In honor of the Battle of San Jacinto and Independence Day, we had September 14th and 15th off for a long weekend. We seized this opportunity to take our first multi-day trip independent of Manna Project. Holidays like these give us a chance to visit places and do activities that we otherwise would not have time to do in the normal span of a weekend. Thus, we decided to visit Leon and stay 3 nights at the Surfing Turtle Lodge, which is located on a stretch of empty beach in Isla Los Brasiles. Surfing Turtle Lodge was highly recommended to us by the previous group of Program Directors and is “One of the coolest spots in all of Central America” according to Lonely Planet. We were all excited to check the place out and see if it lived up to its name!
Day 1: We took a micro bus to Leon and spent some time walking around the beautiful colonial city. Among some of the historical sites we saw was the famous Lady of Our Grace Cathedral. Unfortunately, the roof access was closed that day due to construction so we were unable to go to the top, but we still enjoyed walking around the rest of the cathedral. After getting our fill of sights in Leon, we took a taxi to a beach area where we got a boat to the Surfing Turtle island. Upon our arrival at the hostel, we settled into our dorm room and relaxed on the beach for the rest of the day. It was so beautiful!
Day 2: We swam in the Pacific Ocean, walked on the beach, relaxed more, and played volleyball with the hostel staff and other guests. At night, I went on a hostel-organized walk with the site’s marine biologist to learn about the sea turtles that frequent the beach and see if we could spot any. I, unfortunately, did not see any sea turtles. However, after walking a short distance away from the hostel lights, I did see the multitude of stars sparkling in the night sky. Though I was not able to see turtles, seeing the spiral arms of the Milky Way and the stars with such clarity was just as memorable and awe-inspiring.
Day 3: We headed back to Leon for volcano boarding at Cerro Negro! Cerro Negro is about a one hour drive from Leon. It is the only place in the world where you can slide down an active volcano! We began to feel a bit intimidated when we saw how steep the volcano was, but our resolve remained strong. We had to do this at least once while we’re in Nicaragua, right? The hike up the volcano was the hardest part for me. Heat radiated from the volcano as I trekked up with my gear digging into my sunburnt shoulders from the previous day on the beach. In the end, it was well worth it. We all slid down the volcano successfully with no injuries (though I can’t say that none of us fell off of our boards).
That night (our last night at the lodge), there were turtle hatchlings, and we watched baby turtles go out to sea! I would have felt unfulfilled if I wasn’t able to see the hatchlings. I am happy and thankful that I was lucky enough to have that chance.
Day 4: We packed up at Surfing Turtle, took one last look around Leon, and headed back to the Manna House.
All in all, Surfing Turtle did not fail to impress. It was a trip of many firsts for me. It was the first independent trip we took as a group in which we stayed somewhere overnight. It was the first time I needed to take a boat just to get to my lodging. It was the first time I went sliding down an active volcano, and the first time I saw baby sea turtles crawl out into the ocean. While my phone’s camera could not capture everything my eyes could see, my memories of this trip are still in my mind’s eye. The feeling of wonder from our travels is still with me. I can’t wait until our next adventure!