In eastern Venezuela, a vast fan-shaped landmass – known as a delta – has formed at the mouth of the Orinoco River. This freshwater river spans 880,000 square kilometres through Venezuela and Columbia; it is one of the largest rivers in South America eventually empting into the saltwater of the Atlantic Ocean. The Orinoco Delta is comprised of streams that branch off from the main delta with major distributaries that divide the delta into upper and lower regions. The majority of the inhabitants in the region live between the channels of the Río Grande and the Caño Araguao. The delta is comprised of permanent wetlands and seasonal forest swamps created during the monsoon season.
Imagine taking a canoe down the Orinoco Delta and entering a prehistoric world with lush mangroves that flourish in the tropical climate and see the exposed roots along the coastline. Mangroves are unique trees that that are tolerant of the salty concentration of the freshwater delta and are comprised of sixteen plant family varieties. Amongst the mangroves and palm trees, there is a variety of fruiting trees, bromeliads, arboreal ferns and orchids.
Adventure in the Orinoco Delta
Looking off the bow, you might see turtles, giant otters, or even spot the second largest snake in the world: the anaconda. Beneath the murky depths of the water there is a diverse ecosystem of aquatic life including a plethora of pelagic and coral reef fish, as well as other exciting water dwellers like stingrays, mantas, and even piranhas. If you’re lucky you might spot an Orinoco crocodile, which are a critically endangered species with an estimated 547 left in the wild. Playful river dolphins and Orinoco pink dolphins may also swim your way.
Once docked, look up. You don’t want to miss the vibrant butterflies or the speed of the hummingbird. Birds are abundant in the Orinoco Delta, flying overhead are falcons, hawks, and harpy-eagles. Along the water’s edge, there are tall, white egrets and black cormorants diving for fish. Amongst the trees, there are sunshine yellow and crisp black caciques; rainbow coloured macaws and other parrot varieties; black toucans with large, yellow beaks; and belted kingfishers with dark blue torso and head, and white collar around their neck. Venture into the jungle and there are plenty of exotic animals to see, such as jaguars, howler monkeys, capuchin moneys, and tapirs.
Warao Indians in the Orinoco Delta
The Warao Indians, translated to meaning the “Canoe People”, are the second largest indigenous to Venezuela with a population of approximately 20,000. They’re culture dates back 8,500 years largely due to little colonial influence and they remain true to their name using the delta for transportation, communication and sustenance. They dwell in wall-less huts made of thatch which are built on clay-covered log stilts to protect from the annual floods. In the center of their beehive-shaped hut is a cooking pit made of clay used to cook the catch of the day and hammocks to sleep in once their bellies are full. The Warao Indians are a peaceful people and are friendly towards tourists.