National Park Archipielago de Los Roques National Park
Archipiélago Los Roques, Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of
MARINE PROTECTED AREA
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The Los Roques islands are a federal dependency of Venezuela, consisting of about 350 islands, cays or islets. The archipelago is located 80 miles (128 km) directly north of the port of La Guaira, and is a 40-minute flight, has a total area of 40.61 square kilometres. Being almost an untouched coral reef, it attracts many "high-end" visitors, especially from Europe, some of whom come in their own yachts and anchor in the inner, protected shallow waters. However, development and tourism are controlled.
Because of the wide variety of seabirds and rich aquatic life, the Venezuelan government declared the Islas Los Roques a National Park in 1972.
It is scarcely populated, having about 1,500 permanent inhabitants; however it receives approximately 70,000 visitors a year, many of them day-visitors who come from Caracas and the mainland.
The Islas Los Roques have an atoll structure, with two external barriers formed by coral communities, too, an inner lagoon and sandy shallows. This park consists of 40.61 km ², 1500 km ² of coral reefs, 42 coral cays of origin surrounding a central lagoon of 400 km ² and shallow waters, 2 barrier reef (24 km east and south of 32 km) and 300 sand banks, islands and cays, ranging from a considerable area, as Cayo Grande de 15,1 km ², to the Gran Roque is only 1.7 km ² (170 hectares) in extent.
The most important island is El Gran Roque. It is the only populated island in the group and has an airport suitable for small or STOL aircraft, Los Roques Airport, with freshly repaved RWY 07/25 (1000 × 26 meters). The airport is controlled from the Maiquetía airport on the mainland. Other important islands are Francisqui, Nordisqui, Madrisqui and Crasqui.
Activities include fishing (bonefish, barracuda, tarpon, jack (Carangidae) and Spanish mackerel), birding, snorkeling, diving, paddling, windsurfing and kitesurfing, and there is a sea turtle research center located on Dos Mesquises. Accommodations include Pez Raton Lodge, a property primarily used to host fishing guests, and Posada Mediterraneo, a five-room inn which accommodates non-fishing guests and dozens more like El Canto de la Ballena and Posada La Terraza..
These islands had been sighted by early European navigators and in 1589 the then governor of the Venezuelan province ordered the formal takeover of these islands on behalf of the colony. The Dutch considered Los Roques to belong to their island territory of Curaçao because of its proximity to Bonaire which also belonged to the Dutch. The author M.D. Teenstra in 1836 still writes (in his book "The Dutch West Indies"): The Government of Curaçao also includes the uninhabited islets and rocks Little Curaçao, Aves, Roques and Orchilla. In 1871 the then president Antonio Guzmán Blanco created by decree the Territorio Colón (Columbus territory) which included Los Roques and other adjacent islands. The island of Gran Roque was named as the center of territory government.
(Spanish) National Park Institute, Venezuela
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