Laguna de Apoyo
Estación Biológica FUNDECI/GAIA
Clouds over Lake Apoyo in reflection. The lake can be very
smooth during the rainy season. Photo by Claire and Andy.
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 crater interior around Lake Apoyo is filled with tall,
tropical forest. Photo by Mette Kolbe.
Laguna de Apoyo and the crater in which is it located were named the Laguna de Apoyo Nature
Reserve as an official
protected area in 1991, by Decreto 42-91 in the National Assembly. However, until recently, the reserve has never enjoyed the full
benefits of protection that would be afforded this designation. FUNDECI/GAIA worked closely with the another Nicaraguan
organization, Liga de Cooperativas de Nicaragua (CLUSA), in the development of its first management plan.,
commissioned and approved by the Nicaraguan Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment. FUNDECI/GAIA
studies and coordinated consensus-building activities with the various interest groups involved as part of the management plan development,
and developed a set of 35 maps
demarcating the reserve boundaries, land use patterns, risk assessments, wildlife, and tourism potential.
The water of Laguna de Apoyo can be mesmerizing. Photo by Lu Davidson.
Lake Apoyo is a special place, not only for its amazing views from near and far. The water of
Lake Apoyo is home for six endemic species of cichlid fishes. The research group of FUNDECI/GAIA discovered five of these
species, and we are continuing research on the evolutionary history, ecology, and conservation aspects of these fishes.
The chancho cichlid, Amphilophus chancho, was discovered officially
by the research team coordinated by FUNDECI/GAIA in 2008. Here is a male in breeding coloration in its natural habitat.
Lake Apoyo is the only habitat for six species of cichlids including this one. Photo by Ad Konings.
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.
Lake Apoyo, Nicaragua. Photo by Cindy Skeie.
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
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
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
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.
blog entry on Laguna de Apoyo: Agua
blog entry on Laguna de Apoyo: photography by Cindy Skeie
blog entry on the 2011 Laguna de Apoyo Underwater Cleanup
Amphilophus chancho in Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua
Flora and Fauna of Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve
Apoyo Spanish School
In Defense of Nature
FUNDECI/GAIA home page