Extending from Bolivia, Peru and Colombia, through 1,000km of Venezuela to the Orinoco Delta, the Llanos (plains) cover an area of about 320,000 square kilometres. In ‘winter’ (the rainy season) most of the 12 million cattle from the extensive ranches wade in the silt-bearing floodwater by day and sleep on higher banks at night, while in summer the dust and smoke from turtle-hunters’ fires obscure the flat horizons, and wildly coloured birds cluster around the remaining pools of water.
The Llanos is a marvellous place to see wildlife. Apart from more than 300 species of birds (including scarlet ibis, hoatzin, screamers, soldier storks, roseate spoonbills and many more) you may be lucky enough to spot jaguars, ocelots, anteaters, honey-bears, capybaras and crocodiles, in an environment still relatively undisturbed by man.
Our preferred accommodation
Estancia/Ranch - MantecalNear Mantecal in Apure state (the low Llanos), is the 55,000ha ranch of Hato Cedral. Formerly owned by King Ranch (originators of the Santa Gertrudis breed of cattle). The capybaras on the entrance road are probably the tamest in Venezuela!
Estancia/Ranch - Just outside BarinasA traditional, family run ranch with a large pool just outside Barinas surrounded by colourful gardens. The owners pride themselves on their hospitality and wonderful home cooked cuisine.
Estancia/Ranch - MantecalThis 80,000 hectare ranch between Mantecal and El Samán is owned by the Maldonado family, and the Biological Station is the centre of the tourist operation. The accommodation has recently been upgraded and twin bedded rooms, with private bathrooms are now available (no hot water). Meals and local drinks are included as are twice-daily excursions. The vehicles (mainly enclosed jeeps with side-facing benches) are not as satisfactory as those provided by Cedral or Piñero, but the boat trips are good, and wildlife is similar. We previously recommended El Frío as a relatively low-cost alternative, but prices have increased so one must now consider the better road and transport infrastructure at Cedral and Piñero before making a decision. They have an interesting programme of re-training to the wild for ocelots and jaguars that have been illegally captured.
Estancia/Ranch - Apure State (the low Llanos)A beautiful property and the most comfortable in the area. The swimming pool is beautiful and overlooks the Llanos. There is a lounging area by its side and a telescope for wildlife spotting and star gazing. There is also a bar and separate dining room where guests can eat together or on their own.
- Estancia/Ranch - El Baúl, CojedesSadly Hato Piñero is no longer open for tourism, having been expropriated by the government of Hugo Chavez. Wildlife farm in the state of Cojedes, on the edge of the central plains, which apart from the wet-lands also has plateau and gallery forest on rolling hills, surrounded by four rivers. Here you can see an incredible diversity of wildlife that shows almost no fear for human observers.