The Caribbean – Paria and Carupano
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.
The Paria Peninsula
On the north coast of the peninsula, palm trees sweep down the hillsides towards the sea, idyllic hidden beaches and coves covered in golden sand. Time seems to have another meaning in this coastal region, dotted with delightful little fishing villages. Life is peaceful and colourful peneros dance to the rhythm of the ocean; all this is a perfect antidote to the fast pace of city living.
So it’s not surprising that the natural beauty of the scenery here, combined with the friendliness and humility of the locals, inspired Columbus to call it a ‘Land of Grace’.
Home to fishermen, artisans, hardy farmers, kilometres of white sandy beaches and cacao plantations, the Paria Peninsula was isolated for many years, even from the rest of Venezuela. This little-known gem, jutting out into the Caribbean Sea towards the island of Trinidad, has escaped the pressure and excessive development that has often accompanied the arrival of tourism in other areas around the Caribbean.
Inland, the hilly, rural landscape dominates the heart of the peninsula, part of which is protected in the Paria Peninsula National Park, home to more than 200 species of birds, cloud forests, thermal springs and cacao plantations. Here, the Cerro Huma (1,356m) is the highest point in the region and a sanctuary for the Araguato monkey and many species endemic to the region such as the Tijereta Hummingbird, Venezuelan Hummingbird, Fafao Gargantiblanco, Spiny Rat and Black Otter.
There are many cacao plantations in this area, whose colonial buildings echo the relaxed and peaceful way of life here. Many of the farms are working towards becoming self-sufficient, creating excellent opportunities for ecotourism.
The beautiful town of Carupano is located in the north of Sucre State, between the peninsulas of Araya and Paria. A town of friendly and fun people, Carupano was very important at the beginning of the 20th century as a port from where coffee and cacao were exported. Now it is a lovely setting off point for visiting Araya and Paria. The colourful carnivals that take place in Carupano are probably the best in the whole of Venezuela. Carupano was the place where Simon Bolivar, when he liberated Venezuela, announced the decree abolishing slavery in 1814. This is an ideal place to experience some of Venezuela’s rich history.