Apr 1, 2009
Author: words and photos by Gavin Butler
The beautiful untouched islands that make up Los Roques Marine Park are only a short 30-minute flight from Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. These two places could not be more different. Caracas is a bustling, overcrowded city of five million, while the main island “hub” of Gran Roque has 1,200 inhabitants and no roads. It was on the sleepy island of Gran Roque, with its sand-covered streets and car-less society, that we stepped back in time for a week of riding and fun away from the formalities of the modern world.
There are several flights to Caracas from Europe, Miami and South America every day. Flying to Los Roques from Caracas can be a little tricky, but you will get there. Pack as light as possible.
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Venezuela is fairly cheap, though the currency fluctuates. Los Roques tends to be more expensive due to its location. It is better to change money in Caracas before heading out.
There are several posadas or guest houses on the island of varying standards. La Gaviota is recommended because the owner kites and can schedule everything from water taxis and packed lunches. Most places cost around $100 a night, which includes all food, taxis, diving and fishing. It works out to be a good deal.
Caracas has a bad reputation, but you can stay closer to the airport if you need to overnight before getting to Los Roques and it is perfectly safe. Once there, you will have nothing to worry about. Just relax and settle into the slower pace of life.
There is wireless Internet all over the island for people who want to stay connected. Some mobile phones work there as well.
Warm, windy and tropical year-round. Windy season is February to June, but there seems to wind year-round.
• Posada La Gaviota (posadalagaviota.com )
• Martin Travel for trusted flight information (martintravelservices.com )
• Karl at Vela has all the contacts and flight schedules for getting and staying on Los Roques (velawindsurf.com )
The Best Photo Shoot for SBC Kiteboard in Los Roques
Intrepid traveler Miguel Willis and I meet Alvaro Onieva
and Bruna Kajiya in Caracas the night before our scheduled departure to
Gran Roque for this quick trip between busy PKRA contests schedules.
Getting to Los Roques is probably the hardest part of the trip. Flights
can be inconsistent because departure times and baggage issues are a
problem on such small planes.
Fortunately, after an early start, we all managed to board the
well-used plane with all of our gear piled right next to us. I know
Bruna and Alvaro both had their hesitations when we literally climbed
into an old Communist-issue puddle jumper. I know I did. As the plane
sputtered to life, we lifted off above the crowded city and headed
towards kiteboarding paradise. With relief, we touched down on Gran
Roque, registered into the National Marine Park, which was founded in
1972, and settled into our posada located on the beach on the harbour
side of the island.
Gran Roque and Posada La Gaviota would be our base for the next
seven days as we shuttled between the various islands throughout the
marine park to ride, shoot and have fun. Time literally stops as soon
as you arrive on the island, with the accustomed noise of everyday life
removed from your senses. No mega hotels or jetskis screaming
around—just untouched islands and sandbanks beaming several shades of
blue at every glance.
Los Roques is unlike normal crowded kiteboarding destinations. Its
tranquility transcends into a way of life both on and off the water. To
get around Los Roques, you either walk or take a boat. That very
afternoon we took a water taxi to the nearest island of Francisqui for
a quick afternoon session to test the wind and new 2009 gear. The wind
was light, but it was great to stretch and adjust after a long couple
of days traveling, finally returning to the posada for dinner on the
beach and to make plans for the upcoming week.
The amazing thing about Los Roques is the remoteness. Every session
was just us, and even though it is becoming a popular destination,
there is so much room on the islands and so many of them that there is
no need to kite with anyone else unless you choose to. With paradise in
mind, we were up the next day at dawn ready to go back to Francisqui to
get some action shots and enjoy paradise. The wind was light but still
strong enough for the crew to ride 10 m kites or up. Crystal-clear
water, pure white sand and flat water everywhere—a kiter’s dream. After
our morning session we returned for a late breakfast and midday siesta
before our planned afternoon session.
Later that day, with lunched packed by La Gaviota, we took a water
taxi to Bird Island, which is about 10 minutes away. Bird Island is
small sandspit about half the size of a football field in the middle of
nowhere, offering butter-flat water and not a soul insight. Well,
almost. As we ventured closer, we noticed another couple on the island
au naturel who obviously thought they had the deserted island to
themselves for the afternoon. I felt bad when we pulled up, but the
kiting was too good to leave, so we unpacked while they dressed and I
tried to apologize in my terrible Spanish.
To make matters worse, just as the boat was driving away, we
realized that we had left the pump at the posada. I’m sure the couple
was thinking, what are these losers doing, as we pumped up Bruna’s kite
by mouth so she could ride downwind and borrow a pump from the kiters
on the next island. Off she went while Miguel, Alvaro and I sat as far
away as possible from the other couple and waited for Bruna to return.
But it was worth it. Bruna finally caught a water taxi back to the
island with a spare pump just as the wind picked up. We had an awesome
afternoon session. If only the couple knew they were watching some of
the best kiters in the world.
For the next few days time stopped as we traveled from island to
island riding different locations. It’s an amazing place—the people are
friendly and the vibe is like no other. It was windy every day from 15
to 30 knots and butter-flat water every session. It has to be one of
the best places in the world to kiteboard. The only problem we had was
eating too much fish. Every night the La Gaviota served fish for
dinner, and as delicious as it was, by the end of the week we were
craving a good steak. I guess paradise comes at a price.