Swimming the Laguna Apoyo

Ever since I first came to Nicaragua, I’ve had this nagging vision of me swimming across the Laguna de Apoyo.  I would not go so far as to say this has been a persistent desire, just a nagging vision.  Now I think I should do this before I turn 70. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say the Laguna de Apoyo might be the most beautiful crater lake in all the world (although, I must admit, I’ve not seen that many crater lakes in my travels to mostly urban and seaside destinations). The views from los Miradores de Caterina y Diria and elsewhere along the rim are stunningly beautiful.  This in Nicaragua, a country known more for its poverty and politics than its incredible beauty.  
Have you (or someone you might know) acquired any data on the Laguna?  I have discovered through my limited research the Laguna is 48 square kilometers in area and has been measured at 200 meters deep, making its floor the lowest point in Central America.  I have always estimated its diameter to be about two miles, but this is nothing more than an uneducated guess.  Could you (or someone you might know), given the area to be 48 square kilometers, and assuming (as economists often do) the surface of the crater to be perfectly round (which, of course, it isn’t), calculate the distance across?  I have lost the necessary skills to do this, but I feel certain the mathematical symbol pi will be involved.
Some sources have suggested the Laguna is as much as six kilometers (3.7 miles) across, and that could be a “deal breaker.”  I have never swum more than one mile (106 laps in a 50-foot pool) without stopping, but have always felt I could go on forever if need be.  Once, on the island of St. Vincent, I swam across a wide, turbulent channel, probably not more than half a mile, to get to an offshore islet just because it looked like a nice place to spend the day.  Another time, on the Panamanian island of Contadora (Pacific side), I wanted to go to a beach (a clothing optional beach!) that had been closed to the public because the entire production staff of Survivor had taken over the hotel and adjoining beaches.  I strapped on some sunblock and other gear and swam to the beach along the coastline from the hotel where I was staying.  Then, of course, I had to swim back home.  By the way, I found the beach completely deserted.  The Survivor crew must have been in the bush that day.  When I lived in Barbados (40 years ago), I often swam so far out into the Atlantic and stayed so long that on one occasion the little boys ran back to the village and tearfully announced, “Mr. Neal, he day-ed!  He done drown-ded in d’sea.”
On the Apoyo swim, I would set out from Norome or San Simian and swim straight across to Vistalagos on the other side.  Question:  can you (or someone you might know) follow me in a kayak or rowboat in case I need to rest, be rescued or die enroute (just kidding about that last thing …I think)? However, should my highly unanticipated demise occur during the crossing, please don’t make a fuss.  Just keep rowing. While I have told some friends and relatives I want my ashes scattered on the east coast of Barbados between Long Pond and Morgan Lewis Beach, it would be just as fitting to enter into eternal rest at the bottom of the Laguna de Apoyo or floating in the reeds along its edges.  I’m sure it would be six of one or half a dozen of the other to a person who is already dead.  Under no circumstances should the authorities be notified.  The recovery, storage and likely disposition of a foreign body in Nicaragua would open an endless quest for fees, fines, legal entanglements, procedures, bribery and even extortion. Just let me be.
It will be a slow crossing.  You (or someone you might know) should expect to spend most of a morning or afternoon on the waters of the Laguna.  I will be using only the breast stroke and inverted breast stroke, as crawl, butterfly or even back stroke movements would be too exhausting over the long haul.  I would expect to need several impromptu periods of floating in order to restore energy  This will require little effort on my part.  I have known, from the age of five when I first jumped off that big rock into the deepest hole in Joachim Creek, I am extremely buoyant (especially for a thin person).  Also, I do not believe any of the local legends about sea serpents and other carniverous creatures in the Laguna (although I have it on good authority fresh water sharks have evolved over the centuries in nearby Lake Nicaragua).  We will probably need to secure a vehicle of sufficient size to transport the kayak or rowboat back to Norome or San Simian, unless you (or someone you might know) want to paddle or row the vehicle back across to the other side…with me collapsed on or in it.
Please let me know if you (or someone you might know) can support me in this endeavor.  I would consider it an accomplishment to complete this goal (or make this effort) in response to nothing more persuasive than a nagging vision in my life.
Neal Graham        grahamn2545@yahoo.com


  1. Bob

    January 26, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    The area of a circle is like one of those strange pizza pies, because the PIe aRe SQUARED (pi * R(radius)squared).

    Therefore if you divide 48 by 3.14(pi), then find the square root of that number, we find that the radius of (a circular) Laguna Apoyo would be about 3.41 kilimeters. Doubling the radius gives us the diameter, which would be about 7.82 kilometers.

    If Laguna de Apoyo were perfectly circular the distance from one side to the other would be 7.82 kilometers. In fact, it is slightly oval-shaped with the narrow dimension in the east-west direction. I would estimate the distance across the lake from Hotel Norome to Vista Lagos would be closer to 6.8 or 7.0 kilometers.

    HOWEVER, I live beside Laguna De Apoyo, and I always thought the lake was about 40 (not 48) square kilometers. I could be wrong, though.

  2. jack

    January 26, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    based on 48 sq. kilometers area the diameter is between 4 and 5 miles, closer to 5. I don’t belive it’s that far. But, however far I’ll do kayak support(not on Superbowl).

    • Neal Graham

      January 28, 2015 at 12:37 pm

      Hi, Jack. Thanks for your offer of Kayak support. Does that mean you have a kayak I and my escort can borrow, or that you would actually accompany me on the crossing. Are you at Vista Lagos? Amy Bushnell suggested I should swim from VL to the other side and, therefore, have the wind at my back instead of in my face. If you followed me from VL, would you paddle back across, or would I need to arrange to transport the kayak back to VL. Thanks for your offer of support.

  3. Brian Davis

    January 27, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    I agree with Jack’s calculation. I live at VL and would gladly give a ride back to Caterina. The number I’ve always heard for the diameter is 7 km.

    We will be here until Feb. 24, then returning in July.

    Is it Darrell or Neal that want to do this?

  4. Brian Davis

    January 28, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    The prevailing wind is usually east to west, so might be better to start at VL

  5. Neal Graham

    January 29, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    To Jack. Thanks for your offer of “kayak support.” Does this mean you have a kayak that my escort can use during the crossing, or that you would actually accompany me on the crossing? Are you at Vista Lagos? Amy Bushnell suggeted I should swim from VL to San Simian so the wind would be behind me and not in my face. If you followed me from VL, would you paddle the kayak back across, or should I arrange transportation to carry it back to VL? Thanks for your offer of support.

  6. Pingback: Swimming the Laguna Apoyo - Part 2 - Nicaragua Community - Nicaragua Community

  7. Leslie Warren

    February 5, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    Neal: I have also wistfully imagined a crossing – via kayak. If I had a decent craft and a comphy paddle, I’d like to join you – making the crossing a regatta.