JBL Expedition in 2012 to Central America and Galapagos


Lake Nicaragua has many remarkable surprises to offer although it is not very well known. Accordingly, our trip through the northern part of Costa Rica took us directly to the southern tip of the gigantic lake.

Snake on the border to Nicaragua

In the middle of nowhere, there appeared a hut full of soldiers who stopped us and checked our papers. Everyone had to show their passport, let a soldier take down all the data on the passport, show their passport to a second soldier who declared the first soldier's list invalid, let that soldier take down all the data again and then pay an admission fee, but only in dollars, etc.. Really comical, and gave us time to take a closer look at the area. Once again, Klaus had an ornithological tidbit to offer: A group of at least 50 small parrots flew down to a field and frolicked around in the grass. Heiko discovered a snake of about 2 m length in a tree. After consulting some books on the poisonousness, he decided to interact with the snake. Climbing the tree didn't look all too elegant, but it was effective: The snake, which he had identified as a tiger rat snake or tropical rat snake (Spilotes pullatus, monotypical genus), began withdrawing to higher branches. When Heiko followed it up, it did not react with an attack, and instead, in accordance with what is described as typical behaviour for this species in books, the snake simply changed trees. The snake had evidently just eaten a meal, which could be seen by the distinct bulge in its body.

In the meantime the border formalities had been sorted out and we went on our way. In boats we navigated the river flowing into Lake Nicaragua. Slowly the sun set, and after an hour’s evening journey over the lake the team reached the Solentiname Archipelago, where we set up our quarters.

Ci sono ancora dei pescecani nel lago Nicaragua?

When the first sharks were spotted in Lake Nicaragua, it was assumed that they were a separate freshwater species of shark. It wasn't until later that scientists found out that they were bull sharks which had immigrated to the lake through a river and apparently never returned to the ocean. Since sharks are considered fundamentally bad and evil, people systematically decimated the shark population. We felt a bit nervous the first time we jumped into the murky water, though, as there was zero visibility. But then, when we found the first cichlid floundering in the net, every fear of crocodiles and sharks vanished. Which all goes to show that the hunting instinct is stronger than fear.

Near the shore of the small island, we caught diverse species of fish which we identified in the photo aquarium subsequently. After that, we visited the village nearby to look at the wood carving art there (and buy some as well), which the priest, Ernesto Cardenal, had encouraged the archipelago's inhabitants to produce as a source of income. We even had an opportunity to visit Ernesto Cardinal's house where he stays when he travels on the Solentiname archipelago. Ernesto Cardenal is a suspended Catholic priest, freedom fighter and poet who was nominated for the Nobel Literature Prize in 2005. We found his house fascinating due to its simplicity, which permitted inferences about this impressive man's modest lifestyle. On the way back, we discovered the first basilisk, which sat still in a tree, trusting in its camouflage.

Our team split into two groups: A few wanted to look around on land, while others were more interested in aquatic habitats. Right in front of the lodge (Casitas Espanola Lodge), we set up a 5-meter long gillnet so that it encircled a few bushes standing in the water. By splashing around wildly on one side, any fish living there were either scared to death or driven into the net. Our catch was astonishing: At least 100 fish swam into the net within just a few seconds! Picking the fish out of the net one by one afterwards, though, was anything but fun. But it worked, so that we immediately repeated the procedure at another place! There, though, the following happened: While freeing the fish from the net, part of the net was hanging in the water. An approximately 30-cm long goby fish took advantage of the plight of the fish caught in the net and started devouring one after the other until we were able to catch the goby.

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