Los Roques

The turquoise and emerald lagoons and dazzling white sands of the Archipelago de Los Roques make up one of Venezuela's loveliest national parks. For lazing on an untouched beach, or for snorkelling and diving amid schools of fish and coral reefs, these islands cannot be beaten. Diving and snorkelling are best to the south of the archipelago. The islands tend to be very busy in July-August and at Christmas. See www.los-roques.com.

The islands of Los Roques, with long stretches of white beaches and over 20 km of coral reef in crystal-clear water, lie 166 km due north of La Guaira; the atoll, of about 340 islets and reefs, constitutes a national park of 225,153 ha. There are many bird nesting sites (eg the huge gull colonies on Francisqui and the pelicans, boobies and frigates on Selenqui); May is nesting time at the gull colonies. For more information write to La Fundación Científica Los Roques, Apdo No 1, Avenida Carmelitas, Caracas 1010. This is one of the least visited diving spots in the Caribbean; best visited midweek as Venezuelans swarm here on long weekends and at school holidays, after which there is litter on every island. (Low season is Easter to July.) There are at least seven main dive sites offering caves, cliffs, coral and, at Nordesqui, shipwrecks. There are many fish to be seen, including sharks at the caves of Olapa de Bavusqui. Prices are higher than the mainland and infrastructure is limited but the islands are beautiful and unspoiled. Average temperature 29°C with coolish nights. You will need strong sunblock as there is no shade and an umbrella is recommended.

Gran Roque
is the main and only permanently inhabited island. The airport is here, as is the national guard, a few small grocery stores and souvenir shops, public phones (expensive internet), a bank with an ATM, medical facilities, dive shops, a few restaurants and accommodation. There is nowhere to change traveller's cheques. Park Headquarters are in the scattered fishing village. Tourist information is available free of charge from the very helpful
Oscar Shop
, directly in front as you leave the airstrip. Boat trips to other islands can be arranged here, which are worthwhile as you can not swim off Gran Roque.

You can negotiate with local fishermen for transport to other islands: you will need to take your own tent, food and (especially) water.
Madrisqui
has a good shallow beach and joins Pirata Cay by a sandspit.
Francisqui
is three islands joined by sandspits, with calm lagoon waters to the south and rolling surf to the north. You can walk with care from one cay to the other, maybe swimming at times. There's some shade in the mangrove near the bar at La Cueva.
Crasqui
has a 3-km beach with beautiful water and white sand.
Cayo de Agua
(1 hour by fast boat from Gran Roque) has an amazing sandspit joining its two parts and a nice walk to the lighthouse where you'll find two natural pools.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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