It’s dark. I can’t see a thing, except for a small ray of light, inspecting the shore far, far in front of our canoe. The water slowly hits the bow of the canoe. Around us are caimans. How much? I don’t know. The idea of the 1.50 meter big animals with razor sharp teeth all around me, being able to see in the dark, where I can’t see anything doesn’t give me a comfortable feeling. The four of us are staring at the shore, staring at Marks flashlight, hoping to detect an up lighting eye in the dark.
Within fifteen minutes we spot one. Julio, our guide, stirs the canoe in the direction of the light. The animal doesn’t move as we slowly come closer. Three meters, twee meters, a meter and a half. A meter. We can see it now. Half above, half under water. It looks at the light, at the canoe, like a kid that’s caught eating candy. If the canoe slides a little closer, it disappears under water. In a flash we see it going under the boat, then it’s gone.
This is why we are here: looking for wildlife, spotting caimans. Nicaragua is pretty full of it. Jaguars, pumas, foxes, monkeys, coati’s, sloths, tapirs, snakes, turtles, crocodiles; they all life here. Finding them is the hard part. The biological reserve Indio Maiz is one of the places where your changes are biggest. One of the reasons: it’s remote. The bus ride from Managua to San Carlos is about six hours, next up is a boat ride for about three hours from San Carlos to either Los Sabalos or El Castillo. From there on you still have to make your way to Indio Maiz.
We do it first by kayak; together with Julio, our guide, we leave Los Sabalos at the end of the morning, going up one of the side arms of the Rio San Juan. Being at the edge of the Indio Maiz, it looks promising. We see turtles sunbathing on fallen trees, we hear and see mantled howler monkeys screaming in the trees, we see Jesus Christ lizards running over the water, hiding for our canoes, and we even spot a little caiman catching some sun to heat up for a night full of hunting.
The next day we decide to go deeper in the Indio Maiz. We’re warmed up to see more wildlife. Slots if possible, maybe even a tapir or a giant anteater. We get another guide, another Julio, who can take us into the biological reserve, take us on an overnight camping trip, to ‘see it all’.
To get there we have to canoe down the Rio San Juan for more than 21 kilometers. The sun disappeared, leaving us with monkeys in the trees, lots and lots of birds flying around, but no crocodiles, turtles, snakes or kaymans. We take our time for the trip: eating fresh pineapple, drinking fresh coconut juice and visiting Fortaleza de La Inmaculada Concepcion, a fort we Dutch visited a few hundred years ago as well; when we were still pirates.
After a long row, with not to much wildlife, we end op at our camping site in Indio Maiz. Julio quickly makes us some lunch and then we set of for our first hike into the Maiz. But how deep we go, how quiet we are, we don’t see any wildlife. The rain is poring down, which means all the animals are hiding as well.
After dinner we jump into the canoe again. This time caimans are our goal. Within fifteen minutes we spot one, making us hungry for more. But there are no more. Or at least, we spot some eyes, lighting up in the dark, but no more caimans. A bit disappointed we crawl into our hammocks for a night under the starts.
Next morning we get up early. The rain is poring down, making us clear why this is called a rain forest. Hike number two goes deeper in to Indio Maiz than the first one. The result is the same; no wildlife. Especially Julio, our guide, is disappointed; not being able to show us the wildlife he promised.
Before we head home, we make one more visit to a pebble beach. Normally a nice swimspot, but with the pouring rain, we skip the early morning bath, throw some rocks in the water and get back into the canoe. At the camping site we change canoes. This time we have a luxurious one; with a little motor in the back. The sun finally has come out, so have the turtles. Watching us leave their little paradise and giving us a little look on what the wildlife is in the Indio Maiz. The wildlife we missed.