Started by London businesswoman Karen Emanuel after she saw a sign ‘Island for Sale’ when she was visiting Nicaragua in 2007 – and then she bought it! – Jicaro is barely a year old and is already attracting praise and awards. Located not far from the ocean on a private island in Lake Nicaragua, its 9 casitas that look across the water to Mombacho volcano are all extremely private but only a short walk from the pool, the wellness center, and the main facilities.
Each casita has two levels, with the large bedroom above, and both floors have spacious decks to take in the views. The restaurant’s menu has plenty of options and prides itself on the selection of fresh fish from the lake and the sea, local vegetables and fruit, and locally raised chicken and beef. Besides yoga sessions and a variety of massage and wellness treatments, Jicaro offers tours to the historic Zapatera island and the volcano, hikes, and boating.
An interesting aside: Guests can learn about local foods’ history, uses, and the different ways it can be prepared. Papayas, for instance, can be turned into juice, jam, pickled sauce, or a salad with feta cheese. Eat up!
Built entirely from timber reclaimed from trees blown down by 2007’s Hurricane Felix, the buildings and furniture are made of tropical hardwoods which have a controlled wood certification. This the lodge did in conjunction with Simplemente Madera, designers and builders of both furniture and buildings in Jicaro that were already supporting sustainable forestry with the indigenous communities in the hurricane-affected areas before the devastation.
Though still in its early stages, Jicaro is developing a program to work with local schools, focusing on environmental education, providing supplies and materials, and building infrastructure. To start with, they will work with three schools and just over 200 children, all under the age of 12.
From August through December, the Learning is Change program will, for two hours a week, use art, music, drama, and multimedia in order to expand the children’s approach to learning. Subjects to be taught with a combination of textbooks, hands-on activities, games, and field trips will include conservation, climate change, flora and fauna of the Nicaragua Lake, and sustainability. In order to achieve this, Jicaro is working with, as well as training, one of the female community leaders and four young adults from the local islands.
Three times a year Jicaro, in coordination with World Vision, will give financial aid – infrastructure, supplies, and materials – where they are most needed in the three schools.
Starting in July, all employees will be take 6-hour courses that cover biodiversity, water, climate change, and sustainability. Each month after that there will be a field trip, homework activity, and a relevant guest speaker.
Recycling in Nicaragua is not as widespread as in Costa Rica, but last month saw the introduction of the employee recycling program. Though it is voluntary, each employee is strongly encouraged to separate their garbage at home and then bring it to the hotel, which will dispose of it with the hotel’s recyclables.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
“It is part of our goal to have sustainability streamlined into the lives of the people that work for us. We feel that exposing them thoroughly to the issues, making it fun and creative, will awaken a passion of some sort in them and motivate them to start making changes in their lives.”