Laguna de Apoyo

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Laguna de Apoyo

View of the Apoyo crater and Laguna de Apoyo from Catarina. Estación Biológica is located near the shore, with access to swimming, diving, hiking and other activities. Come stay with us! Photo Jessica López.

Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua

Visit us at Estación Biológica in Laguna de Apoyo for swimming, hiking, birdwatching, SCUBA diving, learning, or volunteering. Rooms available at backpacker prices.


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The crater interior behind Estación Biológica Laguna de Apoyo is filled with tall, tropical forest. Lots of birds and monkeys can be found there. Hire a guide for birdwatching and hiking. Photo Mette Kolbe.

Laguna de Apoyo is in a Volcano

Laguna de Apoyo (Lake Apoyo) is Nicaragua's largest volcanic crater lake. It was formed 23,000 years ago after a huge volcanic explosion left a large crater which interrupted the underground water table. Today, the lake is 180 meters deep and four kilometers in diameter. Its clear water is always warm, never below 28 degrees Celsius (great for swimming!). In Nicaragua, the term "laguna" is given to the volcanic crater lakes which are found in some of the volcanoes along the Pacific region of the country. The name of the lake comes from a term for clear water.

The lake is fed principally from underground aquifers which move from the west and south into the lake and outward toward Lake Nicaragua on the east. Its water is somewhat salty and it is not potable, due to the presence of volcanic minerals.

Laguna de Apoyo

Laguna de Apoyo, in front of Estación Biológica, on a quiet day. Photo Claire and Andy.

Nicaragua Has the Most Pleasant Lake in the World

The water is clear and clean. The beach in front of Estación Biológica is broad and flat, allowing for lots of shallow-water play, in addition to serious swims further in. Take a kayak all the way around the lake in a few hours. The water is good for swimming and relaxing day and night.

hostel Laguna de Apoyo

The chancho cichlid, Amphilophus chancho, inhabits only Laguna de Apoyo. It was officially discovered in 2008 by a team of scientists from Germany, USA and Nicaragua, in a project supported by the Gaia Program. The chancho cichlid can easily be spotted by SCUBA diving. Photo Adrianus Konings.

A Treasure in Biodiversity under Clear Water

Laguna de Apoyo is a special place, not only for its amazing views of the lake from near and far. The water of Laguna de Apoyo is home for six endemic species of cichlid fishes. The GAIA research group working at Estación Biológica Laguna de Apoyo discovered five of these species, and we are continuing research on the evolutionary history, ecology, and conservation aspects of these fishes. One fish species in Lake Apoyo, the arrow cichlid (Amphilophus zaliosus), is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, and other species may soon follow. Other species of fishes found in Laguna de Apoyo are: Amphilophus astorquii, Amphilophus chancho, Amphilophus flaveolus, Amphilophus globosus, Amphilophus supercilius, Parachromis managuensis, Atherinella sardina, and Poecilia sphenops.

Laguna de Apoyo is facing severe threats to its continued existence as a beautiful, natural lake. Although Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve is located between two of the most populous cities in Nicaragua (Masaya and Granada), the reserve continues to contain substantial quantities of natural forest and a huge lake in very good condition. Nonetheless, housing developments, trash, deforestation, and invasive species all threaten Lake Apoyo and its special inhabitants.

hostel Laguna de Apoyo

Waves may develop across Laguna de Apoyo during the dry season, which runs from December until May. Photo Cindy Skeie.

Forests and Wildlife in the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve

The Apoyo crater, a nationally designated protected area, is especially noted for the biodiversity encountered there. Nature lovers can take walks through the high-quality dry tropical forest near the Estación Biológica. The grounds alone make for excellent birdwatching: from our patio, one cane see the Turquoise-browed Motmot, Montezuma Oropendola, Collared Aracari, and the Black-headed Trogon in the trees overhead. Bring your binoculars, and join us on a nature walk! Black and green iguanas, variegated squirrels, kinkajous, and many of Nicaragua's 95 species of bats can be seen on the premises. Howler monkeys can be heard from the deeper forest nearby and often are directly overhead, in the trees above our patio and yard. Endangered fishes found only in Lake Apoyo are easily sighted by SCUBA diving which can be arranged at Estación Biológica in Laguna de Apoyo.

Prohibitions regarding activities inside Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve (Decreto 001-2010, Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, taken from La Gaceta No. 55, 19 March 2010)

1. Use the water from the Laguna for irrigation, human or animal consumption, or construction, given its physical-chemical characteristics.

2. Carry firearms, non-explosive weapons, slingshots, or explosives inside the protected area, excepting the National Police and the Nicaraguan Army, with the objective to protect the protected area and its visitors. Historic inhabitants are permitted to bear machetes for agricultural objectives only in areas utilized for agriculture, and within the control of the corresponding authorities.

3. Use and store combustibles, explosives, pesticides or other chemicals prohibited by law, inside the protected area.

4. Make open fires, provoke forest fires or make open fires to burn trash, leaves, or agricultural residues inside the protected area.

5. Possesion, sale or consumption of alcoholic bevarages in areas prohibited by MARENA or other corresponding authorities, or within 200 meters of a school or church.

6. The introduction of motorized boats, jetski, or any other motorized transport excepting with written authorization from MARENA.

7. Cutting or felling standing trees, whether alive or dead, removal of the ground cover, the transport or commercialization of forest resources, according to the currently valid legislation.

8. Hunt or capture animals, excepting for research purposes with authorization from MARENA.

9. The introduction of exotic plants or animals.

10. The extraction of genetic material, excepting for research purposes with authorization from MARENA.

11. Alteration of land use, substitution of natural forests with plantations, or increasing areas of cultivation or pasture.

12 The extraction of archeological materials. Any finding should be reported to MARENA for its required management in cooperation with other authorities.

13. The opening of new vehicular transport routes, excepting paths for environmental interpretation and ecotourism.

14. Construction nor any activity related to construction which impedes free access to the shore, including walls, structures, bars, ramps, or launches.

15. Subdivide or construct housing.

16. Extraction or removal or non-metalic minerals, such as sand, rock, pumice, or clay.

17. Constructions in areas with greater than 15% inclines.

18. Constructions in areas susceptible to flooding, landslides or seismic activity.

19. Installations of antennas or special communication equipment, excepting those with objectives for research and environmental protection with prior approval and coordination with MARENA.

20. Direct or indirect discharge of treated or untreated wastewater resulting from domestic, industrial or agricultural use, to the laguna.

21. Construction of landfills, recycling plants, or dumps; any existing sites should be closed and the materials relocated.

22. Burning of solid waste or household, commercial, or any other origin.

23. Installation or construction of gas stations, mechanic shops, industries of chemical, food, or any other type, any agricultural or aquaculture activity, non-metallic mining, nor any other activity that generates negative impacts to the land or water ecosystems.

24. Animal husbandry with commercial objectives.

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Volunteer and learn Spanish with the GAIA Program at Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve in Nicaragua.

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Laguna de Apoyo
Lake Apoyo is great for swimming, day and night. Come visit us at Estación Biol&ogica. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.


Laguna de Apoyo
The view of Laguna de Apoyo, Granada, Mombacho and Lake Nicaragua, from Catarina. Photo Sandra Wallace.


Laguna de Apoyo
Extensive forests cover much of the crater interior surrounding Laguna de Apoyo. Photo César Correa.


Laguna de Apoyo
This baby squirrel was raised by the staff after she fell from a tree as an infant. Today she has her own family in the trees above Estación Biológica. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.


Laguna de Apoyo
Field research is conducted on several animal and plant groups at Estación Biológica Laguna de Apoyo. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.


hostel Laguna de Apoyo
Spanish classes for volunteers, interns and other visitos are vital components of our educational program in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.


Bird populations are monitored in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve by the staff and volunteers of Estación Biológica Laguna de Apoyo. Photo Joe Taylor.


The forest inside the crater in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve contains dozens of terrestrial species, making the area an appropriate site for wildlife studies. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.


Field identification of the reptiles of Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Photo Kolby Kirk.


Scientists at Estación Biológica Laguna de Apoyo study endangered fish species in the lake. Certified SCUBA divers can accompany us on research dives where endemic fish species can be readily seen. Photo Topi Lehtonen.


Scientists at Estación Biológica Laguna de Apoyo conduct surveys of wildlife, including resident and migratory birds. Photo Wendy van Kooten.


Laguna de Apoyo
Animal rescue at Estación Biológica Laguna de Apoyo. Here, Gaia Director Jeffrey McCrary is accompanied by a rapidly healing variegated squirrel that was severely injured by illegal poachers. Photo Anne Sutton.


Nicaragua Spanish School
Classes at Apoyo Spanish School are given by the most experienced teachers in Nicaragua. Our teachers train the teachers of other Spanish schools. Photo Jen Moran.


Nicaragua Spanish school
Laguna de Apoyo is the best place in Nicaragua for swimming, day and night. The water is always warm and clear. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.


Nicaragua Spanish Schools
Spanish language courses and other training workshops are often held under the shade of huge trees with monkeys looking down. Apoyo Spanish School is the oldest of the intensive Nicaragua Spanish schools. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.


Apoyo Spanish School
A tour of students of Apoyo Spanish School visits Catarina, with the lake and Granada in view. Photo Belén Camino.


San Juan de Oriente, on the edge of Apoyo crater, is the most important center of artisan ceramic pottery in Nicaragua. Gaia supports natural resource conservation in the region which is vital to rural livelihoods throughout the area. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.


Apoyo Spanish School
Students at Apoyo Spanish School learn Spanish and lots about the Nicaraguan culture and environment, through volunteer activities such as reforestation, recycling, and care of rescue animals. Visit Apoyo Spanish School at Estación Biológica en Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Photo Jen Moran.


laguna de apoyo
Everyone enjoys the water at Laguna de Apoyo, the best swimming hole in Nicaragua. Photo Aaron Teasdale.


Gaia worked with the local community and the government and people of Japan to build the rural school "Héroes y Mártires de Xiloá" a completely new school for a marginalized, rural community on the edge of Laguna de Xiloá. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.


The chancho cichlid, Amphilophus chancho, is one of the fish species endemic to Laguna de Apoyo, discovered by scientists working in a GAIA project. This species is easily seen while diving in Laguna de Apoyo. Join us in a study of this endemic fish species. Photo Ad Konings.


hostel Laguna de Apoyo
Gaia experts support wildlife studies important to the economy of Nicaragua, such as the impacts of windmills on wildlife. A major wind farm in Rivas is located along an important bird migration corridor. Photo Pablo Somarriba.


tour Laguna de Apoyo
Scientific SCUBA diving in Laguna de Apoyo. Gaia provides logistical and scientific support for studies of ecosystems in Nicaragua such as freshwater lakes and rivers, and tropical forests. We arrange, coordinate, and support internships and scientific partnerships throughout Nicaragua. Photo Topi Lehtonen.


hostel Laguna de Apoyo
Gaia organizes birdwatching tours in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, as well as in Managua and throughout Nicaragua. Go birdwatching with us and enjoy nature at its finest. Spanish students can catch views of many birds before classes each morning. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.


Gaia scientists supported the development of the Environmental and Social Impact Statement for the proposed Nicaragua Grand Interoceanic Canal, with field work and biodiversity analysis. By studying Spanish and volunteering with us, you help support activities that impact the environment for all Nicaraguans.