My time in Nicaragua had already been quite eventful once I’d got past my volcano boarding saga (didn’t hear but that? Click here to read more), so when it came to spending a few days with a local family on the island of Ometepe, what was there to worry about?
Our homestay experience was pre-organized as part of the G-Adventure tour group I had joined. I had never done something like this before, and I loved the idea of being able to meet and spend time with a local family. Over the next few days we would stay with a family, living, eating and sleeping in their house with them. Staying with a local family should be an authentic local experience, and ours was exactly that.
Ometepe Island is located to west of lake Nicaragua and consists of two volcanoes that are merged together by a small strip of land. On the north of the island you’ll find Volcano Concepción, an active volcano which is also the second largest volcano in Nicaragua! On the south of the island you’ll find the extinct Volcano Maderas, which is covered by a thick cloud forest, but more interestingly, a crater lagoon has formed at the summit which you can actually swim in!
Travel by private shuttle or the local bus (also referred to as the chicken bus) to the port of San Jorge, where you can catch a ferry over to Moyogalpa, the main town on the island. Depending which ferry you take, the journey should take between 60 – 90 minutes.
We boarded what can only be described as the wonkiest ferry I’ve ever set eyes on. It was a beautiful day so we all piled up to the upper level to sit in the sun and catch the breeze. With every turn we took it felt as if the boat would slowly capsize as we swayed from side to side, but thankfully we made it without any more dramas!
Well, other than the two massive volcanos that you can hike, walk, and cycle around, there is loads of other stuff to see and do. Our visit was only for two nights, and on reflection, I wish we had spent longer on the island. To ensure we made the most of our time on the island, a small group of us hired a car and driver for the day, to explore the island.
As soon as we arrived on the island, we were taken to a small building (what I imaged to be the equivalent of a village hall), which would become our meeting point throughout the duration of our stay on the island. From here, our G-Advetnures group were split up into pairs and introduced to our designated families who we would be staying with.
The family we stayed with lived in a single storey building with a communal area at the front of the house (the lounge), three bedrooms (including ours), a kitchen at the rear, and then an outside bathroom at the back.
Our bedroom was a simple room with nothing more than two beds, a side table and a large en-suite bathroom – however due to a water issue we had no running water during our stay. The room was extremely basic with many gaps in the walls, leaving us with hoards of mozzies to spend the night with.
Between our group we all had pretty rustic and very basic accommodations, with one of the couples staying in a room that didn’t even have a proper floor. In their bedroom a rug had been placed over the otherwise exposed ground!
Our host family were lovely however they didn’t speak ANY English. And I don’t speak ANY Spanish! Eek! Thankfully my travel buddy Claudia spoke some basic Spanish so we were able to get by with her handful of Spanish phrases, and a mix of sign language and pointing from me.
Our host mother ensured we ate like queens, and we were never left hungry. I enjoyed meal times as we were joined by the family’s nephew whilst we ate breakfast and dinner. This young boy spoke such good English that he put me to shame with my lack of Spanish. It was also lovely to hear him tell us about his big dreams to travel and get a career.
On our last night, all the hosts families came together to celebrate our stay. Held at one of the family homes, there was music, dancing, games and of course lots of food as each family had prepared a local dish for the party. It was a wonderful experience to see all the families and children together, and to see each of the families our friends had been staying with! I absolutely loved the little girl in the photo below, who kept playing hide and seek with us behind a gated door.
Despite being apprehensive about our homestay experience, it definitely turned out to be one of the best parts of my visit to Nicaragua and I would 100% recommend this to anyone else visiting! Make sure you find a reputable company to book through who can make all the arrangements for you to ensure you are staying somewhere safe. Oh, and perhaps learn some basic lingo so you are able to engage with your host family 🙂