Named for the peculiar smell of choco (rotting turtle egg shells after a hatching), the Refugio de Vida Silvestre Río Escalante-Chacocente encompasses 4,800 hectares of dry tropical forest along the edge of the Pacific Ocean. The area was declared a reserve primarily because of its importance as the nesting ground of the endangered tora and Paslama turtles, incredible multitudes of which crawl up on the beach each year to lay eggs in the sand.
Exotic orchids, like the flor de niño and huele noche fill the nocturnal air with a sweet, romantic fragrance. But Chacocente is also home to important forest species, mangrove systems, and the “salt tree.” Check the treetops for howler and white-faced monkeys, and keep an eye peeled for the many reptiles, pelicans, white-tailed deer, and guardabarrancos that are watching you from the forest edges.
This southern Pacific beach, a gorgeous white sandy crescent at the edge of an 800-hectare broad strip of tropical dry forest, is one of the most beautiful beaches in Nicaragua. Thousands of Paslama turtles beach themselves here annually to nest and lay eggs, one of just a handful of beaches in the world that witness such a spectacle.
Many garrobo negro, iguana verde, lagartijas, monkeys, coyotes, raccoons, and skunks (some of which prey on the turtle eggs) also make their home in the reserve. The skies at La Flor are full of bird species that make their homes in the relatively intact dry forest: urracas, gavilanes caracoleros, chocoyos, querques, garzas, and sonchiches.
The 43,000 hectares of protected wetlands that separate the southern shore of Lake Cocibolca from the Costa Rican border are a remnant of a Sandinista-era wildlife reserve called Sí-a-Paz (a play on words meaning yes to peace). Los Guatuzos preserves both the spirit and the wildlife of the reserve and offers valuable habitat to hundreds of different species, plus several small border settlements of people.