Bosawas, RAAN, the Second Largest Rainforest in the Americas!

Bosawas

Information for Bosawas municipal area in RAAN.

Bosawas is the largest rainforest after the Amazons in Brazil which makes it an absolutely go-to destination in Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast.

Here you will read about the rainforest, how to get there, recommendations, accommodations and a lot more to make your visit one to remember for the rest of your life!

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General Overview
Flora and fauna
How to get there and leave
Air
Land
Water
Must See
Current crisis
Economic activity
Shopping
Getting around
Accommodations
Health Care and Recommendations

Bosawas Biosphere Reserve

General overview

The Bosawas Biosphere Reserve sits just 350 kilometers north of Nicaragua’s capital: Managua. It is regarded as one of the biggest natural reserves in the Americas; it’s the second largest in fact, after the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and is composed by a territorial extension of 20,000 squared kilometers (about 12,500 miles) of forest, mountains and rivers.

It is important to point out that due to its immense size and depth, most of Bosawas remains unexplored and unmapped and yes, also ‘’untamed’’. The Reserve was designated in 1997 as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. It is composed largely of hilly tropical forest, rainforest and a wealth of disparate ecosystems. Bosawas comprises about 7% of Nicaragua’s total land area and it is home to three of the country’s indigenous peoples (Sumos, Miskitos and Mayangnas) the population is estimated to be around 200,000 people.

Bosawas

Bosawas

Flora and fauna

*Bosawas is extremely rich in natural resources most notably timber and gold.

It is worth noting that Bosawas loses from 50 to 71 acres of forest per year to farms and illegal lumber operations. This in fact, is an issue that has brought along national attention and collective public outrage.

There are about 200,000 insect species in the Reserve’s forest, thousands of vascular plants and a high number of Quetzals and Guacamayas along with the largest eagle found in the Americas which is the Harpy Eagle. There are also Pumas, Jaguars and tapirs. Such biodiversity of both flora and fauna make Bosawas by far one of the most appealing destinations in Nicaragua and especially in the Atlantic Coast.

Part of Bosawas' biodiversity

Part of Bosawas’ biodiversity

How to get there and leave

In order to visit the Reserve, you need to contact MARENA which is the Nicaraguan national agency in charge of environmental protection. You can contact them at 2233-1594 and state that you intend to visit, when and with what purpose. The reason why you need to contact Marena is because it is necessary and mandatory that you get a Guide, you could hire one for 20USD per day plus food. Marena recommends this because of the massive size of the reserve, safety and to enhance your experience during your visit.

A group of tourists and a couple of guides arranged by MARENA.

A group of tourists and a couple of guides arranged by MARENA.

Air

There is no direct route by air to Bosawas so you have to make a commute; if you wish the faster choice of air travel, you can arrange it with La Costeña Airline. 150 dollars will buy you a round trip ticket to Bonanza which is the nearest commercial landing strip to the Biosphere reserve; afterwards, there is a truck that leaves at 6am from the airport area everyday and could take you to Bosawas. They can advance very little (no more than 10 miles because of road conditions) so the rest of the road must be undertaken by foot (another couple of miles and you will be in Bosawas territory).

Land

Geographically, the closest municipal area to Bosawas is Bonanza, therefore in order to get to the Biosphere reserve, you have to take a Transmina operated bus (their terminal is located right outside the entrance gate to the Mayoreo Marketplace) there are daily departures at 10am. It should be a 20 hour journey and the bus fare should be 400 cordobas which is roughly 15USD. After you get to Bonanza, you have to take a bus to Bosawas or ask for a ride to passerby. We highly recommend your use of judgment and common sense in appraising whom to ask rides from especially if you are an unaccompanied female, remember safety first.

Water

You can arrive at the Reserve by taking a boat ride (some last more than 5 hours) from Bonanza. The Waspuk River is the one that will get you to Bosawas

Panga ride in Bosawas

Panga ride in Bosawas

Must see

Bosawas is perhaps one of the most attractive and significant touristic attractions in the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua and thus there are many activities to do especially if you enjoy jungle-trekking and breathtaking sights of grandeur (bear in mind this is the second largest rainforest in the continent).

We suggest you make sure to pick your destinations in advance and have a thorough plan before you get there. Be organized about your visit and always use common sense. This is a very dense forest.

Perhaps the top attraction within the Reserve is the reserve itself but also the rivers that are found inside of it such as Waspuk, Kuagul and Coco (the largest of the region). You can arrange for river rides on ‘’dugouts’’ or ‘’runabouts’’ (boat names) or also hire guided jungle exploration trips.

It is highly recommended that you do not attempt a visit to Bosawas without proper supplies, previous experience in the wilderness and tolerance for dampness and discomfort.

Current crisis

Although a national reserve, Bosawas has been the victim of reckless tree felling, the growing advance of the agricultural border (when farmers take up fertile land that belongs to the reserve) and many others abuses against the rules of the reserve that have collectively reduced its extension somewhere in the vicinity of 40,000 hectares per year. It is a very complex issue, Nicaragua is a country that sadly cannot thoroughly enforce the law in such remote areas or does not command the manpower necessary to guard the region. There have been growing protests from environmentalists, Marena and civilians who get involved in the defense of a very noble and moral cause. Bosawas was pegged as the lungs of the country because of its vast green areas filled with floral biodiversity which help reduce pollution in the country. If this issue continues, it could seriously jeopardize the environmental stability of Nicaragua’s ecosystem and that of Central America as well.

It is important that if you are not able to visit this place, you at least take some of your time to raise awareness on the matter or get better informed because even if you are not a resident of Bosawas or Nicaragua, this is a growing issue that very much could affect the rest of the continent.

Civilian protesters

Civilian protesters

There is no question that the Bosawas National Reserve is under threat; 250,000 hectares have already been consumed by deforestation. Hunger, desperation and lack of employment force the natives and locals to cut down the forests and sell the timber to buyers in Honduras and Nicaragua.

Many species are now extinct or in danger of extinction because foreign aliens (yes, us humans) are tampering with their natural habitat. Along with the reckless tree felling which takes place every day in Bosawas, other factors have contributed to its growing decline like the devastation caused by Hurricane Felix in 2007 which caused severe damage to the tropical jungle. Thankfully the area where most of the biodiversity of flora and fauna resides was untouched by the natural disaster.

Economic activity

There is very little economic activity in Bosawas; it is after all a National Reserve so must practices that endanger the environment are forbidden. There are however exercises of economic development taking place in Bosawas with perhaps the best example being that of locals collecting wild plants to sell such as: organic cacao (cocoa) and coffee. Tourism is also an important engine to this area’s economy; many people visit the reserve every year and become instantaneously enamored with the jaw-dropping beauty and immensity of this National Reserve.

Shopping

Most of the shopping done around Bosawas is done in the Bonanza marketplace. Again, the closest municipal area to the reserve. There you can obtain local craftsmanship and also see artisanal mills manufacturing them. There are also trade fairs that take place every few months (the exact dates vary) but during these fairs, people from the mining triangle and other adjacent areas gather to trade goods and tourists are afforded with the best chance of scooping up a nice memento to take back home. The marketplace in Bonanza operates year-round and in it, you will be able to find typical food like guagul, cuña and pijibay and also craftsmanship. Do try those dishes, you won’t find them anywhere else in the country with the same taste that can only be experienced in the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua.

Getting around

Due to its poor road conditions, there is very little automobile traffic in Bosawas, most of the people move around by foot, horses or mules. If you are in luck, you may find big trucks willing to give you a ride.

Tourist getting a lift and a friendly salute from a local

Tourist getting a lift and a friendly salute from a local

Accommodations

When it comes to accommodations, we recommend you to spend the night in Bonanza, you can find the Xochilt Hotel there in the downtown area where the City Hall’s bodega used to be, you can contact them at 2794-0177 (you will find air conditioning, wi-fi and restaurant service).

There is also a better value option which is the B&B hotel, beds start at 5USD; Hotel B&B is a landmark blue and yellow building next to the market that offers small and clean rooms while also providing some of the best meals in town ranging from 3USD to 5USD.

Health care and recommendations

You will find the entire Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua a lot different from where you are from, perhaps very different also from Managua or the other main cities of the Pacific Coast, with that in mind, you need to be aware that it is always better to be prepared; carry band aids, cotton, alcohol and other first aid supplies. It is also imperative that you find yourself a licensed guide for the area; the rainforest is too dense and thick for you to pave your way through it. We highly recommend the use of common sense.