Visit to Montibelli

By Helen Symons

Visit to Montibelli, near Managua and Masaya, Nicaragua

This is my second trip to Nicaragua, the first being about 5 years ago. A few weeks ago, I came  to Nicaragua from the East coast of the USA to visit my friend Rachel who lives in Camoapa. We both enjoy birding but I am a novice and she is much more experienced. She has been telling me about a place called Montibelli where her Nicaragua birding friends have done their annual Christmas count. Because it wasn’t convenient for me to travel in December, (when the Christmas count is done) I scheduled my visit to early January.

We decided to visit Montibelli as part of my visit to her as it is near Managua (about 30 minutes south). Montibelli is a private ecological reserve and is also a working coffee plantation. You reach it thru an unimproved road after going thru the town of Ticuantepe. The road suffered a lot of downed trees after hurricanes this summer. It is passable now but it helps to have 4 wheel drive. The website for Montibelli is

The preserve is owned by Claudia Belli and her family.  I found the display about early Italian immigrants to Nicaragua very interesting. Pictures of Claudia’s family are displayed as well as information about those early immigrants to Nicaragua.

We stayed for three nights in a rustic cabin that had a balcony that overlooked the forest canopy. The cabin had an attached bathroom with shower, fan and mosquito netting. The bed was very comfortable. The traditional meals were served in the main lodge and were delicious.

There are two expert birding guides, our first trip was with Juan, whose English is limited but he was extremely knowledgeable about the birds by both sound and sight! Our second guide Eduardo who was also knowledgeable did speak some English.

We arranged to have two birding sessions each day, one is included in the price of the room (about $50) one at 6 am before breakfast and one in the early afternoon before supper. Meals are a separate charge but reasonable. They serve coffee and cookies prior to the early birding one and tea or coffee after the evening one. If you don’ t want to go birding you can sit in the open dining room and watch all the birds that come to the water feeder. Binoculars are available for loan at no charge as well as the Guide for Nicaraguan Birds. 

One morning we woke up to the cry of Howler monkeys and actually did get to see them later in the morning. 

While we were there, they were harvesting the coffee beans. It was my first experience seeing this process and I found it fascinating. It is very labor intensive and carried out by several families, children and all. You can buy the processed coffee grown on the preserve.

On my first morning I saw my first mot-mot and was thrilled. In all we probably saw 75 species of birds on our three days there.

I think besides birding , my favorite activity was laying in the hammock and enjoying the peace and quiet on our balcony.
There is no wifi but there is internet connection in the office and there is cell phone service. No TV, no news , no radio,


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