There are basically two reasons why travelers come to León – volcano boarding Cerro Negro and the beach at Las Peñitas, about 20km away. And although I’m not a beach person, Pedro is, so we made a day trip out there while we were in León.
The bus left from the Subtiava market (we ended up walking the 20 minutes from central León) and the trip out took about half an hour, stopping first at the fishing village of Poneloya and then back tracking to Las Peñitas. There are a bunch of places to stay/eat at Las Peñitas and (at least the day we were there) a relatively deserted beach, but I have to admit it wasn’t the most inspiring beach I’ve ever been to.
We adopted another solo traveler – Steffi – and camped out under the small patch of shade under one of these palm umbrellas.
Pedro went swimming happily and Steffi and I went wading for about 5 minutes. OK – so I admit that my skin is unbelievably white – but the sun is so strong and hot here that within that 5 minutes, I actually got sunburned to the point where it was red and I could feel it in the shower for the next day!
After about an hour of roasting on the beach, our little patch of shade was getting smaller and smaller so we headed back up the road towards Poneloya for lunch before meeting our guide to the Mangroves – Juan. It was unbelievably hot, and the bus was nowhere in sight, but we ended having a bit of luck by running into a guy with a bicycle taxi (kinda like a tuk tuk) and negotiated with him to take us to El Chepe – the restaurant where we would meet Juan. I can highly recommend the fried fish and the view at El Chepe!
Juan arrived and the 4 of us set out for a tour of the mangroves. Most travelers end up doing a mangrove tour of the Juan Venado Island Nature Reserve, but Juan took us to a different part of the estuary system where the only other people we ran into were locals.
Juan talked to us about the two types of mangroves that grew there (red and black) as well as the how the ecosystem worked. In particular, the fertilised mangrove seeds don’t drop immediately from their parent tree. The new seedling actually grows in place for quite a long time before breaking off from the fruit and falling in the water (if its high tide) or mud where it will take root.
We picked several of these red mangrove seedlings off the trees and it was strangely satisfying popping the tops off to separate the seedlings from the fruit.
We then boated around to to a place where we could do our own bit for the promulgation of mangroves, and Pedro, Steffi and I planted our seedlings in abstract shapes representative of Portugal, Germany and Australia (our home countries respectively).
Our journey then continued through the waterways learning about how the different plants deal with the salt water, finding crabs, generally experiencing how the local communities utilise the estuary system. It was a fabulous tour!
One final swim for Pedro looking back over Poneloya and the volcanos making up the Ring of Fire in this part of Nicaragua before heading back to León.