The first (and only) man on the Island – Ecotourism in Nicaragua

How the construction night guard – and for a while, the only man on the island – became a Manager at Jicaro Island Ecolodge.  An Ecotourism Success Story about believing in oneself and “going for it” from Lake Nicaragua.

On April 22, 2008, Jorge Luis Lopez Carcache joined the construction team that set out to build Nicaragua’s premiere Ecolodge on an island in Lake Nicaragua near the colonial town of Granada.  He became the “guard” on the island at night, when all the workers left back to the mainland.  With him on the island at night were Jorki the dog, and a cat without a name.  The lodge opened in January 2010 and his new job was to be the maintenance manager of the hotel.

Jicaro team
The building crew of Jicaro with owners Karen Emanuel and Architect Matthew Faulkiner at the front. Can you spot Carcache with the Island dog Yorki?

He tells us now that back then he was “very afraid of the new responsibility”.  His previous studies as Agricultural Engineer and his work experience in sugarcane fields near Rivas, nor taking care of sea turtles in the nature refuge of Chacocente did not prepare him for this job.  He had never worked at a hotel and never really had contact with foreign guests.  And things got even scarier.  Since he did such an amazing job as maintenance manager – as he know very rock on “his” island – he soon was promoted to become the Experience and Sustainability Manager of the Eco Lodge.

He spoke no English and had never been in a managerial position that focused on guest service.  But he learned that he had talents that he never thought he had and also excelled in this position.  He learned English, started to give presentations to guests and implemented amazing sustainability projects in the vicinity of the island.  Guests that visit these projects, especially at the Padre Nello school, hug him and cry out of joy for what he has accomplished for the school children there.  He says that this is a huge motivation for him to go on and do more.

Herb garden near Jicaro Lodge in Nicaragua
One of Carcache’s favorite activities is to take guests on a ‘back of the house’ sustainability tour. Here he is showing a guest the herb gardens next to the chickens that provide the hotel with fresh eggs and the pigs that eat food scraps of the hotel and produce methane gas for cooking.

“Carcache” (nobody calls him Jorge here) tells us that what he likes most about his job is that it does not feel like a job.  He loves what he does.  And in case he does get stressed, he finds a guest and talks to them.  Then everything is great again.  He loves to teach.  The staff, the guests, the locals.  He says it is the most incredible thing to share knowledge with people.

Padre Nello School, Nicaragua
Carcache working with the children of the local Padre Nello school near Jicaro Island Ecolodge on Lake Nicaragua.

He tells us that he would like to work the rest of his life at Jicaro and retire here.  After all, he was the first man on the island.  He is married to Ana Christina who lives with their two daughters in Rivas.  One of them is studying to be a nurse and the other one is still attending school.  His hobbies are to read in English and to learn about the world, especially through outlets like National Geographic and Discovery.

Local Dances at Jicaro Island Eco Lodge in Nicaragua
Part of Carcache’s job is to present the local dance group to guests at Jicaro and present a weekly sustainability slideshow. All in English of course…

He feels like Jicaro is the Nicaraguan version of the “American Dream” where staff level employees can become managers and work in one of the best hotels in the country.  He is grateful for the opportunities granted to him by the lodges General Manager Howard Coulson.  He said he learned alongside him to be more focused and organized.  He also admires some his colleagues like Diamanda, who started as a waitress and now is the lodge’s Food and Beverage Manager.

Jicaro Island Ecolodge Construction
This is where Carcache started his career at Jicaro. Due to the topography of the island, we did not use any heavy machinery. Jicaro was built the old fashioned way with pulleys and lots of muscle strength.

This is another great example of our interpretation of sustainable tourism at the Cayuga Collection Hotels and Lodges beyond just building certifications, recycling and linen change.  In the end it is about the people and opportunities.  We would love to hear your comments.  Please post them below or send us a note to [email protected].

Carcache and Javier at Jicaro Lodge
Carcache and Javier are the two employees that have been with Jicaro since day one. They are proud of what they have accomplished and will make sure that the lodge continues to look “like new” and have the highest guest satisfaction of any hotel in Nicaragua.

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