CARACAS, Venezuela We left the jungle in Canaima National Park
wearing shorts, sun block, floppy hats and mosquito repellent. The
temperature was in the upper 80s. That night, high in the Andes, at
the opposite end of the country, we were cuddled up in gloves, ski
caps and thermals; barely an inch of skin exposed.
Welcome to Venezuela, a land of contrasts.
With more than 25 different ecosystems, 1,200 species of birds
and 250 species of animals, visitors can combine a 10-day trip
exploring the vast savannah, hiking the jungle and swimming in
tropical waterfalls, with horseback riding or trekking among the
towering peaks of the Andes.
The beauty, the diversity and the lack of American tourists in
Venezuela did not go unnoticed by Paul Stanley. He, along with his
partner, Antonio Pestana, founded Angel-Eco Tours three years ago.
Their plan was to develop an environmental approach to tourism in
an area that will no doubt explode once word gets out.
Angel-Eco takes a unique approach to tourism. Focusing
exclusively on Venezuela, they use native Venezuelan Indians as
guides, so visitors not only are educated on the surrounding plant
and animal life, but are also treated to legends and myths of
another culture and time.
Angel-Eco Tours wants visitors to interact with local people, so
travelers leave Venezuela with a deeper understanding of the many
cultures that make up the region. (The company also donates 5
percent of all revenues to aid preservation efforts within the
Clemente, our guide in Canaima, is a Pemón Indian, fluent in
English, Spanish and, of course, Pemón. His intimate knowledge of
the area we swam in a different waterfall, one more beautiful then
the next, each day and his gentle demeanor ensured that we
optimized our four days in Canaima, one of the largest national
parks in the world.
Angel-Eco Tours is more than willing to customize trips for
travelers. So knowing our group was most interested in active
adventure, Clemente had us up before sunrise, climbing a mountain
in order to get the best views of the early-morning rays of
Day excursions took us up mountains, through miles of savannah
and into deep jungles. The trip was catered completely to our
likes, but for those travelers looking for less “adventure” and
more “relaxation,” the itinerary can be altered as such.
The camps we stayed in each night ranged from the luxurious,
Ucaima Lodge, to the wonderfully simple Camp Uruyen. The former is
a resting place for celebrities and offers beautiful views of the
Carrao River. Camp Uruyen, however, is beautiful in its simplicity
with thatched huts standing alone in the Gran Sabana with the
tepuis the table-top mountains for which the region is known a
While all the lodges were fantastic, my favorite was Kavac
Lodge, where we slept in hammocks and ate wonderful food. The
accommodations were simple, but more than adequate with hot showers
and magnificent views.
Most visitors who travel to Venezuela do so to see Angel Falls,
the tallest waterfall in the world. Canaima National Park, where
Angel Falls is situated, is remote enough that one is not disturbed
by throngs of tourists. In fact, visitors can only get to the park
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