Nandaime and Domitila Wildlife Reserve
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Just south of where the highways from Granada and Carazo join to continue on to Rivas and the border, you’ll pass by the midsize city of Nandaime, located on the Pan-American Highway in the shadow of Volcán Mombacho.
This is a humble, unassuming pueblo with the most basic of traveler’s amenities, a small-town tranquility, and a passion for music. Nandaime’s most famous son is Camilo Zapata, a key founder of the Nicaraguan folk style, who composed the song, “El Nandaimeño.”
Nandaime is also home to three chichera groups, ragtag bands composed of a bass drum, a snare, cymbals, a sousaphone, and loud, clashing brass. Known as “orchestras,” they participate frequently in parades and bullrings, and their music is happy, loud, and scrappy.
Just south of Nandaime, the private wildlife reserve of Domitila (tel. 505/8881-1786, www.domitila.org, $45 pp in the dorm, $65 private room; $5 pp for day-trippers) sits on 230 hectares of tropical dry forest and lakeshore. They have tree nurseries, hiking trails, and oodles of wildlife. Domitila is ecofriendly and uses composting toilets and its own wastewater treatment facility.
You’ll find comfortable, private cabins, complete restaurant service, and facilities for groups of up to 25 researchers, scientists, or travelers. The $45 per person rate includes three meals per day; gourmet lunch is $10. Call ahead to arrange one of their popular wildlife tours ($20 pp) for bird-watching, butterfly tours, or horseback riding. They also arrange luxury trips to the island of Zapatera, where hot meals are prepared and served to you on-site.
The entrance is located five kilometers south of Nandaime (Km 72) on the road to Rivas; turn off the highway onto a dusty dirt road, which will lead you 10 kilometers past the Lagunas de Mecatepe to Domitila.
© Randall Wood & Joshua Berman from Moon Nicaragua, 4th Edition