnel. The tunnels were created by lava eruptions which were then cracked open by earthquakes leaving the lava ceiling intact. The tunnels are now the home to hundreds of bats and we as it was just turning dark they were very active!
We wandered along the tunnel and at the end all switched off our torches and stood in the dark listening to the piercing sounds of the bats flying all around us. It was an eerie experience but really unique and something I won’t forget in a hurry. After we made our way back we headed to the mouth of another tunnel and had the opportunity to see Boa-constrictors lowering themselves from the ceiling and hanging in order to catch bats. We were lucky enough to see a successful kill (be warned the photos below are not for the faint-hearted).
After a great night we made our way back to Granada for the rest of the evening. We were so tired after our busy day of diving and hiking that we crashed out at the hotel and ordered some very yummy delivery food of avocado salad, chicken, rice, and fries. Yum!