Meet Berman Gomez.
He used to earn money as a child carrying firewood to a local bakery and buckets of water to various neighbourhoods who needed it. Today, he’s a local wildlife expert in Nicaragua who taught me much more than just the facts. Oh, and did I mention he has a pet Boa? As in Boa Constrictor… as in I can’t even finish my sentence right now because I’m hyperventilating.
As a professional wildlife guide, I normally would have met Berman on an organized tour. But how I came to meet this man is one of the very things that makes Nicaragua so special, and that’s through it’s people.
You see, I actually met Berman’s younger brother Carlos first… at a bar…drinking 2-for-1 Margaritas with some girlfriends. It wasn’t long before Carlos came over to us and said, ‘hey, do you ladies want to see some sloths tomorrow in the wild?’
We all instantly perked up, melted into the thought of it, and I took a moment to appreciate what a clever man Carlos was for approaching four intoxicated ladies, and asking them if they want to see the cutest animal in Central America.
Assuming this wasn’t just a pick-up line, I immediately put my business hat on and asked ‘How much?’ assuming he was going to try and rip us off. After some negotiations, we settled on $20 per person and that a driver would be at our Hostel at 8:30am the next morning to pick us up and take us to a local farm to spot some sloths in the wild. He assured me his brother was the best in the business and that we wouldn’t be disappointed.
The next morning, I woke up with a hangover and thinking to myself, what the hell did we agree to last night?
Sure enough, there was a driver at 8:30am (Berman’s older brother) to pick us up and take us to this farm where Berman would meet us. We pulled up to the farm where we were greeted by a man wearing cargo shorts and a fanny pack that had passes hanging off of it from all the television shows he’s worked on as a Wildlife Expert. From the BBC, to Survivor, Berman has become the go-to guy when it comes to wildlife in Nicaragua.
After quickly being convinced this guy was the real deal, it wasn’t long before Berman spotted a sloth in a tree about 100 feet away (which honestly made me question if he was human or not). His sloth sense was spot on… I was impressed to say the least.
Realizing this sloth was in a tree in the middle of a field with no connecting trees for her to latch onto, Berman was immediately concerned for the safety of the sloth as he knew if she came down at night, she would be eaten by a predator. So being the super sloth man that he is, he carefully removed her from the tree and set her free towards a large group of trees behind us where she would be safer.
At this point, I had to pinch myself because I couldn’t believe I was THIS close to a sloth in the wild. For years I had always wanted to see one, and to be close enough to see so many details on this creature was simply incredible. She was also the slowest moving animal ever, so it was relatively easy to capture a photo or two.
When I asked Berman what he loves best about his job he said ‘seeing people’s faces and how excited they get when they learn something new about the wildlife here and what Mother Nature is capable of doing.’ It was clear that Berman was so proud of his country and the beautiful things that inhabit it.
As we continued walking, I couldn’t help but notice some trash along the side of the dirt road in one particular area. When I asked him about it, he pointed to the school up the hill and said, ‘These school children don’t know any better and they just throw their trash back here. I’m working with the teachers in hopes to go in and educate the students about the importance of our ecosystem and how everything affects one another, and to do a big clean-up of this area.‘
I was both touched, and impressed. We need more people in the world like Berman who are passionate about protecting our planet. In fact, I soon discovered that a large chunk of the money he earns from his tours, go to the farm families to help sustain the community and thank them for letting him show tourists the wildlife on their land.
Although he occasionally gives tours to big groups, he prefers to run his own private ones with a smaller amount of people, and after doing one myself, I completely understand why. I really felt like I got to get to know Berman, understand his culture, ask questions, and listen to his many intriguing stories about the local wildlife, plants, and families that live in cohesion with them.
When our 3 hour tour was done, he invited us to his mothers house which was just down the street from where our tour ended. We were greeted with freshly picked coconuts from their trees (also known as Mother Nature’s hangover cure).
And as if this truly authentic experience couldn’t get any better, they introduced us to their baby ocelot. Yup. That’s right. OCELOT. Its fur resembled that of a leopard or jaguar, and it was so incredibly amazing to be able to hold one.
So the next time you find yourself in a new country, don’t be afraid to talk to strangers…you never know what experience it may lead to (just go easy on the Margaritas).
*A big thank you to Erin Hogue for helping to capture these special moments spent with Berman and his family. You are a truly gifted photographer with a creative eye I will always admire. Thank you for joining me on this wild and crazy adventure we call life. xoxo