Three Swedes Drive to Pearl Lagoon

By Alfred Thorsberg

During my 13 years of living by the lake 7 km from Granada, the only times I have really explored different parts of Nicaragua is when I have visitors from abroad. On January 11 this year I picked up two classmates from Sweden, The Pinch, who I had not seen in over 40 years, and Rolf, a very fine fellow, coming for his third visit to my home here. Rolf and The Pinch didn’t know each other before coming here since I got to know them in separate schools at different times. They were booked for a month stay with many adventures planned though I recommend you think twice about letting someone invite themselves for a month long visit after not having seem them in 40 years. More on that later.

I have always wanted to visit the Atlantic coast and with great recommendations from a friend where to go and who to see, two Swedes to keep me company, we set out on a long 350 km drive from Granada to Pearl Lagoon. With my Toyota Prado loaded with 2 coolers, fishing rods, 2 cases good wine and lots of beer, we set out around 7 am on January 22. If you plan to travel with 2 Swedish tourists I strongly recommend you drive a car with a refrigerator in the centre console. Fortunately my car is equipped with such an item, at the time of departure loaded with 8 cans of Victoria.

I chose not to risk getting delayed with a broken ferry or getting lost by taking the road (trail) along Lake Nicaragua, through Malacatoya that would eventually bring us to highway 7 even though it is a significant short cut. They are currently working on this road and when it is finished it will cut at least an hour of traveling time to that part of the country. We look forward to that! Instead we drove the long way around through Tipitapa and San Benito where we turned right onto highway 7 which would take us to Rama. We stopped for breakfast in San Benito at a buffet restaurant. Fast, cheap, clean and good Nica food. I cannot remember the name of the place but it should be easy to find on the right side of the highway. As I paid The Pinch looked at the bill and, with his near sighted eyes about 3 inches from his iPhone screen, made a note of the cost.

Back on the road again, the passengers outfitted with cold cans of Victoria, we had an almost uneventful drive through Juigalpa to Rama, beautiful lush green landscapes, rolling hills flying by. The highway is in fantastic condition except for the last stretch to Rama where potholes the size of Laguna Apoyo scattered the road. We watched as an approaching old Nissan pickup loaded up to the clouds with platano hit a really deep pothole and flipped over onto its side, fortunately onto their side of the road. The six campesinos stuffed into the small single cab pickup were all okay and non of them looked even the slightest bit disturbed by the accident. In just minutes they had the pickup back on its wheels and set out to change the front right tire that had busted from hitting the pothole as well as loading the scattered platano back onto the truck. As we went on our way, the driver (that would be me) popped his first Victoria and drove the rest of the way to Rama with extra caution.

The streets of Rama were bustling with activity and as we ended up in the market area we realized we would not find the road to Pearl Lagoon without asking directions. After asking a few people, every one of them pointing us in different directions, we finally found a man willing to come along and show us the way. We thank that kind man!

A road sign told us it was 80 km to Pearl Lagoon. It took us 2 hours and 40 minutes to drive this stretch. The better parts of the road went through African Palm plantations. We stopped and inspected a pile of harvested palm berries ready to be picked up and chemically processed into unhealthy cooking oil.

African Palm berries


Finally, after a whole day of driving, we sensed we were getting close to the Atlantic coast, the landscape changing to lighter and more open spaces with lush green fields, the African palms getting replaced by regular coconut palms. The locals on the other hand are suddenly darker in complexion, clearly many of African descent. A pretty lady with an umbrella proudly struts down the middle of the narrow road dressed up in her Sunday best. As she moves to the side she offers us a huge welcoming smile. I greet her with the usual Nica greeting “Adios!” She responds with “Right here man! Right here!” We  have arrived! Pearl Lagoon, here comes the 3 Swedes! Nine hours has gone by since we left my house on the Diamante peninsula in Granada, including the quick breakfast stop plus a half hour lunch break in a small restaurant in a village between the African palm plantations.

I call our contact, Rodolfo Chang, a staff member of the Wildlife Conservation Society who helps managing Kabu Tours, a tour company that comes highly recommended. He gives us directions to Casa Ulrich were we will be staying, a nice hotel located right on the waterfront. We find Fred Ulrich, the owner, sitting on a rocking chair on the back porch deep in conversation in fluent French with a guest. As he welcomes us I immediately realize we are dealing with a very pleasant charismatic host.  Fred speaks perfect American English with a charming Carib flavour for added warmth. Born in Pearl Lagoon, with a Caribe mother and father of Swiss decent, Fred, after finishing high school in Managua, went to hospitality school in Lausanne, Switzerland, then onto  further learning at the Hotel School in Strasbourg France. Cooking was of course was an important part of his education and has been his focus for most of his adventures life while living in different countries.  Six years ago he came back to his birthplace in Pearl Lagoon and opened Casa Ulrich.

Meet the loveable Fred Ulrich!


While we are enjoying a cold beer, talking to Fred and taking in the view of the vast Pearl Lagoon, Rodolfo Chang arrives. He is a warm and clearly very bright local fellow and we feel we are in very good hands as he tells us about our planned trips, the visits to indigenous communities living along the Pearl Lagoon, the tour of the Pearl Cays as well as fishing trips we are planning to do.

Fred Ulrich prepares us a fantastic fish and lobster dinner which we enjoy with wine we brought with us. There is a large group of French people, part of some NGO, dining next to us. After they finish off the very last bottle of mediocre wine available in Pearl Lagoon they watch us jealously as we pop our third bottle of good Argentinian Pinot Noir and sharing it with Fred who has joined us at the table. Fred explains that his limited stock of wine quickly disappeared with all the French people in town and the next shipment would not be due for days. Supplies are not readily available in this far corner of the country so we are extra pleased we brought our own wine. We are not surprised to find out that Fred’s signature fish and lobster dish is famous all over the place, even written up by the New York Times. With happy bellies and pleasantly relaxed by the wine we retire early to rest up after a full day on the road.

After a good night’s sleep, no need for air-conditioning though available in the rooms, we meet for breakfast and feast on a sumptuous Spanish Omelet prepared by Fred. Unfortunately Casa Ulrich is fully booked for the following nights so we have to move next door to Best View Inn. The name brought the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series of books by Alexander McCall Smith to mind and when I met the owner lady my intuition had proven to be in tune. A generously rotund lady you know better than trying to piss off proudly shows us the rooms in the brand new hotel located right on the water with a pier extending out to Best View restaurant. 35 dollars a night for a clean air-conditioned room, ‘breakfast’ included. As soon as I practice my Swedish version of Creole English with the owner lady I break through her serious barrier and always am greeted with a smile. Nice place to stay but I strongly recommend eating next door at Casa Ulrich. Rolf and I even passed on the free ‘breakfast’ and headed over to Fred’s for good food and good coffee instead, while The Pinch went to Best View Restaurant to take advantage of what was included in his room price.

We are in no need to rush into a stressful schedule like frantic tourists so we decide to spend the our first day just relaxing and getting to know the town of Pearl Lagoon, a place so different than the Pacific side of Nicaragua, it felt we were in another country.

After a day of relaxing and exploring the town we were ready for our first scheduled adventure: A full day of visiting 3 indigenous communities living along the shores of the Pearl Lagoon – a Miskito community, a Garifuna community and the Creole community of Marshal Point.

A nice Kabu Tour’s panga boat picked us up in the morning at Fred’s dock. Rodolfo Chang, a Garifuna fellow with some Chinese blood in the mix from a couple of generations back, as our main guide, Wilberth, a Miskito, our captain and Roger, another Miskito, a shy fellow who soon warmed up to us and had much to tell during our trips. Once the cooler full of beer was loaded the 3 Swedes headed out across the wast Pearl Lagoon. None of the communities we were about to visit has any roads leading to them so the panga boats are their lifeline to the rest of the world. We saw plenty of pangas flying across the waves going back and forth to the different communities, some loaded heavily with supplies.

After around half an hour boat ride we arrive at the Miskito community of Kahkabila on the west shore of the Pearl Lagoon. Unfortunately the hard drive on my high end video camera had a stroke and lost all the videos stored in it during an upload to YouTube intended to go with this story. Therefore you will miss out on me reading ‘fluent’ Miskito from a welcome sign at the entrance to the community, as well all the other interesting videos and photos from the trip. We just have to make do with the photos Rolf and The Pinch took with their iPhones.

Arriving at the Miskito community





Wilberth, guide and captain, left. Roger guide and master fisherman, right.


The fabulous Rodolfo Chang, a well known local fellow from Marshall Point, a Creole community in the Pearl Lagoon Basin. Rodolfo is with the Wildlife Conservation Society in Pearl Lagoon and works on stopping local fishermen killing endangered turtles and instead engage them in tourism and other alternative livelihoods. He is a real people’s insider and heavily involved with protecting the natural resources of the Pearl Lagoon area. He holds a college degree from UCA and a master degree in Marine Biology and Policy from a university in the USA.


Roger giving a Kahkabila history lesson based on a mural


Carving a solid log into a boat.  (also a closeup of The Pinch’s index finger.)


There were 3 churches in this little village, each pitching their own version of God. The Moravian Church was the first one to arrive in the area back in 1849 on invitation by the Miskito King. During the first 30 years the missionary pitchmen enjoyed no success but eventually managed to brainwash the Miskitos and convert them to Christianity though, fortunately, they still hold close to their hearts some of their pre-christianity spiritual traditions. Enough said about religion!

Electricity to these communities has been available only for a few years, bringing the blessings of the lightbulb, the refrigerator and access to the use of some electric tools as well as the curse of culture and moral destroying television. Claro satellite dishes were everywhere, even on the smallest, poorest looking dwellings. Later during another trip we got to know Wilberth’s sister, a police officer who joined us fishing on her day off. She told us there were many problems with the youth that she blamed on television and introduction to US invented gangster rap. One horror story stays with me, the story of a 7 year old girl who had been watching Chucky, the evil doll from the Child’s Play movie series, on television. She became so fascinated with this heinous little doll that she grabbed a sharp kitchen knife and stabbed her own 5 year old little sister! Oh, you just wait until I become the benevolent dictator of Nicaragua! I will publicly spank, then jail those responsible for putting out these kinds of immoral programming on the airwaves! I of course will ban all gangster rap as well. Being I am an old fart, all rap ‘music’ is gangster rap to me and I am convinced it is extremely harmful to listen to. Fortunately these communities have their own very much alive indigenous music and dance. We were given a sample of indigenous music by a fine fellow with a guitar while we enjoyed a drink from freshly cut young coconuts. While I didn’t understand a word as he bared his soul and sang in Miskito I suspected it had a lot to do with love and broken hearts. Very sweet and gentle music, reminding me of the Calypso music I heard during my years living in the Virgin Islands.

The Miskito musician



Notice the Claro satellite dish on the right corner of the house



Next on the agenda was meeting a healer and medicine woman. The Miskito make a clear distinction between physical illness and spiritual illness though they use herbal remedies to treat and cure both. A spiritual illness will often lead to physical illness but they are convinced you cannot heal the physical illness without first addressing the spiritual illness. Western medicine could learn much from this approach.

To treat spiritual illnesses the evil spirits possessing a person, often young children, have to be exorcised by using herbs, prayers, smoke as well as some other secret methods. We were shown a few locally harvested herbs used to heal the spirit by the medicine woman. Roger translated what she told us into English and it was very interesting and insightful.

By now you might not be surprised to know that I asked her what to do with the evil that possessed young people while listening to rap music and watching violent television. It took Roger some time to translate this to get her to understand my question. When she finally understood a very dire expression appeared on her face.

She told us music was very powerful and had much healing power but the rap was not music, it was pure evil causing young people to lose their soul and make them aggressive and arrogant. She also considered television very bad and toxic, brainwashing the young generation and causing them to forget their traditions and the moral codes holding their community together. She was very sad to admit that none of her herbal medicine could prevent these problems, though she could help to cure them once the illness had taken over and controlled their spirits, though few would search her out for this.

The Miskito medicine woman and Roger with spirit healing herbs.



The 3 communities we visited that day all had in common a peaceful serenity and sense of harmony with no cars or motorcycles, just walking paths with a few bicycles here and there, the paths are a little tricky so you really need to know how to choose a bike for you and your family’s safety.  Smiling faces met us almost everywhere. The few sour and resentful faces we met with turned out to be from less desirable  members of the commutes, those who wanted to beg from us but, due to Kabu Tours’ strict rules, were not allowed to approach us. Kabu Tours organisation are doing lot of good for these communities and Rodolfo always left a blue cordoba bill or two to the people we were introduced to, those who informed us and entertained us during the day.

Next on the schedule was a visit to the Garifuna community. The Garifunas are descendants of West African, Central African, Island Carib and Arawak Indians from St Vincent. Just like in Kahkabila, we saw many very neat and nice houses, some rather large ones. I spotted an impressive mini mansion and my first thought was that it was built with drug money. I asked and was told that yes, there was some truth to that drug money had been used to build some large fancy houses in the Pearl Lagoon area some years back before the drug trade was cut down drastically and the bad guys thrown in jail. The particular house I spotted belonged to a family with the husband and sons working on cruise ships and not involved in the drug trade. Working on cruise ships is a very common occupation among the English speaking groups on the Atlantic coast. Almost all Garifuna are bilingual or multilingual. Their native tongue is an Arawakan language with Arawak, English, French and Spanish influence. A serious effort is being made to preserve the native languages of these communities. Modern life with a heavy influence of television is a threat to these ancient and mostly forgotten languages.

It was time for lunch. The Pinch pointed out that this was supposed to be included in the tour price and when this was confirmed he seemed smugly pleased. We enjoyed a great Garifuna fish soup with cassava bread and cold beer.

Garifuna fish soup. Yum!



After lunch it was time for entertainment, presented in the same restaurant. A group of four young Garifuna people, two drummers and two dancers performed a soul stirring show that put the traditional Nicaraguan folklore dance to shame. The drum rhythm, the singing, the extremely sensual dance put the three Swedes into a trance (though I have my reservations regarding The Pinch). The young female dancer had hip movements beyond what seemed humanly possible. I could barely keep myself from starting to bark like a dog while we applauded their performance. Next we found out that it was our turn to get up and dance with them. What a terrible shame my camera had a stroke and the captured footage of The Three Swedes doing the Garifuna was lost! One of the drummers had a very cool traditional hat on his head, made from palm fiber. I asked to borrow the hat and he generously gifted me with it.

The Garifuna dance and drum team



Yours truly with my Garifuna hat.



My good friend Rolf with the same hat.


Even The Pinch, retired CEO, got to try the hat out.


After a truly satisfying lunch with first rate entertainment we were off to see how to make cassava bread. Making this traditional bread that has fed and kept the indigenous people healthy for generations is now an almost lost art. We went to the only cassava bread bakery in the community to find out how to make it. A sweet old grandma was the authority on baking the bread with her granddaughter as assistant. First they grate the yucca root on a special grater, then they squeeze the liquid starch out until only the fiber remains. The fiber paste is spread on very hot sheet metal in the shape of a large pizza. The process is quick and after a few minutes it is time to turn this bread over. This requires a great deal of skill and grandma showed us how to do it. A video of this was also lost so I highly recommend you take the Kabu Tours trip for yourself to see this with your own eyes. Grandma showed a great deal of pride in her skill and expressed sadness that unhealthy white bread was being preferred by the younger generations (when I become dictator I will kick the BIMBO bread company out of the country!). Of course we got to try the freshly warm cassava bread, cut up like slices of pizza. It was really delicious and the taste reminded the Swedes of traditional Swedish knäckebröd, a dry thin rye cracker which is a staple in our country.

Grandma ‘Cassava’ just after I gave her a big kiss on the cheek, the granddaughter seen in the background.


Getting ready to flip the cassava bread.


Next on the agenda was a visit to an artisan rum distillery. Somehow this tradition seemed far from threatened to be forgotten by the influence of imposed ‘civilisation’. Sprouted corn is placed in a barrel with cane sugar and allowed to ferment. The fermented mash is placed in a sealed barrel and fire is started to extract the alcohol vapour. Care is taken to not apply too much fire or the barrel will explode. They have learned this from experience! The alcohol vapours are cooled by water, in this case in a copper pipe running in an old retired water filled dugout canoe.

The extracted alcohol is then poured into a bucket with roots and herbs and left to sit for a few hours. The end result is an amber red liquid that will quickly encourage Swedes to sing their traditional snaps songs. I had a good glass of red wine in mind for the end of the day so I was very careful as I tasted this delicious and very potent brew.

Artisan Rum distillery



Cooling the rum vapour in dugout canoe.



The Rum Master himself.



Yours truly carefully sampling the finished product. Notice the incredible colour!



Rodolfo approves the brew!


The Garifuna Ladies Dream himself!



Our last quick stop of the day was to Marshal Point, a creole community and birthplace of Rodolfo. This was a smaller community, very quiet and peaceful with green open spaces with cows, horses, pigs and chicken mingling with the few people we saw moving around. We had a quick beer with Harlen, a friend of Rodolfo and owner of the only bar in town. In the old days, only a few years back, before electricity arrived to the community, Harlen had the only black and white battery operated television in town. At night the whole community used to gather together to watch favourite programs on television, very different from these days when every house and shack has their own satellite connected colour television and sits isolated watching soap operas and violent crime movies with their doors locked.

Marshal Point


After the beer we had a quick visit to yet another rum distillery before we got back in the panga and returned to Pearl Lagoon, a good glass of red wine and Fred Ulrich’s fantastic cooking waiting for us.  What a great day we had enjoyed! I had been hesitant to go on such a very ‘touristy’ tour, something I normally avoid when travelling. It would have been a great mistake to miss out on this tour and I have to thank my friend Joe Ryan in Granada, who convinced me not to miss out on this fantastic opportunity. Even The Pinch was clearly very pleased with the day! “It was a very nice day and I especially like that the tasty lunch we had was included in the tour price!” he said. Don’t miss out on this Kabu Tours event when you go to Pearl Lagoon!

The following day we just relaxed again. During lunch at Fred’s I was introduced to the Spanish ambassador in for a quick visit as well as the local mayor of Pearl Lagoon. The mayor was a very pleasant fellow and over a beer he told me about the dilemma of trying to control the terribly destructive overfishing with nets in the area. There were jobs at stake he said and considering the few job opportunities in the area, what was a mayor to do? I did not dare to ask him about the certainty of massive bribes to government officials in the area to allow the continuing rape of the ocean. That would be a very dangerous question to ask I was told. We watched a massive truck being loaded with thousands of pounds of fresh fish, something that happens on a biweekly basis by 3 different seafood companies from Managua.

We wanted to do some fishing ourselves so the following day we went out with a panga for a few hours trolling in the lagoon, Wilberth and Roger our guides. I brought my own equipment since Kabu Tours had not yet set themselves up for sport fishing tours. Trolling with deep diving lures for fishing guapote, the choice fish in Lake Nicaragua, turned out to be a waste of time and since I had no surface going ocean fish lures we ended up fishing the artisan way, with just a line, hook and sinker, using scrimp and small fish as bait. This was clearly the way we wanted to fish so we decided to venture out to the open ocean around the Pearl Cays the following day and combine it with a reef snorkelling adventure.

In the evening Rodolfo came over to Casa Ulrich on my invitation to join us for dinner. When The Pinch found out he gave me the evil eye. Broiled fresh fish with scrimp, another fantastic meal prepared by chef Fred. Good company, interesting stories and lots of good wine quickly made us forget our failed fishing trip. Afterwards we went for a walk to check out the bars in town. I hardly ever venture out to bars at night but we were curious to check out the local nightlife. It turned out there wasn’t much of it. The one bar where we had a beer at was running their amp on absolute max, the speakers emitting discordant sound waves that reminded me of undergoing a root canal. Amazing that people can stand listening to such eardrum busting noise and apparently enjoying it. A large flat screen television was mounted on the wall by the bar. Guess what they were showing? Chucky, the heinous little doll, secretly watching hidden behind rocks as people murdered each other in the most atrocious way possible, blood all over the place. Why in the world would you want to show this in a bar, if not to stir up violent aggressions?

Fortunately we were totally safe with Rodolfo along, a man who is friends with many and clearly respected by all. This was all the bar hopping we needed and we soon went back to the hotel. We felt very safe walking around town during the day (not The Pinch) but considering Chucky being aired on television in the bars, Rodolfo called for some caution being out very late at night. “No different than walking around downtown Stockholm at night these days, a place that used to be completely safe way back when we were young.” Rolf commented.

My original plan for visiting the Pearl Cays was booking a first class overnight adventure offered by Kabu Tours. This tour comes highly recommended,

Kabu tours providing nice tents with comfortable air mattresses, white tablecloth tables, a trained chef, even a porta potty for an overnight stay on one of the beautiful Pearl Cays, with a snorkelling adventure included if you so desire. Rolf and I really wanted to do this very reasonable priced tour but The Pinch objected. “Too much money and I refuse to sleep on the ground and be bitten by snakes, scorpions, spiders and other deadly things. Completely out of the question.”

“How about if we get an extra large hook, bait it up with The Pinch and do some trolling instead? Maybe we can catch a huge hammerhead shark and make a great video?” I thought and almost said it out loud. The Pinch’s return trip to Sweden was approaching way ahead of schedule!

So instead of an overnight trip we went on a combined snorkelling and artesian fishing trip. We left around nine in the morning on a moderately windy day, Wilberth at the helm, Roger as fishing and snorkelling guide, Sharon, a police woman and Wilberth’s sister as head of security. Sharon had a day off and wanted to join us for the day and she turned out to be very pleasant company. The months of December and January is the windy time of the year but as seasoned old Swedes we figured we could handle a little rough water. The Pinch looked worried but still game to go.

As we crossed Pearl Lagoon, we stopped on the way to buy 3 pounds of fresh shrimp from fishermen in a tiny little dugout canoe. Roger brought his cast net and had to only throw it out once to get the baitfish we needed.

Roger gets his net full of baitfish on the first cast.


We had to make a permit stop at the navy base located at the entrance to the lagoon. We docked and were subjected to a routine search, boat documents shown and a small fee charged. If the wind would have been too forceful the navy would not let us continue out on the open ocean. A very good rule. Another rule, one that we clearly were breaking, was that no alcoholic beverages was allowed when heading out to sea. An officer found our cooler, loaded with more beer than we could ever drink in a day, just in case we would become shipwrecked out on the Cays. We even had a bottle white wine along. “We are Vikings from Sweden and if we can’t have a beer while on the sea we simply would have no choice but to jump in the ocean and drown ourselves.” I explained jokingly to the officer looking at our loaded cooler. He smiled slightly without looking at me and then headed back into the navy office. Wilberth soon came back from there with the paperwork and a thumbs up. Turns out the officer in charge was a childhood friend of his, and a distant cousin. Our beer remained in the cooler and the Swedes smiled!

On shore, sitting next to the navy station with bored expressions were a bunch of tourists, stuck there while their guide had gone back to Pearl Lagoon to get the boat permit he had forgotten, something that would take almost two hours. One our way back home in the late afternoon, when we arrived to check back in at the navy station, the same group was sitting there again. Turns out there was a Swede among the group and he told Rolf that on the way back from the Cays they ran out of gasoline so their guide had to call someone to bring them some so they could get back to Pearl Lagoon. I later found out that this particular guide was known as very unreliable. Word was that he had even left a group of tourists on a Cay once because he went to a bar, got drunk and didn’t feel like going back to pick them up. I strongly recommend, when you visit Pearl Lagoon, go with Kabu Tours, and no one else! I will eat my shorts if you have a bad experience with this first rate tour company!

It takes around 2 hours to get out to Pearl Cays from Pearl Lagoon on a calm day. We didn’t go on a calm day so it took us longer. We hit some very strong winds during the last stretch, the palm covered Pearl Cays seen over the waves not far away. The waves were massive, 12 – 15 feet tall, and we got thoroughly soaked and salted. Rolf and I got the giggles, the panga boat with a very capable captain faced no problems negotiating the white capped swell and we felt very safe. The Pinch on the other was besides himself with fear, screaming and calling us all idiots. This of course provided fuel for continuing laughter for me and Rolf.

The Pinch getting a well deserved soaking from a choppy sea.


The first Cay we arrived at was very small. I was told so much sand had been carried away for construction on the other Cays that the island has lost its battle to hold on against currents and heavy wind and had shrunk to less than half its size. This might or might not be true but the island, in one way or another, had been largely washed away.

Half an island



We continued past a few cays, directly to the snorkeling reef out in the middle of nowhere. Rolf and I geared up to get ready to dive into the rough seas.


It was far from a perfect day to go snorkeling but how could we miss out due to bit of excess wind? The Pinch watched us sourly, a soaked towel in his lap, iPhone in hand. Between a strong current and heavy sea it was a challenge to keep from swallowing large amounts of seawater washing over our snorkels. Yet we enjoyed around 20 minutes in the crystalline water watching colourful corals and bright hued fish. We even saw a little nurse shark cruising by, minding his own business. When we told The Pinch about the shark, greatly exaggerated in size just for the fun of it, he most likely peed in his pants while he informed us we suffered from serious stupidity.

A small sandy reef close to where did our snorkeling.



“What a humongous shark I saw!”



Feeling refreshed after snorkeling we headed for one of the larger Cays for a short lunch break. A group of fishermen had set up camp there, slowly filling their large thermoses with fish before going back to Pearl Lagoon to sell their catch. We were told fishing was lousy, mostly due to overfishing but also because of the strong winds. We wanted to buy some fish to bring back but they only had shark to offer. Our only option was to catch our own fish so we set out highly motivated to do just that.

Fishing camp on one of the larger Cays.



Rolf enjoying his lunch sandwich while chatting with the locals.


If you want to know more about the beautiful Pearl Cays and history I suggest you read this very interesting article:

After lunch we walked along the beach until we came to a barren concrete slab, next to an empty swimming pool, where once a million dollar house had stood. The spot emitted a great deal of sadness and we quickly walked away from there. The link above will tell you more about that.

We left the island and anchored by a reef not far from one of the Cays and dropped our lines. It was time to fish the artisan way: hook, line and sinker, nothing else but bait. This way of fishing can be a challenge, even outright dangerous, if your hands or other body parts get caught up in the thick nylon line spread out in front of you while a huge fish pulls hard.

I felt I had a 50 pound grouper approaching and made sure I wasn’t tangled up in the line. Though I was clearly wrong about that, it didn’t take long to catch some smaller fish. Mostly we caught fish that the locals called grunt, a few small red snapper as well as a couple of small rockfish. Even though the fish were small, all under 3 pounds, we had lots of fun and soon filled up our cooler with enough fish to bring back home to Granada.

Rolf with a good sized red snapper.


The Pinch proudly showing off his huge catch!


We had an uneventful trip back to the town of Pearl Lagoon and after arranging for our fish to get cleaned we enjoyed our last dinner feast at Fred’s Casa Ulrich.

It took us only 8 hours to make it safely back home. The morning after we got back I gave notice to The Pinch that he had to continue his remaining two weeks vacation by himself, somewhere far away from me and Rolf. I have had enough of this dude, his locked down extremely well padded wallet, his lectures on how I supposed to behave, including diagnosing me with a mental affliction.  He chose to immediately fly home to Stockholm, to his sheltered retired CEO life, paying twice as much for a one way ticket than what the unchangeable roundtrip ticket had cost him. He didn’t dare spend a single minute alone is Nicaragua. With a substantial inheritance in the bank and no children to leave it to, Rolf and I certainly did not feel sorry for him. Finally, I could again breathe freely, get back to being my goofy self, enjoying my ‘mental affliction’ and having fun during Rolf’s remaining two weeks visit.

Both Rolf and I give the trip to Pearl Lagoon a five star rating. We would like to thank Kabu Tours – Rodolfo, Roger and Wilberth for being the best guides and hosts you could ask for. Fred Ulrich at Casa Ulrich became an instant friend for life and I often salivate thinking about his fine food. Right Here Man!

Alf & Rolf: “We love Pearl Lagoon!”



Contact info for Kabu Tours:

Rodolfo Chang cellphone: 8497 2045



Casa Ulrich cellphone: 8603 5173



  1. Glenn

    May 10, 2015 at 10:10 am

    This is a great article on the Nicaragua Caribbean coast.

  2. Gordana Govic

    May 10, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    Wow, really enjoyed reading your adventure trip to Pearl Lagoon. Wanted to do the same trip by bus but finally we just did the safe flying to Corn Islands instead but the Pearl Lagoon is definitely on the “to do” list. Thanks once again for a heads up on where to stay and who to use while there.

  3. tucker

    May 12, 2015 at 11:08 am

    good article rolf(burt lancaster) been to pearl lagoon twice by boat and then by car-but did not see anywhere near what you saw-i like the place but will step up a use kabu tours next time

    • alf

      May 12, 2015 at 10:13 pm

      Thanks Tucker dude! If you stay with Fred Ulrich make sure to ask him how to speak some some Caribe English.
      I just love the way they speak English over there. I will give you a lesson right now on how to count to three. Here we go: One, Two, Tree! That’s right man! Tree Swedes Drive To Pearl Lagoon!
      You make a good point which I forgot to mention. You can get to Pearl Lagoon easier by flying from Managua to Bluefields and then from there take a panga on a 50 minute very scenic trip.
      ( I am honoured you called me Rolf and grateful you didn’t call me The Pinch!) Burt Lancaster would have called the story Two And A Half Swedes Drive To Pearl Lagoon. Alf

  4. Dr. Jerry Lee Hoover N.D.

    May 12, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    I throughly enjoyed your article. You need to write a book.

  5. tim sewell

    May 12, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    You Vikings obviously did not know how or where to go to catch the fish??

    • alf

      May 12, 2015 at 9:31 pm

      You are exactly right! We had no idea where to catch the fish but we tried our best. The good news for you is that I have contacted The Pinch and he has agreed to go with you to Pearl Lagoon whenever you are ready so you can show off your expertise and teach him how to fish. I am sure you will be a matching pair! Please post the pictures of your catch!

  6. Mark Crump

    May 13, 2015 at 8:07 am

    Really a good read…. thank you for sharing your experiences on the Atlantic Coastal area of Nicaragua. Will certainly be putting this area onto a list of “to do’s”

  7. Shannon

    May 14, 2015 at 8:32 am

    Great article w/ helpful info! Three of us are planning a trip to the east coast of Nica in the next month…we appreciate the info! Also, kudos to dealing w/ Pinch…I’ve been there and didn’t have the courage you displayed 🙂

  8. Nathan A

    September 8, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Thanks for mentioning Kabu Tours! It was great to meet you, let us know when you return. You can find more information and a video at