The Llanos, the vast savannah region of Venezuela, sustains a breathtaking variety of wildlife; this wildlife revolves around dramatic flood/drought cycles, where seemingly never-ending rivers and flat plains are baked and dusty in the dry season (May-November), lush and flooded in the rainy season (December-April). It abounds in biodiversity.
Over 400 species of birds speckle the grasslands with white, crimson, yellow, blue, orange and black providing excellent birdwatching opportunities. You can see scarlet ibis, chestnut-fronted macaws, jabiru storks, black-collared hawks and the prehistoric-looking hoatzin.
The Llanos’ habitats also shelter a wide array of other animals such as giant anteaters, wild horses, armadillos, iguanas, turtles, red howler and capuchin monkeys, capybaras (the largest rodent in the world) and tens of thousands of caiman. The rivers teem with freshwater dolphins, piranhas, anacondas and turtles.
In the Venezuelan Llanos people still hunt and harvest in accordance with age-old customs, and dusty cowboys try to tame a land as wild and uncontrollable as the creatures that roam across its seemingly endless face.
Day 1: At around 0700hrs we pick you up and take you to our office where you will enjoy a fresh cup of coffee or tea. We leave from Mérida and head to San Rafael de Mucuchíes (3,140m) where we will visit the stone church of Juan Félix Sánchez. We will continue to Apartaderos and follow the road to Barinas, but not before stopping at a glacial lake in Mucubají (3,450m) and visiting Andean villages en route. From there we drive to Barinitas to enjoy a hearty lunch. Then we continue our journey direct to our base camp on the low plains of Apure State. The friendly llaneros, led by Mr Viviano, will welcome us and give us a typical and delicious llanera dinner. Accommodation is in rooms equipped with hammocks, mosquito nets and shared bathrooms. Meals (--, L, D)
Day 2: After a delicious breakfast we begin our horseback ride across the heart of the Venezuelan plains (Llanos). In the gallery forest we may see storks, herons, red scarlet ibis, hawks, falcons, parrots and many other birds, as well as howler monkeys and, possibly, anteaters. We will then return to the camp across the prairie, where you can enjoy a gallop; we will have lunch and relax in our hammocks under the cool shade of the mango trees. When the sun goes down a bit, and after a coffee, we will get into our jeep for an exciting safari on the plains surrounding the camp. During the tour we will have the opportunity to see the rich wildlife of “el Llano”. Besides the large number of birds around the shores of the "préstamos" (artificial lagoons formed as a result of the excavations to make dirt roads above the plains), you can see lots of alligators, small herds of capybaras, pairs of deer and, with the help of our llanero guides, we could spot the intimidating anaconda or the striking anteater. At night, we can relax with the friendly llanera people, play cards and sleep in our hammocks. Meals: (B, L, D)
Day 3: After breakfast, we embark on a four-hour boat trip. Our guides will take us to the Caño (stream) Guaritico where we'll see graceful freshwater dolphins, capybaras (the world's largest rodent), caimans, iguanas, many birds, possibly otters and some anacondas. We’ll return to camp for lunch and relax for a few hours until it begins to get cooler in the afternoon. Then we'll go and try our luck at catching piranhas; we will let the llaneros choose the best place as they know where the fishing is good. While we are fishing we can admire the Lonely Eagle, which will follow us, searching for fish. After dinner, weather permitting, we can admire the beautiful starry skies of the Llanos without interference from the light pollution of large cities. A great advantage of our geographical location is that we can see the constellations of both hemispheres… Finally, we will enjoy a well-deserved relaxing night in our hammocks. Meals: (B, L, D)
Day 4: After early morning breakfast, we will start our return to Merida (or Barinas). Meals (B,--,--)