Its funny how some things just have a way of working out…
Joey and I had been in Nicaragua for less than a week before we were joined by Galen, an old friend who happened to be traveling the same country. It had been five years since we’d worked together at the Canadian Ecology Center but as fate would have it, Galen arrived in Nicaragua shortly after we did. Having extra room in our Airbnb, Galen bunked up with us for a few days while he explored Granada.
On Galen’s last day in the Granada area we decided to visit a volcanic lake. The Apoyo Laguna is a freshwater lake occupying the pit of a resting volcano. It’s crater, formed over 23, 000 years ago measures approximately 6.6 kilometres in diameter and 175 meters deep. Not only is the Laguna a natural reserve but it also offers die hard scuba fans the chance to dive in the crater of a volcano.
Dive day was a whirlwind of activity. That morning Joey and I assembled our dive equipment while Galen packed his belongings. We would be making our way to the Apoyo Laguna for the day and part ways with Galen, who would be backpacking all the way to Honduras.
Our destination was located about 20 minutes outside of Granada and after a shuttle bus mix up, we began hunting for a taxi that would drive us to Apoyo for a reasonable price. We ended up finding a sketchy taxi that had no seat belts, no speedometer, a ripped out radio and cracks in the windshield. The driver barely spoke a word of English and Galen did his best charade gestures occasionally throwing out one or two words in Spanish to communicate our end destination. At one point I thought we were going to have our organs cut out and sold on the black market. You can imagine our relief when we got there in one piece.
Our dive outfitter was located a hop, skip and jump from the Monkey Hut, Galen’s hostel for the night. The scuba shop couldn’t take us out diving until the afternoon so Galen checked in and they graciously allowed us to hang out at their beach. A restaurant, hammocks, kayaks, a floating dock… The Monkey Hut was well equipped for a day of fun in the sun. We stored our bags with the staff at the front desk and changed into our bathing suits. While relaxing on some of the hammocks we gazed out at the blue lake and crater slope covered in leafy forest.
The entire morning and afternoon we floated around carelessly in the warm waters of the lagoon stopping only for a pizza filled lunch break at the restaurant. It was a good thing that we had planned to spend the entire day at the Laguna Apoyo enjoying the beach, by the time the dive master was ready to take us out diving it was getting close to sunset.
The dive started on a sandy slope at the north-west side of the lagoon. It was a short surface swim to the spot we would descend below the waterline. Joey, Galen, the Divemaster and I inflated out BCD’s, flipped over on our back and kicked our way to the start point. When the divemaster gave the okay signal we descended.
The first thing I noticed as I sunk beneath the watery surface was how peaceful the water was. Free of boats and sheltered from strong winds creating wave action, it was quite unlike anything I had ever dove in before. We started to descend and follow the muddy bottom. Initially Galen had a little trouble clearing his ears. He fussed around in the shallows for a bit, but it wasn’t long before the three of us were at 60 feet tailing the divemaster like little ducklings.
1, 2, 3… Cichlids big and small could be seen by the dozens near rock formations and along the silty bottom. In some of the more rocky and sheltered areas we spied a school of little babies no bigger than my fingernail. As we panned the flashlight on them they scattered in a hurried panic. A wide variety of cichlids were not the only thing we saw, the divemaster even found and caught us a pretty big freshwater crab.
I marveled in the wonderful 27-28°C bathtub like temperatures of the water even as deep as 80 feet. No wetsuit and no thermocline. It was strange yet surreal. As we finned through the uncannily quiet waters of the crater we kept on the lookout for small vents of hot water spouting out into the lake. Sadly there were none to be found. We ended our dive with a 15 foot safety stop and surfaced just as dusk was setting in.
Generally speaking you don’t dive the Apoyo Laguna site for the wildlife, which became clear to us in the first five minutes. Don’t expect to see very much beneath the surface, expect to be bamboozled by the geology and the ridiculously lukewarm temperatures. Scuba divers looking to dive this Nicaraguan spot should do so for the sheer adrenaline rush of sinking into the crater of a sleeping volcano.
Cost: Diving the confined waters of the Laguna Apoyo costs $40.00 USD for one shore dive, equipment included (you dive without wetsuits). For non scuba divers an intro to diving course costs $60.00 USD.
Seasonality: Given the nature of the Laguna Apoyos warm waters you can comfortably dive this location all year round! The biggest thing to consider is the visibility. Make sure to stay away from diving right after the rain when the visibility goes down because of silt and runoff.
Restrictions: As with many southern countries, you will find the security pretty relaxed, some diving companies might not even ask for your certification card. As long as you pay the fee, they are more than happy to get you out scuba diving.
Companies: There are only a handful of companies located on the Apoyo Laguna that offer scuba diving in the volcanic crater. Here are the two companies that we are familiar with:
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13-inch inflatable dive buoy with a 12 by 11-inch scuba diving flag surface marker
Flexible Lightweight Portable Tripod for Projector DSLR Cameras and Go Pro
Ikelite compact ball arm for quick release handle
Bare 7mm thick elastek dry suit hood
Compact underwater scuba diving hand reel with a 150ft of white line on the spool
GoPro dual battery charger conveniently charges two HERO6 Black, HERO5 Black, or HERO camera batteries simultaneously
Ikelite TTL dual flash sync cord attaches two strobe’s to the underwater camera housing.
Rechargeable Ikelite NiMH battery pack compatible with Ikelite’s DS125, DS160, and DS161 strobes.
DUI heavy duty dry suit gloves with yellow liners available in sizes: S, M, L, XL
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Dry glove lock system that accommodates all hand sizes
Black Mares Cruise Roller Tauchen bag, perfect for scuba diving and traveling
Suunto Vyper Novo wrist scuba diving computer with USB
Black scuba diving turtle fins
Diving lens filter kit for GoPro HERO 5/6 which enhances colors for underwater video and photography conditions
Mini blue scuba diving tank key ring with brass pick tool and o-rings
SHOOT 6″ Underwater Dome Port for GoPro Hero 6/Hero 5/Hero(2018) Black Camera Diving Lens Hood Housing Photography with Waterproof Case Accessories
Suunto SK-8 wrist compass with bungee straps, faster stabilization, and enhanced readability
AmazonBasics 60-Inch Lightweight Tripod and Bag with adjustable-height legs and rubber feet
Black Mares Dragon Scuba Diving BCD
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GoPro HERO6 Black Camera
Bare drysuit drawstring scuba gear bag the perfect alternative for transporting a dry suit to-and-from the dive site
Bare drysuit trek boots designed for rocky shore entries, boat decks, and boat ladders
Ikelite aluminum digital camera tray with dual handles
Scuba diving 4ft neon yellow surface marker signal tube with “Diver Below” print
Compact scuba diving finger spool with 150ft of white line and a 4-inch brass double-ended clip
Ikelite underwater macro lens casing is comprised of an acetyl body with glass front and can hold lenses of 4.37 diameter x 3 inches (111 x 76 mm)
Ikelite Canon EOS 100D Rebel SL1 underwater camera housing in white
Bare SB System Mens Full Under-layer
Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM FLD Large Aperture Standard Zoom Lens for Canon Digital DSLR Camera + 32GB Memory Card + Photo4Less Cleaning Cloth.
Canon Macro Lens EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM – non Image Stabilised
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0 L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens
The Hydra 5000 WSRU is an all in one photo and dive light with wide, spot, red, and UV modes
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Ikelite photography strobe DS161 with NiMH rechargeable battery pack