Islas Los Roques lie 150 km due N of Caracas; the atoll, of about 340 islets and reefs, constitutes one of Venezuela’s loveliest National Parks (225,153 ha). There are long stretches of white beaches and almost 20 km of coral reef with crystal-clear water ideal for snorkelling (best at the southern part of the archipelago) and diving. There are many bird nesting sites (eg the huge gull colonies on Francisqui and the pelicans, boobies and frigates on Selesqui); May is nesting time at the gull colonies.
For more information write to La Fundación Científica Los Roques, Apdo No 1, Av Carmelitas, Caracas 1010, T 326771. The islands are best visited midweek as Venezuelans swarm here on long weekends and at school holidays. Prices are higher than the mainland and infrastructure is limited but the islands are beautiful and unspoiled. Average temp 29°C with coolish nights. You will need strong sunblock as there is no shade. Park entry US$10.
Many of the islands’ names are contractions of earlier names: eg Northeast Cay is Nordisqui, ‘Sarky’ comes from Sister Key, ‘Dos Mosquices’ from Domus Key, where there are sea turtles and a Marine Biology Centre researching the coral reef and its ecology.
Gran Roque is the main and only permanently inhabited island. The airport is here, as is the national guard, food stores, public phones, medical facilities, a few restaurants and accommodation. There is nowhere to change TCs. Park Headquarters are in the scattered fishing village (pop 900). You can negotiate with local fishermen for transport to other islands: you will need to take your own tent, food and (especially) water. Madrisqui has 9 summer houses. Francisqui is three islands joined by sandspits, with calm lagoon waters to the S and rolling surf to the N.