Ometepe Island, Nicaragua Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

Lake Nicaragua

Lake Nicaragua is the second largest lake in Latin America, after Lake Titicaca and one of the largest freshwater lakes in Latin America. Nicaraguans have named it The Sweet Sea because the blue horizon as if it were the sea, and as the water is fresh. It has everything it needs to be a sea: waves, archipelagos of islands and the only fresh water sharks in the world.  Like any other sea, it has powerful storms and no one dares to cross it when one of these passes through.
Lake Nicaragua is so big that from one shore one cannot see the other. The oval-shaped lake has a surface of 8,264 km², 160 km in length, a max width of 72 km and it is located in the central southern part of the country. Below follows an overview of some of the lake’s most interesting aspects, including its natural beauty, unique inhabitants, and ecological threats.
Archaeologists say that Lake Nicaragua was once a large bay along the Pacific Ocean, and volcanic eruptions over long periods of time filled in the land with lava. It has been an important link for many years between inland Nicaragua and the Caribbean Sea. The lake is connected with the Caribbean Sea by means of the San Juan River. The Spanish Conquistadors who founded the city of Granada, on the lakeshore entered by this route. From the time of the ending of Spanish rule in the 1820s, has been mooted the possibility of constructing a canal across Nicaragua from the Atlantic to the Pacific, since the city of Rivas is only 15 km from the Pacific Ocean. The project was not realized because of a preference for the route which became the Panama Canal.  Nevertheless the idea periodically experiences a resurgence of interest.
Environmentally, Lake Nicaragua is a key element in the Nicaraguan landscape. It is an important water source for the vegetation located on the banks and provides a habitat for spectacular aquatic wildlife. To the south and southwest there is moist tropical forest, and tropical dry forest vegetates to the east, north, and west of Lake Nicaragua. At the top of two volcanoes there is a unique ecosystem present. These are the only two places where cloud forest can be found on the Pacific side of Nicaragua, and the flora and fauna at both volcano peaks is definitely impressive. Thousands of different animal species live within Lake Nicaragua. The most easily observable are the monkeys, deer, iguanas, lizards and a big number of different species of birds. The wildlife living in the lake is spectacular. More than 40 different fish species live in Lake Nicaragua, including 16 species of cichlids. The lake’s most famous inhabitant, is the freshwater shark.
A volcanic chain cuts right through Lake Nicaragua, and this has resulted in the creation of many beautiful islands and groups of islets. There are more than 400 islands in the lake, 300 of which are within 8 km of the city of Granada on the northwest shore. Most of the islands are covered with a rich growth of vegetation, which includes tropical fruit trees. Some of the islands are inhabited.
The most famous is Ometepe Island, a 276 km² tropical island located 10 kilometers off the mainland at the western side of the lake. It is the largest lake island in the world and gets its name from the Nahuatl words: Ome, which signifies two and Tepetl which signifies mountains, meaning two mountains. Omepete is a place that will take you back in time due to its strong and rustic rural life activities. The Island has two impressive volcanoes, Concepcion an amazing active steep cone reaching 1,610 meters above sea level and the beautiful Maderas a cloud forest with a crater lake on its summit. The volcanoes, visible from everywhere on the island, are a powerful and ever-present feature. But Ometepe Island has much more to offer much more than two volcanoes. The island is a mesmerizing place, entrenched in history, and full of stunning sights and activities. The island has been inhabited for thousands of years, first by the Nahuatl, and today by the local Ometepinos. These locals remained secluded from the rest of Nicaragua and the country’s conflicts throughout the years. The volcanic ash has made the soil extremely fertile and the land yields abundant crops. In recent years many farms have turned over to sustainable farming practices, and several eco-conscious hotels on Ometepe grow their own organic fruit and vegetables. Low-impact eco-tourism is the general trend on Isla Ometepe which in 2010 was designed as a Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO.
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