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Venturing deep into the mysterious jungle of Indio Maíz was the highlight of Nicaraguan adventures. We spent a night in a traditional Rama Indian hut and indulged in their habits, hiked to the sacred stone pyramids of Canta Gallo, and fell in love with the pristine wilderness of those inhabited lands. Since we’ve got frequent inquiries on the subject, we decided to share our tips for organizing a trip to Indio Maíz and Canta Gallo.
How to Book a Boat Trip and Guide to Indio Maíz Jungle
You can either organize the Indio Maíz trip beforehand or at the spot. Either way, don’t compromise: approve only Rama Indians as your guide. That way you’ll be fully immersed in their unique Indian culture. If you are interested, they’ll show you the ropes of catching delicious river crabs and cooking them on the open stove or showcase you the healing powers of plants. You’ll be sleeping in a real Rama Indian home instead of a tent which is the deal with other guides. Also, the profits will go to the community.
Guides are obligatory since you are entering Rama territory through several military posts. The other guides can take you there, but only Rama can guide you to the Canta Gallo pyramids. All Rama speak Creole English, so you don’t need Spanish with them.
Due to the lack of online information, we didn’t have the option to book our Indio Maíz visit beforehand. But since we’ve done it, there’s that chance for you! We recommend taking the trip with Salomon, who was our loyal guide. I won’t publish his phone number here, but you can request it by commenting below or emailing us. It’s also possible to negotiate your Indio Maíz trip at the spot: ask from your hospedaje or walk to the Rama area at the outskirts of Greytown and settle a deal with one of the Rama for the next day.
How Many Days You’ll Need for Indio Maíz Jungle Trip?
In one night (two days’) Indio Maíz trip you’ll see a lot: the lifestyle of the Rama, pristine jungle and wildlife, and the sacred Rama site of Canta Gallo. The boat trip to Canta Gallo is long, so it’s not recommendable to pack everything in just one day (you can opt for paying more for a faster boat, which cuts the journey into 4 hours, but in my opinion one-day trip results too shallow experience).
If you are okay with staying several nights in a very basic Indian house, I’d recommend expanding the adventure. Then you could either reach further than Canta Gallo or do the same as we did, but at a more tranquil pace. Usually, two nights’ trip to Indio Maíz consists of one night near Canta Gallo and the other night at the edge of the Rama territory on your way back. You can adjust the deal to your likings with your guide.
If you decide to go with someone else than Salomon, insist on venturing further than the former village of Makenge, nowadays called “the Holy Land”. That’s the biggest Rama settlement in Indio Maíz, where almost all guides take the tourists, so there might be other groups at the same time. It’s a nice to explore the “Holy Land”, but personally, I wouldn’t stay there, if I had only one or two nights in the Indio Maíz. Being a village, it might be too “civilized”, if you’re looking for an adventurous night in the jungle, like us.
The boat trip to Canta Gallo takes approximately 8 hours with a traditional motor boat. We saw the first Rama house after sailing for two hours and the second one 30 minutes later (the house of Esmeralda, which Salomon uses for the last nights’ stay in longer trips). A trip from San Juan de Nicaragua to “the Holy Land” (former Makenge) took about 6 hours. All times vary due to the weather and currents.
Prices for Indio Maíz trips are rather steep, I agree. We paid 200$ for 2 of us (for two nights’ trip). Salomon asked 400$ if I remember right. We bargained the deal at the spot: Salomon was our “random guide” that we found through our hospedaje. He needs to rent a boat, buy gasoline (which is expensive), buy food and water for you, and pay for the Rama homes where you’re staying, etc. Salomon also seemed to support generously the Rama people we met.
After seeing several other guides in San Juan de Nicaragua, I would still go with Salomon. To my knowledge, the prices are the same. Of course, you can try to bargain. But the lower price might mean slower boat, meals consisting mostly of rice and plantains and other tweaks. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the adventure!
BOAT SCHEDULE SAN JUAN DE NIGARAGUA-SAN CARLOS 2017
Public boat from San Juan de Nicaragua to San Carlos
Thursday 5 AM (Express: duration 7 hours & Normal line: duration 12 hours)
Saturday 5 AM (Duration 12 hours)
Sunday 5 AM (Express: duration 7 hours & Normal line: duration 12 hours)
Public boat from San Carlos to San Juan de Nicaragua
Tuesday 6 AM (Duration 12 hours)
Tuesday 6.30 AM (Express: duration 7 hours)
Thursday 6 AM (Duration 12 hours)
Friday 6 AM (Duration 12 hours)
Friday 6.30 AM (Express: duration 7 hours)
Please confirm the schedule from your accommodation. We received this information from our kind reader in June 2017, but cannot guarantee that it stays up to date.
Tips for Starting and Ending the Indio Maíz Trip in San Juan de Nicaragua
Either fly to San Juan de Nicaragua (Greytown) or take a river boat from San Carlos. You’ll need one night in San Juan de Nicaragua/Greytown before and after the Indio Maíz trip. Check out how the boat or flight timetable allows that. We needed to stay longer. There are enough sights to keep you entertained for one or even two days (blue lagoon, manatees, four intriguing graveyards), but accommodation options are rather basic.
There aren’t any ATMs (or banks, or posts) in Greytown. And there are just a couple modest shops selling basic snacks and drinks: if you’d fancy something special, take it with you from Managua or San Carlos. The flight is really scenic, but the airport is a boat trip away from the town, so you’d need to organize a boat transfer. We had booked a transfer through our hospedaje, but still ended up waiting there for an hour before we got a lift from the airport personnel (ours never arrived).
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