Traveling With Angels in Venezuela

Tour company specializes in environmentally sound visits to the wilds of Venezuela.

By: Judy Koutsky

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 country.)

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 color.

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 perfect backdrop.

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 by plane.

Angel-Eco offers commission to agents. Contact company for details.