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Comunidad Bartola, Reserva Indio-Maiz, El Castillo Nicaragua
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#2 of 8 Specialty lodging in El Castillo
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Comunidad Bartola, Reserva Indio-Maiz, El Castillo Nicaragua
33Reviews7Q+A2Room tips
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CAH wrote a review Oct 2019
Berlin, Germany2 contributions
In July/August 2019 our travel fever led us to Nicaragua. We experienced a troubled and bloody country, but friendly people and many supportive situations. We were two families with children who wanted to experience other cultures, still original nature. At the Bartola river we experienced welcoming hospitality. The community welcomed us in a very nice way, showed us the treasures of their environment and explains to us the form of living together. The families live from restrained and sustainable agriculture. Guests bring money into the community to make purchases and less intensive agriculture such as rice or maize cultivation. We got tents, rubber boots and lots of breathtaking nature and good food. We saw different animals during day / night tours and experienced the production of chocolate. Rare animals are still represented here. Highly recommendable, despite political trouble in the country, here we noticed nothing of it.
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Date of stay: August 2019
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Room Tip: take a lot of repellent with you and less luggage
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T-SGlobetrotters wrote a review Feb 2018
Preston, United Kingdom2327 contributions798 helpful votes
Twenty six families have formed a co-operative to provide a ‘close to nature’ experience. As a community concept, it is to be applauded but the experience of booking and actually getting to the basecamp can be difficult for non Spanish speakers like ourselves. We are indebted to Marga at Luna del Reo hotel in El Castello where we also stayed, who very kindly confirmed the booking for us after experiencing difficulties in communicating with them direct. The price you pay is also very unclear. At base camp, you are allocated your own private guide and chef for the duration of your stay. We paid $270 for 2 people, 2 nights with up to 4 activities during the stay, this is payable in cash when you arrive at Base camp. The price includes two activities per nights stay to be chosen from a 50 minute canoe cruise followed by a waterfall trek in the rain forest, a night canoe cruise, a fishing trip, a night walk and chocolate making at a local house. There is also horse riding but we were advised by a fellow guest that the muddy and slippery conditions during our stay, meant that this activity was only suitable for people with riding experience. The activities are chosen on arrival and you are allocated a guide from the family assigned to look after you during your stay. The journey starts at El Castillo where you are collected by canoe for the 2 hour journey, swapping to a smaller canoe once you arrive at Rio Bartoli. On arrival it is a steep 3 minute walk to base camp. Accomodation is in one of three, two person tents, they are quite small with very little space for additional storage. Each tent is assembled on a solid platform with a roof structure above to keep off the worst of the weather. There are two cold water showers and two toilets nearby. These are ‘long drop’ toilets but there is a conventional seat. Price includes 3 meals a day served in an adjacent dining area. Although we eat some chicken and fish, we opted for vegetarian and we were very happy with the food prepared during our stay. Cooking is done on wood fired hobs. The community is almost exclusively Spanish speaking but it is possible to get by, the main difficulty was understanding the explanations of the activities at the beginning but we were assisted by another Spanish speaking guest. There is one member of community who does speak very good English. The family works very hard to please and as an experience, it is very close to nature. There are excellent views over the valley from your tent platform, there are two chairs and a table are set up in front of each tent, plus two hammocks, one of our favourite times of the day was dusk when the sounds of the night become prevalent. In terms of activities, the weather did hamper us during our stay. The waterfall trek was undertaken in quite heavy rain which prevented much wildlife spotting but in better conditions others reported quite good wildlife activity. We enjoyed the river night cruise, traveling by canoe manoeuvred via a pole, we saw numerous frogs, lizards and spiders. The chocolate making was also very informative, there is a 30 minute forest walk to reach the house for this activity and during this time we saw a sloth and spider moneys. The are a few practicalities to be aware of. During our stay the paths and parts of the camp were very muddy and slippery and it was wet during our stay in January. You are provided with rubber boots which are essential. You need these boots even for the short walk to the dining area. We were very grateful we took walking poles with us which greatly assisted stability on the hikes. Insect repellent is essential, as are torches which are not supplied. These is one light bulb in the dining area and one near to the bathroom and that is it. Despite the weather, we were very pleased we made the effort to come here. During your stay, you are completely isolated from normal life. Early mornings and late evening were good for bird spotting from the camp itself and there is plenty of time simply to switch off and relax in a wonderfully remote location. The canoe journey to and from base camp was very enjoyable and the slow pace of travel made it very relaxing. A memory to treasure.
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Date of stay: February 2018Trip type: Travelled as a couple
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Caroline B wrote a review Dec 2017
San Francisco73 contributions40 helpful votes
This was probably the highlight of our 3 week tour of Nicaragua. A wonderful experience. You are met at El Castillo and taken downriver by boat to the Bartola river. You then transfer to smaller flat bottomed canoes and have a beautiful and exciting 40 minute journey up the river. The boatmen are very skilled and manoeuvre the boat around rocks and rapids using poles. The camp is up a hill from the river, very light and airy. Accommodation is in tents, on covered wooden decks with the most beautiful views. The venture is run by a self sufficient community of 26 families spread over quite a large area. There is no village as such but they do have a school and a church. The camp has its own area and is quite secluded. They are keen to promote sustainable agriculture and Eco tourism. We were offered a selection of a few activities but chose a 3 hour jungle walk where we saw a variety of plants, birds and reptiles and a beautiful waterfall, a night time canoe trip and a fishing trip. All very enjoyable. There is still a lot of time to chill, relax, swim in the river and enjoy the views. Allejandro, our guide was very knowledgable and really keen for us to enjoy our time at basecamp. When we were there the effects of the 2016 hurricane could still be seen and the canopy was much more open than it had been. This made visibility good. I had been worried about mosquitos and other insects but they weren't bad at all - do bring repellent though. It's not quite glamping but it is pretty comfortable. There are showers and long drop toilets. Meals are simple but good (if you are someone who has a big appetite or likes to snack throughout the day then bring extra supplies). There is filtered water available. They also supply wellies which are very useful as it is quite muddy in parts due to the regular rain showers. It is refreshingly off grid. No internet! No electricity (though they can charge your electronic devices). Bring a torch. It gets dark at 5.30. We were in bed by 7.30 most nights. It would be useful to have someone in your group who can speak a bit of Spanish as they don't speak much English. The great thing about this kind of tourism is that you know your money is going directly to the community. They can take up to 8 people. Our family of four was there on our own for 3 nights and it was a very special time.
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Date of stay: December 2017Trip type: Travelled with family
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Will J wrote a review Jul 2017
81 contributions15 helpful votes
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Absolutley incredible area. From the dugout canoe trip up the Rio Bartola, to the absolutley breathtaking 360° rainforest views from the actual tent sites and mess hall. This place is the real deal as far as ecotourism goes. The tent is perfect, clean with a nice matress. The Canopy covering the tent works perfect, you and your drying clothes stay dry. Excursions are fun, I did 2 night outting and 2 morning hikes with guides and spent every other waking moment out birding and photographing wildlife. I saw about 90 species in 4 days at Bartola during the rainy season, I expect in winter 150 species would be doable. The Bartola area itself is agricultural pasture and small scale farming, but it is surrounded by Primary and Secondary rainforest, the patchwork mosaic actually makes wildlife viewing and birding much easier than unbroken rainforest (don't worry there's plenty of thst too, 3 or 4 trails lead out of camp into the forest). I was there in July as the only person. Very few bugs, but a lot of rain. Bring quick drying clothes and binoculars that are water resistant at rhe least. I absolutley recommend the place, it is a serious high light of my 2 months in Nicaragua and an exemplary example of Sustainable Tourism. I recommend contacting Bartola on facebook before hand to make reservations, and contacting NenaLodge in El Castillo for transport out to the Basecamp. Special kudos to Michael, my guide for the excursions and Lesbea, who kept me fed for the 4 days.
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Date of stay: July 2017Trip type: Travelled solo
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Michel wrote a review Apr 2017
5 contributions3 helpful votes
We went with Juan into the Bartola jungle and indian reserve to do a overnight tourm This is really the highlight of our travel this far. (Two months through central america). We have seen caimans, iguana's, turtles, river crocodils, three species of monkeys, tucans, loads of birds, fireflies. Juan is a guide which exactly knows where to find which animal. Furthermore he is a good cook!
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Date of stay: April 2017Trip type: Travelled as a couple
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Lena K wrote a review Apr 2017
12 contributions2 helpful votes
This was perhaps my favorite place on our whole trip. You will be picked up by boat in El Castillo and have a beautiful 3-hours-trip up the river with rainforest surrounding you. Sadly, you can see the heavy impacts of last year's hurricane, but the nature is still very impressive. Once arrived in the basecamp (which consists out of three tents on separate platforms, shared bathrooms and a bigger house where the tasty food is served three times a day) you will be amazed by the stunning views upon the jungle. It's wonderful just to lie in the hammocks next to the tent and watch and listen. Humming birds and parakeets will pass by regularly. The tours with our guide Deniz (4 included in a 2-nights-stay) were also very interesting, we saw a lot of colorful birds, howler monkeys and some snakes (from a distance only, don't be scared). The whole night through and especially in the early morning you will hear the most amazing sounds from the jungle all around you while you are lying safe and comfortable in your tent. We loved it!
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Date of stay: March 2017Trip type: Travelled as a couple
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chasemarta wrote a review Mar 2017
Chapel Hill, North Carolina373 contributions167 helpful votes
We spent two weeks touring Nicaragua in February and also did a week with Habitat for Humanity. The four days/three nights we spent at Basecamp Bartola were definitely a high point in the trip. Our guide had suggested visiting the camp. It takes a bit of effort to get there. It was an amazing adventure too. We started in San Carlos and took an early ferry down the Rio San Juan to El Castillo. We had breakfast there and then met our small boat that would take us to Basecamp. The boat has a motor but no cover so you need to be prepared for rain. We had put all our clothes in our duffle bag in plastic bags and that was an excellent solution and they also covered our bags. We continued down the Rio San Juan and then turned down Rio Bartola. We went up the Bartola a bit and then transferred to a dug out canoe with a small motor, driver and person in front with a stick to pull the boat up the river and help with navigation. It was exciting going up stream and through the small rapids. There were so many birds and animals along the way. We stopped to get pictures along the way. When we arrived we walked up the hill to the camp. They have four platforms for their tents. They provide the tents, sleeping mattresses, sheets and blankets. There is a small structure where the cooking, eating and meeting occurs. There are two showers and a latrine. Each of the platforms also has a table and chairs as well as a hammock. Each group of guests has their own guide and chef. This worked out well. All the foods were prepared fresh and utilized local ingredients. Each day we had our choice of a variety of activities. It was wonderful to learn about how the local families in their Co-Op live (milked cows, made tortillas, made cheese, made chocolate, compressed sugarcane) as well as hiking the area to see the birds and wildlife. You can also do night trips on the river and ride horses. Basecamp is set up as an eco lodge and they are continuing to improve their offerings. Our guide and my husband both spoke excellent Spanish. This was definitely a plus. The folks at Basecamp speak limited English and you need to know a bit of Spanish or have good hand signals. We wish the Co-Op (group of approximately 30 families) the best with the camp. It is an amazing experience and hope that others will have the opportunity to experience the ability to see nature as well as learn about the culture. We also saw the impact that the hurricane from 2016 had on the area. It is part of the life cycle of the rainforest but it was sad to see a number of the very old trees tumbled to the ground. We didn't have mosquitoes but there were lots of "no see ums". We were sad to say good bye to everyone when we left. It would be amazing to return and bring friends. You can connect with Basecamp by Facebook or by talking with folks at Nana's Hostel in El Castillo.
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Date of stay: February 2017
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Trip type: Travelled with family
Room Tip: All the platforms have a wonderful view and hopefully great breeze.
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Ken D wrote a review Mar 2017
Portland, Oregon814 contributions44 helpful votes
Forget overpriced "eco-lodges," this place provides the ultimate all inclusive jungle and wildlife experience. The folks running the camp were excellent hosts, kept us well fed, and showed us the amazing local flora and fauna, both on foot in the jungle and from their dugout canoes which they deftly piloted up and down the Rio Bartola. When we weren't on one of the planned excursions, just hanging out in the hammocks overlooking the Indio-Maiz Biological Reserve was fantastic. Enjoyed every moment. One thing - make sure you bring sturdy footwear if you have big feet. The locals use those ubiquitous high rubber boots for jungle outings and insist on you wearing some too, but their biggest pair they had on hand weren't big enough.
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Date of stay: March 2017
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Trip type: Travelled with family
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Steve P wrote a review Jan 2017
34 contributions12 helpful votes
If you've got to El Castillo, then you must go on to Basecamp Bartola! Transport/meals/food/activities all included in the price. They pick you up in a small boat from the dock in El Castillo, then travel down Rio San Juan, then transfer to canoe and travel up Rio Bartola. Make sure your stuff is in waterproof bags in case it rains while on the way. There are three wonderful wooden platforms with tents and roofs. There is a communal eating area, two showers and a toilet. Everywhere was kept nice and clean. Food was simple but excellent - all cooked fresh. Let them know when you arrive if you have any dietary requirements - they were happy to sort food to suit several guests requests when we were there! They have a water filter so you can fill up your water bottles when you want. A good balance of activities and time to explore the area yourself (or relax in the hammocks by your tent). Plenty of wildlife - monkeys/sloths/frogs/iguanas/turtles/loads of birds and butterflies. The people are very friendly - it's best if you can speak a little basic Spanish (but some people we met didn't and they had no problems as some guides speak a little English...and there's always google translate!). Some activities can be weather dependant (night canoeing for example), and times can vary. They provide wellies as it is muddy and slippery on all the paths. Make sure you bring a torch, sunscreen, deet, and a light waterproof....and don't worry about the mud! We stayed two nights so had four activities - choose from jungle walk, night canoe, fishing, chocolate making, horseriding, tortilla making. Our favourite was the jungle walk, but all were fun. We booked by email in advance, but most people we met booked in El Castillo. Check our their facebook page for photos and contact details - it is as good as it looks.
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Date of stay: December 2016Trip type: Travelled as a couple
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Trave85 wrote a review Jan 2017
4 contributions2 helpful votes
Basecamp is a must do when visiting this area. I absolute loved it. The Camp has three separate platforms with their own hammocks, tent and chairs. You have a nice view over the forest. Often you will hear the monkeys screem and the birds sing. The shower has a nice view over the forest, the toilet is very... basic. We stayed 2 nights. It included four excursions. We could choose from 1. a 1.30 hour hike 2. A two hour hike 3. Tortilla making, 4. Chololat making 5. Horse riding 6. a night tour. ( unfortunately the night tour was canceled duo to bad weather) The two hour tour we highly  recommend. We saw many birds, monkeys, toucans, frogs and a three-toed Sloth. Getting there is by a gorgeous boat trip aswell.  The staff is friendly. Make sure you speak some Spanish because the dont. Three mails a day are included. There is no "extra food" for sale at the camp. They also provider you with boots (even up to size 45 EU) Duo to a hurricane (end of 2016) a lot of tree's are fallen down but it is still very beautiful. There are probably a few tour guids that can arrange the basecamp for you. We booked it by Nena Lode Tours (in El Castillo) it coast us 225 US Dollars for two persons for two nights) we also met someone who paid 106 USD for two nights (1p) So prizes can be different.  From el Castillo it takes about 30 to 40 minutes by boat to get there.  The first will bring you past a military checkpoint from weer you wil change in to a smaller boat from The basecamp. My advise, take a smal flashlight for the nights, mosquito repellent, old clothes and maybe a raincoat (depending on the weather)
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Date of stay: January 2017Trip type: Travelled as a couple
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NicaraguaRio San Juan DepartmentEl Castillo
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Frequently Asked Questions about Basecamp Bartola
What food & drink options are available at Basecamp Bartola?
Guests can enjoy an on-site restaurant during their stay.
Does Basecamp Bartola have airport transportation?
Yes, Basecamp Bartola offers airport transportation for guests. We recommend calling ahead to confirm details.