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Published: March 21st 2014
I now know why so many people visit the Caribbean.
We have just spent two weeks on the idyllic Corn Islands which sit just off the eastern coast of Nicaragua. Having been on the road for 3 months our visit to the islands turned out to be quite timely. Travelling certainly beats working but that’s not to say it doesn’t come with its own stresses. Constantly moving from place to place, searching for hostels, looking over your shoulder at bus stations and long arduous journeys on public transport take their toll after a while so a two week break on the islands was the perfect tonic.
You can either get to the islands by plane or by boat and although quite a bit more expensive we opted to fly. The boat from Bluefields is never guaranteed and after speaking to a few people who had taken the boat I think we made the right decision; 10 hours on a cargo boat doesn’t sound like much fun. The flight from Managua was a swift 50 minutes and had the added bonus of being able to see the islands from the sky.
A lot of people skip the Big Island
and head straight to Little Corn but as we had time we decided to try them both. I’m glad we did, they’re both stunning and each with their own charms but from a cultural perspective I think the bigger Island was more interesting and certainly had the best beach.
I think our experience on the Big island was definitely helped by the place we stayed. A good host can make all the difference. We stayed at The Mayflowers guest house on brig bay where the manager Hortence and her beautiful dog Alicia looked after us very well, especially with her cooking. Culinary highlights included lobster and coconut chicken and all for less than $6.
The population of Big Corn is around 6,000 and the main industry is lobster fishing. On our first night we met a very drunk fisherman who told us everything he could about the island and in particular the locals love of baseball. It turned out that a big game was happening on the Saturday between the two local teams and that we should go. We followed his recommendation and had a great time despite not really understanding the rules.
Aside from our Saturday at the baseball game most of our time was spent relaxing on the beach and as I mentioned I would argue that Big Corn has the best beach. Picnic bay is on the south-west corner of the island; its white sands stretch for about a kilometre and the sea is near perfect; the tide breaks a little on the shore but beyond that the crystalline waters are almost still. We spent two or three days here and nearly every time we were sharing the beach with no more than a dozen people.
We took the boat to little corn exactly a week after we arrived. The distance is not far and took about 30 minutes. Likkie Corn, as the locals call it, is quite different from its bigger brother and much more centred around tourism (and therefore a little more expensive).
There is a dive centre on Likkie as the island is surrounded by reefs. A lot people we met were taking advanced Padi courses and although I’m sure I’d enjoy diving it’s not really within our budget but we did go snorkelling. We visited three sights, one
of which was a wreck which was cool. We saw parrot fish, rays, dozens of fish I don’t know the names of and a nurse shark. It wasn’t the best snorkelling experience and it wasn’t really necessary to take a tour as you can see so much along the shore anyway but it was good seeing the shark. We even managed to get a few pictures because a couple also on the tour had an underwater camera which they kindly let us borrow.
We certainly did a lot more drinking on Likkie than on Big Corn. Hangovers in 30+ degree heat aren’t pleasant particular when the power on the island is turned off every day at 5.30am and you have no fan in your room. Walking back from the bars late at night was always fun though as you have to avoid the big blue land crabs that scamper around the paths. The biggest ones are about 20 centimetres wide with a claw of similar size; on some sections of the island there were concentrations of 20 or more that you could see popping their heads out of their huge burrows.
Visiting the Corn Islands is definitely one
of my highlights so far, it’s the kind of place I imagined we would visit on this trip and it didn’t disappoint. I quite liked that they’re not very easy to get to (although that may change if the proposed direct international flights happen) and that they’re not that well known because it made being there that extra bit special. They are a bit rough around the edges but I quite liked that too; much more preferable to the resorts that you find on other Caribbean islands in my opinion.
With our batteries recharged and our skin a little darker we’re getting back on the road. Next stop is Granada and then the volcano island of Ometepe.
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