National Park Archipielago de Los Roques National Park
Archipiélago Los Roques, Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of
MARINE PROTECTED AREA
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Los Roques archipelago is a federal dependency of Venezuela consisting of approximately 350 islands, cays, and islets in a total area of 40.61 square kilometers. The archipelago is located 128 kilometers (80 mi) directly north of the port of La Guaira.
The islands' pristine coral reef attracts many wealthy visitors, especially from Europe, some of whom come in their own yachts and anchor in the inner, protected shallow waters. Development and tourism are controlled.
Because of the wide variety of seabirds and rich aquatic life, the Venezuelan government declared Los Roques a National Park in 1972.
The archipelago 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 major islands of the archipelago have an atoll structure, with two external barriers formed by coral communities, and an inner lagoon and sandy shallows. The park consists of 40.61 km², 1500 km² of coral reefs, 42 coral cays surrounding a shallow central lagoon of 400 km², two barrier reefs (24 km east and 32 km south) and 300 sand banks, islands and cays, ranging in size from Cayo Grande (15.1 km²) to the Gran Roque (1.7 km²). Other important islands are Francisqui, Nordisqui, Madrisqui, and Crasqui.
El Gran Roque is the only populated island in the group. It has an airport suitable for small or STOL aircraft, Los Roques Airport. The airport is controlled from the Maiquetía airport on the mainland.
Activities include fishing (bonefish, barracuda, tarpon, jack, and Spanish mackerel), birding, snorkeling, diving, paddling, windsurfing, and kitesurfing, and there is a sea turtle research center located on Dos Mosquises. Accommodations include Pez Raton Lodge, a property primarily used to host fishing guests, Posada Mediterraneo, a five-room inn which accommodates non-fishing guests, and dozens more like El Canto de la Ballena and Posada La Terraza..
The islands were sighted by early European navigators, and in 1589 the 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 Venezuelan 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 territorial government.
(Spanish) National Park Institute, Venezuela
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