Health and Safety
Unlike many resorts which are far removed from the locals, this hotel is located right next to where the local fishermen live. I consider this a plus, because it’s a cultural experience you might not get otherwise. We were advised not to leave the resort at night unless you’re in a taxi. We walked back from Playa El Agua one night, and ended up in the local neighbourhood in the dark, and lived to tell about it. The gate to the beach is also locked at night, as the beach is considered unsafe in the dark. For about $2.50 U.S. a day, we rented the room safe to keep our money and valuables. Everywhere we went, we ran into tourists who reported at least some degree of diarhea. Even people staying at 4 and 5 star resorts. It seems to be a problem all over Margarita. Before we left, we took a vaccine called Dukkoral available at travel health clinics at your local Health Department for $80. (company plans cover it) Dukkoral protects you from 90 percent of the bacteria that cause travellers’ diarhea. I only had a little bit of intestinal upset, while my husband had more upset. It wasn’t debilitating or bad enough to prevent us from going anywhere. We heard of people at other resorts who were very sick and only able to nibble on a bit of dry bread. If you want a pleasant, economical resort with friendly staff and nice pool areas, I recommend Pueblo Caribe. If you want a beach vacation where you never leave the resort, there’s probably not enough to do or enough luxury to satisfy that kind of preference. I consider Margarita a great value for money destination. A taxi driver gave us 2800 Bolivars for one U.S. dollar. The official rate at the bank was 1600 Bolivars at the time, but businesses are eager for American currency, and the parallel market is always higher. A taxi costs 10,000 Bolivars an hour, or less than 4 dollars. We travelled all over the island by taxi, and even though few drivers speak much English, between hand gestures, drawings, and our very limited Spanish, we were able to go where we wanted. Several drivers were very helpful and got out to take pictures of us, and waited for us at several places, then took us somewhere else. Or they dropped us off and showed up at the appointed time several hours later to pick us up. They didn’t ask for payment until the end of the day. Pueblo Caribe has several taxi drivers stationed right there. Ask for Poncho. He has a very clean, comfortable Buick and is the only person on the island who doesn’t drive like a maniac. Everything is cheap is Margarita, and the shopping is great. Porlamar has everything you’d want and we picked up 18 carat gold rings for under $100 U.S., from a reputable-looking storefront operation, not a street vendor. The cities of Asuncion and Pampatar are much prettier than Porlamar, and they have 500 year old Spanish forts. If you leave the resort, always take a little pack of tissue. There’s rarely every any toilet paper in public washrooms.
The jeep tour was fun and good way to see the whole island. We covered 250 kilometres. Our jeep was pretty ramshackle, but that wasn’t the case for all of them. The driver was experienced, and maybe not the most personable of them all, but my impressions of him improved when we stopped for lunch at Punta Arenas on the desert side of the island. That’s when your driver becomes your waiter, and he tended to us nicely. The beach was fabulous with just the right amount of gentle waves for everyone. The horseback riding was top notch all the way. We were picked up in a brand new clean vehicle with air conditioning. The guide was very personable and spoke some English. The ranch is an absolutely beautiful setting, nicely maintained with the cleanest washroom in Venezuela. I wanted to move there! Friendly guides feed you pop and make sure you get a horse and trail suitable for your riding experience. The horses were well trained, which is pretty important considering much of the 12 kilometre trail is through cactus forest, or along ridges with sharp drop offs, and along mountain peaks. I thought we could be in trouble when three ferociously barking stray dogs surrounded us, but the horses totally ignored them. The stables are clean and the horses appear to be in good health, though some of them did have small areas where the saddle had rubbed off their hair in spots the size of quarters. I don’t know if this is normal for riding animals. The overnight trip to the Orinoco Delta and Canaima National Park on the mainland is not to be missed. You sleep in the jungle in rustic thatched roof huts built on stilts on the swampy shores of the Orinoco River. It’s the last place in the world you’d expect running water, but the rooms have a flush toilet and cold water taps. The jungle camp is the most exciting and novel place I’ve ever stayed. We were surrounded by parrots, tucans and other birds I can’t identify, monkeys, a friendly capybara (a large aquatic rodent with a dog-like disposition) and the camp’s three tail-wagging dogs, who slept in front of our hut for some reason. They woke us up three times in the night barking at crocodiles swimming by in the river. Meeting the Warao Indians was a life changing experience. There’s just too much to say about this trip in one review. My only criticism is that we couldn’t stay another day at the camp, just hanging out. The trip can be tiring because we were constantly shuffled in and out of boats and planes over the two days, including a pretty flight over Angel Falls. The sailing trip to Los Frailes Islands (on a 43 foot boat) for snorkelling was a little harrowing for those proned to seasickness. The ocean swells were over eight feet, and ten of fourteen passengers on board were pretty green by the time we got there. We had fun, but after snorkelling and diving in Cozumel, the snorkelling at Los Frailes doesn’t compare. There was lots of larger pretty fish once I was well enough to appreciate them. The boat staff was friendly and made a delicious lunch for us. The ride back was calmer. Definitely bring your Gravol on this one. After taking five of them, I felt like I had been shot with a tranquillizer dart, and was pleasantly sedated by the continous rocking of the boat the whole way back. The "Temaya" Catamarin trip to Coche Island was great fun with excellent staff who prepared a very tasty lunch. The double hulled catamarin is much more stable than a sail boat. No one was sick. Just lots of laughs and a beautiful view everywhere. We enjoyed watching the parasailing and windsurfers on Coche Island, and the tour of an abandoned salt works. This is the hottest place I’ve ever been, and when I was standing still, I felt like I was baking on a cookie sheet. The water here is very calm, with a constant wind that ripples the surface of the almost smooth water.
Overall, Margarita (and the mainland) gave us the adventure, fun and great pictures we’d hoped for. The island has beautiful scenery, though garbage is strewn about, and the apparant lack of any garbage collection service mars it in neighbourhood areas. I wouldn’t recommend Margarita for people who want a holiday in a foreign country to be just like home, only with better scenery. But there’s lots to do and you’ll have fun almost everywhere if you’re willing to forgo some of the comforts of home.