With over 3,000km of coastline, the longest in the Caribbean, and a myriad of islands, islets, keys and coral reefs, the Venezuelan coast is home to a rich diversity of marine flora and fauna. Its countless white-sand beaches fringed with palm trees are paradise for those who just want to relax, sunbathe, swim and enjoy water-based activities.
There is so much scenery to discover: sea caves, underwater cliffs, coral reefs covered in colourful sponges, multi-coloured fish, sea urchins, sea anemones and several wrecks of old ships, some dating back to the 17th century.
Even though the deep sea fishing here has an international reputation, there are other vital species near the coast such as Sabalo, Barracuda, raton or macabi fish, Robalo, Anjova, Carite or Sierra, Peto, Jurel and Yellow-fin tuna.
Mangrove swamps grow all along the coast as well as in the river deltas. The mangrove swamps are home to a huge number of sea birds such as Tijereta de Mar, Gannet, Flamingo and the Borrega and Marron Boba.
The Venezuelan Caribbean is equally as interesting culturally and historically. The region was the scene of many important Venezuelan historical events and here there are many restored colonial fortifications and some of the oldest and best preserved churches in the country. In addition, there is a huge variety of traditional festivals that take place all along the coast. The blend of religions in Venezuela is highlighted in the elaborate traditional festivals, many with their roots in indigenous and African religions.
Margarita Island, the ‘Pearl of the Caribbean’, was initially known for its oyster beds. Located just north of the old Spanish Capital, Margarita and its neighbouring islands, Coche and Cubagua, which make up the State of Nueva Esparta, were the location for many important events in Venezuela’s past.
In recent years, Margarita has emerged as a tourist area full of resort hotels with one of the loveliest beaches in the country, a busy nightlife and a tax-free zone which attracts thousands of shoppers from the mainland.
But there is more to Margarita than beaches and shopping centres. There is a huge variety of habitats there, including mangrove swamps, cloud forests and semi-arid zones and the island is home to five nature reserves. Two national parks have been established from these reserves, Cerro el Copey and Laguna de la Restinga.
The island is equally as interesting from a historical and cultural point of view: two restored colonial forts, several exquisite colonial churches and other historically important monuments are open to visitors. In addition, there are three small museums, the Francisco Narvaez Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of the Sea and El Caserio Museum of Handicrafts. Besides all this, there are several small, charming villages around the island, mainly in the eastern half, several of which have kept many of their traditions and their splendid handicrafts centres.