Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Building a Community on Ometepe

I’m done with traveling for a bit and now working with a group to purchase a 105 acre piece of land on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua. Ometepe Island is considered the largest island in the world found in a freshwater lake. It is formed by two volcanoes rising from Lake Nicaragua joined by a land isthmus and measures 276 square kilometers offering a great variety of ecosystems and natural tourist attractions such as rivers, waterfalls, springs, beaches and wetlands, all characterized by their almost virgin conditions. The property has great views of the surrounding volcanoes, direct access to the lake, beautiful huge old growth trees, mango trees, palm trees and long treed arbor walkways.

Currently there is a farm with orchards, cows, and horses, about 30,000 square feet of existing buildings that can be used for temporary living quarters, offices, restaurant, hostel, and workshops, as well as a pier complete with a fishing boat and gear. The goal is to build a self sustainable organic farm, with solar and wind power, pump water from the lake for agriculture, and use wells for drinking water. The other major focus is on hospitality: eco-lodge, cabanas, restaurant, hostel, kayaks, horses, beach, bar and night club, yoga, massage, hiking tours up the volcanoes, craft center, etc.

We hope to close by July 11th and start prepping the land for people to come down in December. I will be working with a group called Bona Fide ( learning as much as I can about ‘permaculture’ (see Wiki Article) over the next few months.

We’ve talked about catering to tourists who want to learn a skill, help with locals, or work on a farm. We plan to bring in building materials in bulk and build each others houses as well as the common structures. If anyone is interested in helping or joining please let me know. There is more information regarding Nicaragua and Ometepe below the slideshow.

Duane Batcheler

More info on Nicaragua and Ometepe:

Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America and has the largest primary growth rainforest north of the Amazon with 84 National Parks, reserves and wildlife sanctuaries that protect 20% of the total land area, far more than any other country in Central America. It is a democratic country that has had 4 peaceful transfers of power in the last 20 years, is the second safest country in all of Latin America (behind Uruguay), and has a lower reported crime rate than France, Germany, and the United States, according to a United Nations/Interpol study. Tourism in Nicaragua is booming thanks to its majestic panoramas of giant volcanoes, rivers, rolling hills, crystal clear crater lagoons, tropical vegetation, and large fresh water lakes. In a one hour drive you can go from a 500 year old colonial city to the top of a volcano covered in virgin rain forest and then end up on an empty white sand beach with great surfing. There really is no place that compares to the last undiscovered jewel of Central America. Over the last 7 years tourism numbers are up 70% with an annual growth rate of 10-16%.

Ometepe is currently one of the destinations admired by both local and international tourists for its nature, hospitality, beautiful landscapes, relaxing beaches and its numerous natural reserves teeming with rich biodiversity including howler monkeys, deer, anteaters, and parrots, and hiding a wealth of archaeological treasures. The island is currently inhabited by friendly people who love their territory, dedicated to fishing and high quality agricultural production which is made possible by the fertile soil. You won’t find screaming resorts or even big eco-lodges. Instead, you will have plenty of space and quiet to observe and enjoy all this pristine island has to offer. Average temperatures range between 28 and 32 degrees centigrade, and during the rainy season, it is not uncommon for heavy rainfall to last for thirty minutes, after which a bright sun will appear. For this reason, many tourists describe Ometepe as the island of eternal summer.

To retire in Nicaragua is to retreat to what MSNBC featured as "The World's Best Kept Retirement Secret" and U.S. News and World Report deemed one of the top 10 retirement destinations in the world. Simple property ownership for foreigners can be obtained with just a valid passport and Nicaragua is one of only 50 countries approved for the use of Title insurance. With its early-in real estate investment opportunity, low property taxes, and a low cost of living tied to an increase in quality of life, Nicaragua is a hot destination for would-be expatriates looking to flee a rising cost of living in their home countries. As a foreign retiree, you're entitled to 1) pay no taxes on any out-of-country earnings; 2) bring into Nicaragua up to $10,000 worth of household goods for your own home duty free; 3) import one automobile for personal or general use and pay on it no import tax or protective tariff and sell it after five years, again exempt from consumer sales tax; 4) import an additional vehicle every five years under the same duty exemptions.

Fortunately, Nicaragua’s past image as an unstable country kept major hotel chains out and other massive development from taking place. What has resulted is a slower, more sustainable growth that does not leave the community behind. Nicaragua has passed a number of laws and incentives to attract foreign investment and it has worked. The GDP growth in 2004 surpassed expectations at 5.2% higher than Costa Rica, Brazil, or Mexico. These laws are many and varied, ranging from total tax exoneration for tourism related businesses, free-trade zones for manufacturing companies, to retirement benefits for foreigners. Nicaragua's Law 306 (enacted in September 1999) is the most attractive--and most aggressive--tourism-incentive law in Latin America. If your business qualifies, you pay no income or real estate taxes for up to 10 years, and bring in (or buy locally) all the supplies you need, from furniture and boats to linens and cash registers, tax free. These laws have been complemented by programs, which cut the bureaucracy involved to start corporations (now a 45 day process maximum).


  1. Good post. I have added a comment on my Ometepe blog to send folks who may be interested in joing the community over to this blog.

  2. Are you still on Ometepe? How's it going?