- All in all a fantastic trip and the guys from Viva Trek did really well to sort it all out so well, especially given the logistics nightmare in Venezuela. Could be even better with slightly improved communication. Don't let any of the things I'm about to say put you off in any way, they are intended to be constructive and to assist future travellers. It was a wonderful, incredible experience, I hope the below tips will make it even more enjoyable.
Highlights: Wow, what an adventure! Angel Falls! Swimming in the falls and the overflight in the 5 seater Cessna were fantastic! Also loved the tame Macaws, Caracara, Chacalaca etc at the Delta. Kavak gorge was a really great experience.
If you get the option to skip the Arenal camp (2nd night on the river) and go directly to the Angel Falls camp, do so. You will spend a bit longer in the boat and will miss nothing however you will be able to trek early in the morning to the falls and miss the crowds. A bit of a sore bum is a small price to pay for having the falls to yourself.
Take plenty of DEET, we took one can for 2 people and ran out after a week.
Be careful using the communal hammocks in the Delta . Invisible bugs with nasty bitey appendices come out and munch you on the bum through both the hammock and your clothing!
Lightweight, long sleeved shirts and trousers are the way forward, shorts and t-shirts will pretty much guarantee itchy bite madness.
You will probably, as did I, assume that you will have easy access to your day bag whilst in the boat. This is not necessarily the case as space is very limited. In any case there is constantly water in the bottom of the boat so it will definitely get wet. Suggest you invest in a dry bag for the few essentials you can't bear to be without for the journey (e.g. camera, sun cream, hat that won't blow off, lightweight waterproof if you want to stay dry (although it's warm and you soon dry out)). Take an old cushion to sit on too (the little red Air France ones worked a treat! :-) ) Also keep your swimming stuff and travel towel handy on day 2 on the boat as there may be the opportunity for a wee swim/cool off during the lunch stop .
One poor member of the group had to miss the last night of the trip due to a rubbish flight routing so make sure you check you flight details against the trip logistics carefully before you book the flight inclusive option. Colonia Tovar is a minimum of 2 hrs drive from Caracas International Airport and it seems to be impossible to get taxis during the very early hours of the morning so if you have been sold an early morning flight you will, unfortunately, need to leave Colonia Tovar the night before and stay in an airport hotel.
Not many souvenir opportunities however there are a few, don't bother with the big airports (unless you have Bolivars left at the end of the trip to use up). Kanaima airport (more of a hut) has a small but good selection, and you will find plenty at Colonia Tovar at the end of the trip.
The only free time in the entire trip is in Colonia Tovar at the end. This is really just due to the nature of the trip.
Sleeping bags took up lots of unnecessary room as we never used ours, just our sleeping bag liners (and lightweight clothes on the one night that it got ever so slightly chilly) sufficed.
Don't forget your head torch.
Kavak gorge was great fun, if you have a waterproof camera, this is where you'll need to bring it.
Accommodation really is very basic for most of the trip but you know that when you book, you are on an adventure after all!
Things are really very cheap by our standards. We changed $100 each (2 people) at the beginning of the trip and another $25 to share near the end so $225 for the whole trip for 2 people!
Carlucco organised for some local rum to be brought along on the river trip which was fab but do keep an eye on it as some members of our group seemed to like a bevy more than the others and two of them had worked their way through half a bottle one evening before the rest of the group had even joined them.
Last but not least and my most important tip. Don't go barefoot! I came home with some new friends embedded in the soles of my feet! After much research, they turned out to be Jiggers (look it up). Not pleasant, had to be dug out with a hypodermic needle... I was walking around barefoot in the sand at the river camps and believe this it where they 'came onboard'. Explore, please make sure future travellers on this trip are told to keep their shoes/sandals on!
Carlucco was an absolutely fabulous cook, a wonderfully gracious host and an all round great guy who genuinely cared about the group. He had everything planned out to perfection however he sometimes failed to effectively communicate what was going on, leaving us a bit puzzled. Sometimes we didn't get a proper briefing, or details were missed. On the first evening, the communication regarding what luggage to divide up was unclear and really confusing (especially as we were all exhausted). In retrospect we only needed to be to told what was required for the following day, the rest could have been sorted out the next day. Also, if the journey is going to be another 2hrs, please say so, don't say 30 mins. Of course it's impossible to tell exactly how long any journey will take however, on a number of occasions, we felt Carlucco was genuinely trying to keep us happy by telling us we were nearly there when in fact we weren't, this only served to frustrate, rather than placate, us.
Carlucco, we love you and your cooking is amazing but you need to work on your communication skills a wee bit. :-) x
The ranch at Los Llanos was ridiculously hot and humid in October with no respite other than a fan in the room that acted like a hairdryer. It was a really, really long drive too (plus a flight) and we felt that, although it was a very lovely area to visit and the Pirana fishing was fun and the wildlife on the creek was great, there was still a disparity between how long it took to get there + how unbearably hot it was Vs the enjoyment we gained from it.
My only real negative (and it is, unfortunately, a whopper) is that Carlos (the one at Los Llanos, not Carlucco the tour leader) nearly killed us (no, I'm not exaggerating) by driving way too fast in the dark and pouring rain on a road full of potholes (in addition, the truck was top heavy with luggage and we had no seat belts). At one point he lost control of the truck and we swerved from side to side, across the road very dramatically and it was more luck than anything that we didn't end up in a ditch. A number of members of the group said they had thought 'that was it'. We also believed he clipped a cow or water buffalo on the side of the road on a separate occasion. This really needs addressing by Explore as a matter of urgency before the next trip. PLEASE get Carlos to slow down or get another driver, or install seat belts (or a combination of the above).
I'd also like to add that the aircon in that same truck is unable to cope when it it very hot (I would have though this was a fundamental capability of aircon). I'm fully aware that aircon is a luxury, however it really was so, so very hot that during the really long drive we were all melting and miserable for hours upon hours. One of the group actually started to get pins and needles throughout her whole body and very nearly passed out from the heat in the truck.
Published on: 09 December 2015
Thank you for your review, we're glad you enjoyed your holiday!
We were concerned to hear about your experience with your some of the driving on your trip though, we agree that this is unacceptable. We have addressed this with Carlos and our local agent to make sure it doesn’t happen again.