Los Llanos – Caimans and capybaras

We set off early from Mérida for the long ride to Los Llanos, the expansive Venezuelan grasslands which get heavily flooded and are home to all kinds of species of animals and birds. In our group was Metin from Turkey, Chris from Switzerland and Serge from France. We stopped off for a meaty lunch near Barinas, and along the way for various supplies.

Fuel is ridiculously cheap here - 0.097 Bolívares a litre = less than 0.5 US $ cents a litre!!

Fuel is ridiculously cheap here: 0.097 Bolívares a litre = less than 0.5 US $ cents a litre!!

Meat!

Meat!

Bird watching during lunch

Bird watching during lunch

Our guide Tony was full of himself and was boasting about all his scars from various creatures, and also his amazing ceviche that he would make us. He said we would catch a catfish for it. However soon we stopped along the roadside and he said it would be better to buy one instead so we handed over some money for our share.

Roadside fish stall

Roadside fish stall

The catfish

The catfish

As we approached we starting spotting more and more caimans along the rivers on each side of the road! And as we explored our home for the next three nights, it was just light enough to make out the shadows of hundreds of caimans surrounding us in the lakes! There were toads, iguanas and lizards, and a bat which landed on Lucy’s neck!

Caimans on the side of the road

Caimans on the side of the road

Our cute little room

Our cute little room

The bat that landed on Lucy's neck

The bat that landed on Lucy’s neck

In the morning after breakfast we rode on horseback to a nearby fishing spot where we caught piranhas which were to be our dinner the following evening. They were cunning little things and most of the time would manage to chew off the bait around the hook without you even feeling a bite. We managed to catch two each though, so at least we wouldn’t go hungry!

Wout on a horse again

Wout on a horse again

Lucy baiting the hook with some bloody meat scraps

Lucy baiting the hook with some bloody meat scraps

Success!

Success!

Riding through the plains of Los Llanos

Riding through the plains of Los Llanos

In the afternoon we went to El Cedral which is a rather posher hato to where we were staying. We were joining a boat trip but it soon became obvious that there would be far too many people, so we took off on a little road safari instead, sitting on top of the van. We spotted lots of wildlife including hundreds of capybaras, an armadillo, and a huge crocodile! Our self-proclaimed rebel of a guide, Tony, spotted a boat and decided that we would borrow it, so with no engine we grabbed long sticks and pushed ourselves through the water to get a good view of riverside animals, countless birds, and hundreds of turtles.

Rooftop safari

Rooftop safari, capybara crossing the road

A huge crocodile

A huge crocodile

In the river behind are piranhas, caimans, and electric eels

In the river behind are piranhas, caimans, and electric eels

Wout driving the boat

Wout driving the boat

One turtle

One turtle

Many turtles!

Many turtles!

When we got back Tony told us to sit in the bar and listen to him singing along with some local musicians. He was quite the showman and certainly loved the attention and we were wondering when we would get a chance to taste our much hyped-up ceviche which was sitting in ice in the van. It had been brought along as it transpired that it was meant to be shared with his friends at the hato. Tony seemed to be more interested in entertaining and drinking copious amounts of rum though. Eventually he called us for dinner of spaghetti bolognaise before returning to the van. A rotund lady wearing an apron accompanied us and we watched with disbelief as Tony handed over the whole ceviche to her and she waddled off! We were not impressed!

A beer at El Cedral

A beer at El Cedral

Later on in the evening, everyone seems bored apart from Tony

Later on in the evening, everyone seems bored apart from Tony

The following day another boat trip was planning but as we arrived at the boats, there were all filled with water after the night’s rain. We watched in quiet satisfaction as Tony and the boat driver bailed out the water. We could have helped but after last night’s antics it was payback time! We had a nice trip and saw loads more capybaras, caimans, iguanas and tortoises, and again hundreds of beautiful birds.

Bailing out the boat

Bailing out the boat

Capybaras

Capybaras

Turtles and caimans

Turtles and caimans

Wildlife spotting

Wildlife spotting

That afternoon it was anaconda time! Our guide had been told by some local farmers that they had seen a huge female and would show us exactly where. We were dubious as we thought it was just going to be another of Tony’s tall tales, however just as he was completely losing face, the anaconda was finally spotted! We were admiring her from a distance but suddenly Tony pounced and shouted at everyone else to grab her. A bit of warning would have been nice but we obeyed and held her writhing body of muscle for a few minutes before she slithered off into the swamps. We were buzzing with nervous energy afterwards!

Getting as close as we dare

Getting as close as we dare

Tony suddenly grabs her head

Tony suddenly grabs her head

Tony shouts for everyone to hold her

And shouts for everyone to hold her

Goodbye beautiful anaconda

Goodbye beautiful anaconda

We also found some baby caimans!

We also found some baby caimans!

 

Such a perfect little face

Such a perfect little face

In the evening Tony took us on a night drive and set out to catch us a night hawk. It was quite amusing as he failed repeatedly, not even getting anywhere near the birds as they flitted off into the trees, and even his friend the driver was laughing! We headed back and had a nice last dinner of piranha as well as some of Tony’s infamous ceviche as he had made a new batch from some random fish, but it was a bit of a let down as the fish was really chewy.

A baby turtle!

A baby turtle!

The view from our hato - a bird, caimans, and capybaras in the bushes

The view from our hato – a bird, caimans, and capybaras in the bushes

Capybaras near our little hut, and the shoe of a previous guest, eaten by caimans

Capybaras near our little hut, and the shoe of a previous guest, eaten by caimans

Preparing the piranhas for dinner

Preparing the piranhas for dinner

Yum! Tasty but rather boney

Yum! Tasty but rather boney

The tour had been really good fun and we had seen absolutely loads of amazing stuff, and we would definitely recommend the company we went with, if you can bear Tony with his glory seeking antics and overinflated ego!

A baby iguana comes to say hello

A baby iguana comes to say hello

Just after we spotted an armadillo

Just after we spotted an armadillo

Tony

Tony

For more photos click here

Costs:

The tour with Extreme Expeditions (booked in Posada Yagrumo) including guide, transport, accommodation and food for 3 nights / 4 days was 2900 Bolívares each

Beers at El Cedral – 10 Bolívares each

(Exchange rate: 20 Bolívares to 1 US $ on the black market)

 

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