Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua
Visit us at Estación Biológica in Laguna de Apoyo for swimming, hiking, birdwatching, SCUBA diving, learning, or volunteering. Rooms available at backpacker prices.
Laguna de Apoyo is in a Volcano
Laguna de Apoyo (Lake Apoyo) is Nicaragua's largest volcanic crater lake. It was formed 23,000 years ago after a huge volcanic explosion left a large crater which interrupted the underground water table. Today, the lake is 180 meters deep and four kilometers in diameter. Its clear water is always warm, never below 28 degrees Celsius (great for swimming!). In Nicaragua, the term "laguna" is given to the volcanic crater lakes which are found in some of the volcanoes along the Pacific region of the country. The name of the lake comes from a term for clear water.
The lake is fed principally from underground aquifers which move from the west and south into the lake and outward toward Lake Nicaragua on the east. Its water is somewhat salty and it is not potable, due to the presence of volcanic minerals.
Nicaragua Has the Most Pleasant Lake in the World
The water is clear and clean. The beach in front of Estación Biológica is broad and flat, allowing for lots of shallow-water play, in addition to serious swims further in. Take a kayak all the way around the lake in a few hours. The water is good for swimming and relaxing day and night.
A Treasure in Biodiversity under Clear Water
Laguna de Apoyo is a special place, not only for its amazing views of the lake from near and far. The water of Laguna de Apoyo is home for six endemic species of cichlid fishes. The GAIA research group working at Estación Biológica Laguna de Apoyo discovered five of these species, and we are continuing research on the evolutionary history, ecology, and conservation aspects of these fishes. One fish species in Lake Apoyo, the arrow cichlid (Amphilophus zaliosus), is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, and other species may soon follow. Other species of fishes found in Laguna de Apoyo are: Amphilophus astorquii, Amphilophus chancho, Amphilophus flaveolus, Amphilophus globosus, Amphilophus supercilius, Parachromis managuensis, Atherinella sardina, and Poecilia sphenops.
Laguna de Apoyo is facing severe threats to its continued existence as a beautiful, natural lake. Although Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve is located between two of the most populous cities in Nicaragua (Masaya and Granada), the reserve continues to contain substantial quantities of natural forest and a huge lake in very good condition. Nonetheless, housing developments, trash, deforestation, and invasive species all threaten Lake Apoyo and its special inhabitants.
Forests and Wildlife in the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve
The Apoyo crater, a nationally designated protected area, is especially noted for the biodiversity encountered there. Nature lovers can take walks through the high-quality dry tropical forest near the Estación Biológica. The grounds alone make for excellent birdwatching: from our patio, one cane see the Turquoise-browed Motmot, Montezuma Oropendola, Collared Aracari, and the Black-headed Trogon in the trees overhead. Bring your binoculars, and join us on a nature walk! Black and green iguanas, variegated squirrels, kinkajous, and many of Nicaragua's 95 species of bats can be seen on the premises. Howler monkeys can be heard from the deeper forest nearby and often are directly overhead, in the trees above our patio and yard. Endangered fishes found only in Lake Apoyo are easily sighted by SCUBA diving which can be arranged at Estación Biológica in Laguna de Apoyo.
Prohibitions regarding activities inside Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve (Decreto 001-2010, Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, taken from La Gaceta No. 55, 19 March 2010)
1. Use the water from the Laguna for irrigation, human or animal consumption, or construction, given its physical-chemical characteristics.
2. Carry firearms, non-explosive weapons, slingshots, or explosives inside the protected area, excepting the National Police and the Nicaraguan Army, with the objective to protect the protected area and its visitors. Historic inhabitants are permitted to bear machetes for agricultural objectives only in areas utilized for agriculture, and within the control of the corresponding authorities.
3. Use and store combustibles, explosives, pesticides or other chemicals prohibited by law, inside the protected area.
4. Make open fires, provoke forest fires or make open fires to burn trash, leaves, or agricultural residues inside the protected area.
5. Possesion, sale or consumption of alcoholic bevarages in areas prohibited by MARENA or other corresponding authorities, or within 200 meters of a school or church.
6. The introduction of motorized boats, jetski, or any other motorized transport excepting with written authorization from MARENA.
7. Cutting or felling standing trees, whether alive or dead, removal of the ground cover, the transport or commercialization of forest resources, according to the currently valid legislation.
8. Hunt or capture animals, excepting for research purposes with authorization from MARENA.
9. The introduction of exotic plants or animals.
10. The extraction of genetic material, excepting for research purposes with authorization from MARENA.
11. Alteration of land use, substitution of natural forests with plantations, or increasing areas of cultivation or pasture.
12 The extraction of archeological materials. Any finding should be reported to MARENA for its required management in cooperation with other authorities.
13. The opening of new vehicular transport routes, excepting paths for environmental interpretation and ecotourism.
14. Construction nor any activity related to construction which impedes free access to the shore, including walls, structures, bars, ramps, or launches.
15. Subdivide or construct housing.
16. Extraction or removal or non-metalic minerals, such as sand, rock, pumice, or clay.
17. Constructions in areas with greater than 15% inclines.
18. Constructions in areas susceptible to flooding, landslides or seismic activity.
19. Installations of antennas or special communication equipment, excepting those with objectives for research and environmental protection with prior approval and coordination with MARENA.
20. Direct or indirect discharge of treated or untreated wastewater resulting from domestic, industrial or agricultural use, to the laguna.
21. Construction of landfills, recycling plants, or dumps; any existing sites should be closed and the materials relocated.
22. Burning of solid waste or household, commercial, or any other origin.
23. Installation or construction of gas stations, mechanic shops, industries of chemical, food, or any other type, any agricultural or aquaculture activity, non-metallic mining, nor any other activity that generates negative impacts to the land or water ecosystems.
24. Animal husbandry with commercial objectives.
Volunteer and learn Spanish with the GAIA Program at Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve in Nicaragua.
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