The Corn Islands

Having spent the last week travelling around in Nicaragua Carolyn and I had planned some R&R for a couple of days in the Corn Islands – Nicaragua’s own little Caribbean islands. There are 2 islands, imaginatively named Big and Little Corn. The only way to get to the islands is to take the ferry from Bluefields, at the other side of the country to where we were, or to fly. Thus, to keep things simple we boarded the miniature La Costena flight at 06.15 to the Big Corn. On a side note, it is interesting to note that Nicaragua is the only airport in the world that I have ever flown through where male security staff frisk female passengers. This was an interesting experience since there is no metal detector for the La Costena flights (the airport is a small shed) and so I had the pleasure of being frisked on the way to and from the Corn Islands.         As we approached the island to land we could see the beautiful crystal blue waters and the runway, which takes up almost the length of the entire island. We had decided due to time constraints, we only had 2 days here, and from speaking to people and hearing that Little Corn is a party island where all the tourists go, to stay on Big Corn – we were not disappointed.

We had pre-arranged our accommodation at Arenas Beach Hotel who offer a pick-up service from the airport. I unhelpfully lost the baggage tag but since there was only one bag left they let us have it after a bit of negotiation. I also left my book on the plane but one of the baggae guys went to get it for me and once we had claimed that and the luggage we made our way to our transfer. It was only about a 5 minute drive.

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Our hotel was right across from the beach and had its own private beach section with a boat bar and big cabanas and sun loungers to sit in. This was going to be perfect. After checking in and leaving our luggage with reception we packed up our beach bags and headed straight to Corn Island Dive Centre. We might be here to relax and chill out but there is always time for diving! Having both completed our advanced open water licenses a few years ago we had decided to use this trip to get some specialty courses done. Because the corn islands are so remote they don’t have the materials or equipment to run a lot of the specialty courses but they did over a few and so we opted for buoyancy. Although not a requirement for any specific type of diving this course really improves your ability as a diver to get where you want to go without exerting yourself or damaging the life around you.

Unfortunately, the day we arrived coincided with a huge storm and so the waters were not perfect conditions for diving. Since our flight had been so early we hadn’t had a chance to eat anything substantial and so we headed to Morgan’s a little hostel and restaurant close to the dive centre to read up on the theory and eat some breakfast. It was the usual rice and beans with plantains and cheese affair with the addition of coconut to add flavouring. Although very similar to what was on offer back on the mainland the coconut was a nice alteration to display the Caribbean influence around the island. Our first day was to be the 2 buoyancy dives as part of the course we were taking. Although the surface was really choppy once you got down the underwater world was as peaceful as normal. We carried out our buoyancy skills as part of the course including hovering like a Buddha, floating upside down, and hovering just above the seabed. The skills only took a few minutes and then we had the chance to just enjoy the dive. We saw a lot of colourful fish and a friendly remora fish tried to swim up the leg of our instructor! We also saw a lionfish which are an alien species to the Caribbean as they are not supposed to be found in these waters. As a result a lot of the dive shops kill them to try and preserve the true local underwater landscape much like we cull American mink in the UK as they are an invasive species who kill a lot of our local wildlife.

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Due to the rocky seas our instructor – Otto – decided against a second dive that day and so we headed back to the hotel for a yummy lunch of garlic shrimp! Yum!!! Then since Carolyn was still not feeling the best we decided to check out the private doctor on the island – Doctor David. We asked at the hotel and they explained we could ask any taxi to take us to Doctor David’s and that it opened at 2p.m. We arrived at ten minutes too and so hung about outside for a while. It got to 2.15 and although there was a queue forming there was no sign of the elusive doctor David. After another 10 minutes or so the receptionist finally opened the gates and let us inside. After paying the extravagant fee of £7 we had a 15 minute consultation with the thankfully English speaking doctor who prescribed a tonne of different medicines for Carolyn and some sea-sickness tablets for me (not that I had an appointment). He was really friendly and seemed quite taken by the idea of us being there.

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The rest of the day we spent in our room since the storm that had been blowing through in the morning finally hit and brought with it a lot of rain! At least we had opted for a nice beach hut with a/c and hot water! The next day we did a couple of fun dives with a guy from England who was doing his Open Water course. He had already done all his skills so they were just fund dives and we even managed to spot a nurse shark! He was so cute and small, a cool first spot for me. I also had a really friendly yellow fish who swam next to me for the whole dive! He was absolutely fearless and came so close, hence the pretty nice photos, I named him Amarillo!

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Since the sun had finally come out we took a walk up the Northern coast of the island to get some seafood at Sea Side Grill – one of Otto’s recommendations. The island is really rugged and beautiful up in the north and there are very few tourists which is nice. We wandered along the gorgeous coastline passing lots of cute colourful houses and a few churches. We finally located the grill after about a 15 minute walk and boy was it worth it. It was a wooden beach shack with a small kitchen located across the road with amazing sea views, we were about 6 steps from the ocean while we ate the best grilled fish with chilli potatoes, fried plantains and coconut flavoured rice and beans. It was simply sublime. We spent the rest of the day at the beach before having some strawberry daiquiris and lobster thermador at the hotel restaurant in the evening. This was certainly the life! Tomorrow, another adventure and another country – Honduras!!

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