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The island of Los Roques, off the coast of Venezuela, is famous these days as a bonefish hotspot, second only (maybe) to Christmas Island in the Pacific. Returning anglers report casting to hundreds of cruising and tailing bones. Because angling pressure is slight, the fish are not easily spooked and can be approached without difficulty.
Los Roques, however, is a package trip destination that is pretty much off limits for the do it yourselfer. That is what I was told anyway when I set about to check this place out in my usual do it yourself fashion. Here’s what I found out.
Take travel first. Flying to Caracas, Venezuela, is a bargain these days. Round trip fares from New York, Washington, D.C. or Miami run only about $339 to $380! The carriers are American, Eastern, Pan Am, Avensa, and Viasa. The 80 mile flight from Caracas to Los Roques costs $80 to $120 round trip, depending whether you charter a plane or fly as a regular passenger. The commercial operators fly light twins that carry five to ten persons. If there are three or more in your party, you can save money and dictate departure times by chartering.
The carriers are Helicopteros del Caribe (*); CAVE (*); and Aerotuy (*). Each carrier makes between five and ten trips per day. Most of the traffic consists of daytrippers interested in snorkeling or exploring the National Park.
Now comes the difficult part – lodging. The main population center is located on the island of Gran Roque adjacent to the paved air strip. There are 200 to 300 residents, mostly commercial fishermen and their families. Some wealthy Venezuelans maintain vacation homes in town and on some of the nearby islands. There are no stores or restaurants, and only a couple of cantinas. Fresh water is precious since it comes from a desalinization plant. The residents are very congenial but very few speak English.
There are not many options for lodging, but here are the possibilities:
1) Julio Haz operates a simple but nice beachfront villa in the center of town. He speaks sufficient English and has had experience catering to bonefishermen from the States and Europe. He rents out two rooms, one for three persons and the other for four persons. Julio charges $100 per person per day including all meals, lodging and a local guide to take you to the flats in his outboard. He can be reached through Mr. Tomas Garcia Rodriguez (*). Make arrangements well in advance.
2) Freddy Morrinson (*), a German sailor, operates a shallow draft houseboat for bonefishermen. He weighs anchor in the evening and sails to a new fishing location for the next day. Freddy can be reached direct or through Pablo Luis Gonzalo (*).
3) Some of the local folks occasionally take in guests at a reasonable cost. The accommodations are spartan and a little knowledge of Spanish is desirable.
4) Ernani Handelman (*), on the mainland, charters a fleet of deep sea fishing yachts out of La Guaira near the Macuto Sheraton Hotel. This is about 30 minutes from Caracas airport. He has a beautifully maintained Grand Banks 32 that sleeps six bonefishermen, is completely self contained for two weeks, has a captain and mate, and rents for $450 per day. Allow six to eight hours traveling time each way between Caracas and Los Roques. There is no fishing guide, but there is a small outboard in tow.
5) Finally, if you get lost on your own, Jose Luis Rincon (*) operates a travel agency at the Macuto Sheraton Hotel near Caracas airport. He can make all of your arrangements for Los Roques including lodging, flights and guide.
A word of warning is in order. After you go to all of the trouble of getting to Los Roques and finding a place to stay, don’t expect the guides you line up on your own to be first-class. Chances are you will get a young boy who beats you to death flying through the chop at breakneck speed and then snoozes while you wade the flats; or you may happen to get a knowledgeable local who knows something about flyfishing and how to ferry you about to avoid the worst of the wind. He may even occasionally point out a fish, but don’t count on it.
Still look at the bright side. If you know how to fish, you’ll probably catch a bunch of bones anyway, given how plentiful and unspooky the critters are. And you’ll get all this for what I calculate to be only $150 per day per person. Not bad, huh? Don Pratten.
(Don Causey Note: As intriguing and interesting as the above trip options sound, don’t forget that many US agents will gladly sell you a trip to Los Roques. It’ll cost you more, but it will be easier, surer and the first time around anyway probably more successful.)