When I first heard Corona Cigar Company was sponsoring a cigar safari to Nicaragua I was intrigued. I'm 23 years old and the only time I've ever travelled outside of the country was to Mexico, but we didn't do too much exploring around the country.
At the airport I met a lot of people going on this cigar safari with me. I had never met any of them before in my life. We were all strangers, but we left the trip friends. I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to share this experience with.
Going into the trip I honestly didn't know what to expect. I'd heard people talk about going to Nicaragua before, but I didn't have clear picture on what it was like there. We landed on Sunday and as the bus was pulling away from the airport I got my first real look of Nicaragua. I can't say that it lived up to my expectations because I didn't have any. Our first stop was for lunch at a restaurant that overlooked a beautiful valley. The view was absolutely breathtaking. The food was delicious; unlike anything I'd eaten before. After lunch we rode to the Masaya Volcano. I stood mere feet from the edge and peered down into the smoking hole. I was blown away. I felt alive. The rolling hills and mountains were beautiful. A photographer's dream. Needless to say I snapped as many pictures as I could.
The next day we took off from the hotel and toured Granada a bit. We went on a great boat ride to check out islands in Lake Nicaragua. The homes on these islands were expensive and lavish. They really made me wish I owned one. We also got to see some monkey's up close and personal which was cool for me because I was witnessing them in their natural habitat, not a zoo. After the boat tour we took off for the close to three hour drive to Esteli. On the way there we saw more rolling hills, valleys, and mountains. I'd never seen anything like it before in my life. It was all so beautiful. I knew then that I didn't want to leave the country for a while. There was so much to see and so much to do. Four days just wasn't enough!
Throughout the rest of our trip we toured two factories. The Joya De Nicaragua and Drew Estate factories. I'd never seen any factories up close before and again didn't know what to expect, but I was amazed at the time and effort it took into making cigars. All of the people were very friendly, and hard workers. We met one lady at the Joya factory that had been there for 40 years. The rollers really enjoy what they do and it shows.
A highlight of the trip was being able to blend my own cigar. It gave me a hands on approach to see what goes into blending a good cigar. Now, I don't know the first thing about blending and my blend probably reflects that. Being said, blending is something I'd like to try to do. Being able to pick the best tobacco that goes well is an art form to say the least.
Jonathan Drew, from Drew Estate was a fabulous host. He is very friendly, personable, and very easy to talk to and get along with. He runs a great company and truly knows what he's doing. He's hired a fantastic crew including, Steve Saka, President of Drew Estate, Nicolas who oversees the factory and everyone else involved in the company. While on the trip we were not without cigars. Jonathan made sure of that. Before this trip my usual cigar consumption was 2 or 3 a week tops. On the trip I was smoking 4-5 a day! It took a little getting used to, but I got there.
I'd like to thank Jeff Borysiewicz, President and Founder of Corona Cigar Company for sponsoring the trip. Jeff is a great person and a great businessman. He knows what he's doing and he does it very well. Corona Cigar Company is easily my favorite hangout spot in Orlando. Each of the three stores makes you feel welcome and is very relaxing.
For me though, the best part of this trip was not touring the factories, meeting a bunch of great people. No. For me the best part was getting to spend the trip with my father. He is the reason I'm where I'm at today. If he wasn't a part of my life I don't know where I'd be today. He's the reason I got into smoking cigars. When I turned 18, he gave me a cigar that was rolled by a good friend of ours. I enjoyed it a lot. From then on I was smoking very mild cigars until my palette changed to a more stronger, peppery smoke. Now I only smoke full bodied cigars, with the occasional medium one to mix things up.
Lastly, if you're ever given the chance to go on a cigar safari, take it. You will not be let down.
Dean R. Zarbaugh II
P.S. Dean has some great photos of the trip that you can view on Corona Cigar's facebook page.