Islas Los Roques – Los Roques, Venezuela
The Carribbean’s Oldest and Largest Marine Park
Venezuela’s offshore islands are so little known that few but Venezuelans talk about them – and they rave. Islas los Roques form a remarkable archipelago of forty largish islands (three alone are inhabited – sparsely) and more than 250 islets and cays, all surrounded by healthy coral reefs that promise snorkeling and diving in conditions that haven’t existed elsewhere in the Caribbean for decades. Schools of fish numbering in the thousands, massive forests of soft coral, unending stretches of virgin hard coral, perpendicular drop-offs, caverns, and pinnacles are what Islas los Roques – the Caribbean’s oldest and largest (850 square miles) marine national park – are known for.
Nondivers will find talcum-soft beaches with no trace of a footprint and some 300 bird species, including the largest concentration of scarlet ibises on earth. You can land by helicopter or small aircraft on the ambitiously named Gran Roque, a traffic-free island whose main fishing village is all of three blocks long. A handful of clean, simple posadas (island guest houses) can be found here, but the real action is underwater, and many in-the-know visitors live aboard the French-crewed, 85-foot dive vessel Antares III.