TGL Nicaragua 2016

Volcanoes, lagoons, cobblestone streets, vibrant colors, amazing kids. Nicaragua is one heck of a wild ride from start to finish. It's also our most affordable trip, and one of our most meaningful trips. By that we mean that you will work hand-in-hand with some amazing young photographers all week long, learning their stories and helping them reach for their dreams. This will be our 6th team to Nicaragua, and if there's one thing we can promise, it's that there won't be a dry eye in the house on the final day. Yup, these kids are that amazing.

Our partner NGO is Empowerment International. EI's end goal is to break the poverty cycle by getting children into school, and inspiring them to stay in school. They do this with home visits to educate the whole family on the benefits of school, through their tutoring centre (where older students tutor the younger students), and through after school programs, such as their incredibly successful photography club!

This club is now six years into operation and while they're always taking on new students as novice photographers, their older and long-term students are becoming masters of photography! Thanks to our partners, Smugmug, EI now has an in-house gallery open to the public - and online! - where purchases of student prints help fund the program.

We will explore Granada with the kids, visit the barrios where they're growing up, and have photo workshops in some excellent locations: the top of a volcano, the edge of a lagoon, deep in a jungle, the bustling markets, or wandering the backstreets of colorful Granada. Sound good? We think so.

Trip Dates

July 2017, exact dates TBD


$2600 USD

Group Size




This trip is physically easy to moderate. There is lots of walking but mostly it's flat. The heat can be cumbersome but we try to take afternoons easy, and offer lots of chances for shade and hydration. There will be several hikes to reach viewpoints, but they are fairly novice hikes.
The emotional demands of this trip are moderate to difficult. We will become closely connected to these youths because we will see them nearly every day for a week - on top of this, we will visit where they are living. The barrios are a difficult place for outsiders to not only see, but reconcile to the kids they've gotten to know and love. You will have to witness some intense poverty and be able to maintain composure, photograph with extreme caution and etiquette, and be gracious as a guest in this place. However, you will be moved by the experience, which is incredibly unique and a real honor. This experience is a gift.
The standards of accommodation, quality of meals, and access to amenities of this trip are good to very good. Accommodation is very nice, clean, comfortable, and safe. You can expect a simple room with two twin beds, an ensuite bathroom, and clean sheets, towels, and blankets. Hot water can be hit and miss, especially if we're all trying to shower at once. Meals are of good quality. We will have a mix of home-cooked meals by local mamas, and restaurants. Rice, beans, and a protein are common; pizza and pasta is usually also available when eating out. Breakfasts will be taken at the hotel and will be simple: toast, jams, fruit, coffee or tea. Water, juice, and pop are readily available. Amenities such as bathrooms and convenience stores are available in most places. Toilets will be western style.
Level of safety in Granada is very good to excellent. The most common issue for tourist is pickpocketing, but statistics are en par with almost anywhere well touristed in the world. TGL will offer tips and advice for your belongings and cash in team newsletters. When arriving to the Managua airport, we will provide an immediate transfer to Granada. If staying in Managua for some reason, we do recommend extra caution after dark.

What is Included?

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    All Ground Transportation

    From the moment you arrive to when you depart, we have you covered. Taxis, buses, tours, you name it.

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    All Accommodation and Meals

    Rooms are double rooms with twin beds, paired by gender, and accommodation is always clean, comfortable, and safe. From dinner the arrival day, to breakfast the departure day, we will keep you well fed and hydrated.

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    All Entry Fees and Guides

    Entry fees, shooting permits, guides, passes, etc. If the team is going to shoot there, we'll get you in. We'll even be sure to tip any guides on behalf of the whole team.

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    All Photo Instruction

    You'll have 2 leaders available all day long to field as many questions as you can muster, provide one-on-one help, and offer group topics and instruction as required by the scene at hand.

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    A Donation to the NGO

    While there are a lot of factors involved that determine the exact amount - which we're happy to be completely transparent about - you can rest assured we make a substantial donation to our NGO partner post-trip.

What's Not?

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    We're open to people from every corner of the world. This means we cannot possibly offer a flight that would suit everyone. If you can get yourself here, we'll take care of the rest!

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    We require every participant to have adequate travel insurance, and to carry copies of this insurance at all times.

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    Passport and Visa

    Each participant is required to ensure their passport is valid for the time of travel, and to research, learn, and meet all the requirements of an entry visa specific to their country. If there are fees associated with the entry visa, they're not included.

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    Alcohol and Souvenirs

    We do not provide alcohol for our participants, so that's up to you. As well, as much as we really really like you, we can't buy your gifts for you. Souvenirs are on you!

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    Some hotels have wifi, others do not, or sometimes it simply doesn't work. When wifi is available for purchase, it's up to you if it's worthwhile. Some participant opt to purchase a local SIM card and data plan - a great option that we don't cover.

Behind the Scenes of TGL Nicaragua

The NGO: Empowerment International

Empowerment International has been working in Nicaragua since 2004 and has reached an annual school retention rate of over 96% in both of our communities since 2008. As of 2014, we now have over 300 students participating in our program.

We offer a series of community-based, holistic educational programs to children and their families in two extremely impoverished communities in Nicaragua. This is done through daily home visits where parents are encouraged to send their kids to school and are mentored on how to enhance their children’s education. Also during these visits, counseling and emotional support are provided to help them find solutions to barriers, physical or otherwise, that prevent children from attending school.

Who Are Your Leaders?

Brian Matiash is a professional photographer and published author based in Portland, OR. He specializes in landscape photography and has spent the better part of a decade educating and inspiring photographers all around the world with his tutorials, videos, and stories. He's openly addicted to long exposures, ND filters, and fish eye lenses. Brian is a wonderful teacher and TGL is excited to have him with us!

Michael Bonocore is our most senior trip leader, with nearly a dozen TGL trips under his belt. He's the Travel Editor at Resource Travel and specializes in travel, street, and landscape photography. He's also a professional videographer. He's worked with tourism boards, camera companies, and travel websites to make visual content from around the world. Hailing from SFO, he's been on the road more than he's been at home for the last 3 years. Michael is an extraordinary teacher and leader - you're in for a treat!

TGL Testimonials

Mayya K.

TGL is an adventure with learning a lot about culture, history, photography, and having a chance to share what you love with like-minded people. The Giving Lens gives a healthy atmosphere for travellers and photographers, not missing out the opportunity to capture a great moment, going to exciting places, and learning about the problems and ... Read More
Mayya K.

Julie C

TGL: Jordan. Was. Amazing! : ) Colby Brown, Ken Kaminesky, and Michael Bonocore – we couldn’t have asked for better team leaders/assistants (except maybe you Kate Havercroft!). They were funny, approachable, extremely patient, very knowledgeable, supportive, passionate, interesting leaders and always made themselves available to answer any and all our questions to help us grow ... Read More
Julie C

Bill H.

Working with the children was an unforgettable experience and most satisfying. As well, the events exposing us to local culture were very well done and quite complete. I don’t think I’ve experienced such a well organized and executed cultural program.