Land linked to implacable changes, from great droughts to floods, the wild life of the Venezuelan plains must adapt to them very quickly. The Llanos limit to the north with the Andes and to the south with the Orinoco, occupying 35% of the surface of Venezuela. It is said of them that they are the South American savanna for the great plains, the amount of wild life and for having certain similarity with the extensions of the Serengeti and the East African.
La de los Llanos is a land crossed by large rivers such as Apure, Meta, Arauca, Capanaparo and Orinoco. In the region there are two long seasons, the dry season that extends from December to April, and the rainy season, from May to November. The average annual temperature is 28º.
Land of cowboys
It has always been the place of cowboys, men who grow on their horses. The day to day of the llanero is to control its hundreds of heads of cattle, control their birth rate, the pastures and the quality of the meat for its later consumption. And here I must say, on a personal basis, that the typical Creole cuisine of the region is of great quality, highlighting Creole meat with spices.
Llaneros will be our best eyes to do a good photographic work and enjoy the place and its wildlife to the fullest. In the dry season they tend to go to areas that still conserve water in search of anacondas to remove them and show them to the visitor or perform the same task with larger or smaller crocodiles.
It was shocking to be sitting with the locals while enjoying documentaries filmed in the place; At the time that an anaconda or a crocodile appeared, the llaneros showed us the scars that marked their bodies because of attacks they received and told their story. We can not forget that the Plains are really wild, a place where walking for a handful of water can give us serious problems if we are not accompanied by a plainsman.
Safaris in the herds
The only way to stay is in a herd, the closest thing to farms as livestock tasks are carried out, but with increasing force, ecotourism is being introduced and some activities such as horseback riding, boat trips, walks in SUVs or trucks to perform photographic safaris.
It was impressive to be Among the most famous we can find: Hato Frío, Hato El Cedral, Hato Garza or Hato Piñero, among others. All of them are good to be able to carry out a satisfactory photographic work since the locals know the medium and can easily surprise us by showing us the wealth hidden in these vast tracts of land.
We will have electricity of 110 V, being necessary to carry in our suitcase the adapters and transformers that accept this voltage. The herds are not vacation centers where you can find stores of any kind and even less photographic material. It is interesting to always keep the photographic equipment protected because of the occasional rain that can surprise us or the dust and sand that is constantly in the environment.
The great majority of the photographic safaris that we made were with a truck conditioned for this purpose, giving us the possibility of descending to take shots from a lower point of view. It is advisable to always take well prepared the photographic equipment since a palm bear or a fox can cross.
On the other hand, the boat trips are the most satisfactory, since in this region we can photograph raptors like the black eagle, caricari sabanero and many others throwing themselves for the meat that the guides lay nearby so that we can get action images.
The guides also feed from the boat the large crocodiles and alligators, placing fresh meat on the tip of a stick and moving it in the water to attract them. Once they are close, they raise the stick and make the heavy reptiles jump out of the water to catch the flesh in flight. And they are able to fully remove the body from the water! Accustomed to being fed from the boats, the biggest crocodiles follow us throughout the aquatic safari, enough reason to have the hands and the photographic equipment inside the boat.
I strongly advise you to take mosquito repellent, preferably in cream to mix it with vitamin B-12. It is advisable to wear light clothes and trekking boots.
We can find a lot of animal life. In the aquatic environment, to the Caribs or piranhas, the freshwater dolphins, alligators, crocodiles and anacondas. On land we will find the striking anteater - or palm bear -, the anteater antelope - or bear melero-, jaguars, ocelots, savanna foxes, capybaras. In the air we will see the second largest bird of America, the American jabiru, the impressive black eagle, the common caricare and the caricare sabanero, as well as hundreds of birds that at all times will accompany us in the safaris and be photographed without any problem.
All of them give good photo opportunities. The dry season is best for photographs of animals as they crowd in areas where there are still small areas flooded.
Ungulates are another of the stars and is fully assured to enjoy their presence. Like the rest of the animals, in the Llanos they are not hunted, being punished with jail sentence to kill any wild living being.
On the other hand, this region is well known for its abundance in anacondas. I advise anyone who wants to see this show to visit the region in the dry season since these ophidians are forced to look for other ponds and rivers when theirs dries, and it may be normal to see them crawling peacefully along the roads where we can go for a walk.
The terrestrial owls, or hole owl, are another sure attraction. True to their hole or nest, couples spend the day fluttering to catch a rodent or reptile. They are very confident and it is easy to take shots of them.
When I started looking for information about the photographic possibilities of wildlife in Venezuela, the first option was Los Llanos, a region that receives the frequent visit of great television documentarians.
I looked for which one of the herds was the most recommended and I opted for El Cedral. It offers horseback riding as well as two daily departures by truck to observe the fauna in the early morning and late afternoon, something very appreciated when what we are looking for is taking pictures.
In this truck we were always accompanied by a local guide who explained everything we want to know about the place as well as its fauna, all dotted with jokes because the llaneros are people with a great sense of humor. These walks run along dirt roads full of capybaras and are a bit high so that in the rainy season they are not flooded like the rest of the land. Another option, and the one I personally enjoyed the most, are the walks along the impressive Matiyure River, a tributary of the Apure, where we had the chance to witness the spectacle of the crocodiles jumping in pursuit of the meat that the llaneros provide them. We were also followed by black eagles, caricars and other raptors that have become accustomed to go for meat that is thrown into the air or water.
The photographic equipment that I carried was composed of a digital body, and focal lengths between 14 and 600 mm. A 300 mm is necessary. to take shots of the avifauna and a 600 mm. for mammals like the palmero bear, if we are lucky since it is difficult to see in the rainy season, or the bear melero. The angular ones can make us enjoy with approximation shots and thus show the habitat next to the subject but always under the supervision of our guide who will tell us what to do and what not to do. I took my chances with the crocodiles and alligators - and I took some scare - but with a lot of tact and having the guide always close to me.
At some point it may seem like a good idea to get into the channels or ponds to find the desired frame, but this is absolutely forbidden. In fact, it is not advisable to approach less than ten meters of water to avoid surprises and, very likely, take away a bad memory.
I enjoyed the reflections of the Matiyure and other calm rivers that feed these lands, of the sudden changes of time, of the great flat extensions dotted by groups of trees far from each other and waters covered with water lilies with their large flowers.
The conclusion is clear to anyone who steps on the Llanos, "I will return." A place so wild lets play creativity. The simplicity of the landscape envelops you and the sound of wildlife is incessant both day and night. A sanctuary that will make the naturalist and photographer enjoy whatever their discipline.
Hatos where you can stay
Hato el Cedral : www.elcedral.com
Hato El Frío: www.hatoelfrio.com
General information: www.venezuelatuya.com