Tour Leader Insights: An Interview on Central America

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Our tour leaders are hard to track down. You may find them hiking up volcanoes in Central America, trekking through the Amazon Jungle or playing “spot the lion” on one of our overland trucks somewhere in Africa. You may even find them at the most southerly tip of South America showing our travellers mammoth glaciers.

As a special treat, we have managed to pin down two of our amazing Central America tour leaders for a short interview on a lowdown of their favourite continent, before they go whizzing off taking more excited passengers on an adventure of a lifetime!

Welcome Bec and Scott!

Let’s get straight to it- which bits of Central America really stand out as must-visit destinations?

Bec: All of Nicaragua is brilliant. The activities we do in Leon are awesome.  We arrive late Saturday, you have a city tour on Sunday morning, and then on Sunday afternoon we do the twilight tour to Telica Volcano. Oh and the rum tasting challenge is excellent, not only for group bonding and tasting Nicaragua’s famous rum, but the guide (Carlos from Hokano) gives you an excellent insight into life in Nicaragua.  And Roatán, Roatán is a highlight!

Scott: So many things that it’s hard to choose! The ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal in Guatemala are spectacular. Still half-buried in a dense tropical rainforest, the calls of Howler monkeys and sights of toucans flying above the branches only adds to the magic of experiencing this massive sight. It never disappoints!

Sounds awesome- what about any hidden gems or anything “underrated?”

Bec: Ometepe Island.  I find most of my passengers love to chill out in the lovely hotel we use here.  Especially if they are on the Costa Rica section because that is action packed!

Scott: Probably Teotihuacan, the massive pyramids just an hour outside of Mexico City. I say they are underrated because they are one of the sights that guests seem to have the least knowledge of before starting the tour. They are the first ruins that we visit on the Magical Mexico tour and the guests are always very pleasantly surprised.

When is the best time to go in your opinion?

Scott: It depends a bit on the area. Panama and Costa Rica in particular can get quite rainy from May to November, in fact “ticos” (Costa Ricans) call this their winter. Even so it’s still a lovely time to visit with less crowds. In general, November is a perfect time to visit Mexico and Central America, with the rain tailing off and still not too many tourists!

Bec: Honestly? All year round.  Hottest time of the year is normally Easter (April) and June, July and August.  There are different things that happen at different times. Whale sharks are July to September, but August is the best month to spot, which also happens to be hurricane season (but that is generally a non-event.) Rainy season isn’t too bad either as the rain hits in the afternoon!  And for example in Costa Rica, activities such as rafting and rappelling are better in the rain!

Any tips for families hoping to go to Central America? – when to go, if to go, which countries are best, food, things to do etc.

Bec: Anytime, anywhere!  Kids always find something cool!

Scott: I think all of the destinations on the itinerary could make for a great family vacation, but in particular I would recommend Costa Rica. There are so many fun activities including horse riding, zip lining, white water rafting and canyoneering, all provided by extremely professional and safe operators.

What about foodies? What are some of your favourite Central American delicacies?

Bec: Tacos in Mexico, Baleadas in Honduras, the list is endless…!  People think they will lose weight in Central but the food is amazing!

Scott: Definitely Mexican food! In particular there are a few delicacies that cannot be missed:

–          Mole poblano, a dish served with rich dark sauce made from cocoa, cinnamon and a bit of pepper. Found in Puebla

–          Tylayudas are big tortillas served with a thick mole sauce, shredded meat (quite often chicken), tomatoes, avocado and delicious Oaxacan cheese. Found in Oaxaca

–          Cochinita Pibil is a delicious dish of Mayan origin, slow roasted pulled pork marinated in acidic citrus juice and served in a banana leaf. Fund throughout the Yucatan Peninsula.

What about shopping? Are there any particularly good souvenirs to buy?

Scott: One of the best things you can buy are the beautiful handcrafted hammocks made my deaf workers at the Café de Sonrisas in Leon, Nicaragua. By purchasing a hammock you’re supporting a fantastic non-profit organization that helps the deaf, and they’ll ship to anywhere in the world.

Bec: Mexico and Guatemala because of the indigenous population have great crafts and are very cheap.  Nicaragua has some great fair trade stores (lovely coloured leather etc) but I generally tell people to shop in Mexico and Guatemala.  All depends on what they are looking for.

Any particular seasonal events that you can recommend, something most tourists wouldn’t know about?

Bec: Day of the Dead celebrations (31st Oct, 1st and 2nd of November).  Any Hipica through Central America is cool. It’s like a horse/agriculture type party -Granada in Nicaragua is amazing.  And Semana Santa in Antigua or Mexico is great!

Scott: Yes all of these! Dia de Muertos or Day of the Dead is a Mexican tradition now famous worldwide, where the living pay tribute to their deceased friends and relatives. In particular, Oaxaca is a great place to experience it. For Semana Santa, Antigua is transformed for a whole week with beautiful alfombras laid out on the street (carpets made with colourful sawdust and flowers) and processions marching up and down. It’s a truly magical time to be in this charming colonial city. (Easter Sunday is March 27 in 2016).

Finally, do you have any last minute tips for travellers wanting to go to Central America?

Scott: This is an adventure tour with a little bit of walking and many different types of overland transportation, so packing light will definitely make things easier! You’ll need a couple layers for some higher elevation spots where it can get down to 5 degrees in the winter, but nothing like some of the extreme cold you’d see in South America. Otherwise you’ll mostly be wearing shorts & t-shirts. Definitely also pack sunscreen, bug spray with DEET, a bathing suit and some good shoes for walking & hiking. Also you might want to learn a little bit of Spanish before arriving, in some parts you won’t hear hardly any English at all, a few words can go a long way!

Bec: Always have a rain jacket (or poncho) and one of those little raid plug in things that costs you about $2 is a life saver when our hotels don’t have air con or a fan.  The lighter you pack, the better!   

You can find Bec and Scott on one of our tours through Central America. Check them all out here!

Costa-Rica-toucan

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