24th September 2003
Checked in nice and early at Gatwick North terminal
with Air2000 flight AMM054. Arrived at departure gate @ 13:00, 70 mins
before take off time. Boarded the plane (an Air2000 Airbus 767) expected
to take off ontime too at 14:10 but captain said they had a small technical
fault which appeared to be faulty light bulb. Eventually took off at 14:40
We got a window seat, the flight went pretty
smoothly the only complaint here was that Air2000 was not very accommodating
towards Kim's food allergies. Kim has food allergies to nuts, and various dairy
products including milk, cheese, cream (lactose). At the time of booking Air2000
said either she would have the vegetarian meal or take her own food, which we
did. (I've flown Air2000 before to
Faro/Portugal before and my expectations wasn't much then)
We arrived just before 20:00 in Margarita local
time and went through a very bizarre customs procedure. We filled out
landing passes on the plane, walked through passport control. Got searched by a
guard. Blokes had a male guard, and females were touched up by a female guard.
After this a lot of women said they were touched up in the breast department by
the guard. We collected our luggage and proceeded to customs where there
was a more bizarre procedure. We had to queue up and press a button, if
the buzzer went off you had to open your case. Sod's law as it always happens I
would get buzzed. So i opened my case and the bloke didn't even want to know and
let me go on.
We met a First Choice travel rep and told her our
names and they told us which coach to load our luggage on. Upon loading
the luggage on the coach, First Choice had some local people set up a drinks
stand where we could have free soft drinks. We then set off on our journey
to our hotel/resort. We met First Choice's rep Justin De Vries and the
first stop being Dunes resort and the our stop the Hesperia Isla Margarita about
(45-50 mins coach ride from the airport). We arrived at about 21:30 and also
Justin informed us that we had a 9 o clock welcome meeting the following
We checked in, grand air conditioned lobby, got our
room keys, remote control, all inclusive wristband then proceeded to our rooms.
Our luggage was sent round by the boys. First impressions on the room was
great, we were greeted with a bottle of sparkling wine, plate of fruit and cakes
on the table, the room was big, spacious, clean, air conditioned had a massive
bed!! I tested the TV the remote control didn't work which didn't matter as such
as most the channels were in Spanish except a few which showed some films with
Spanish subtitles. (pics of hotel, view from rooms, sunset etc)
The time on Margarita Island was GMT (-5) so rather
than hit the sack and wake up at 3am local time we headed down to the buffet
restaurant (Puerto Viejo) for a quick bite and a quick drink and a quick look
around at the hotel facilities and also grabbed a safety deposit key for safety
deposit box. (US$ 50 deposit)
Woke up nice and early.. at about 6am.... looked
out the window and had a excellent view of the golf course, swimming pool, beach
and onto Dunes resort.... had a quick stroll outside to the pool area ..... then
breakfast at the Puerto Viejo restaurant. Breakfast consisted of salads, fruit,
toast, cereal, hot breakfast buffet. There was a chef on hand to cook
fried eggs and omelettes
Attended the welcome meeting at 9am sharp, where
Justin informed us newbies about Margarita Island, and the excursions. At
the meeting Justin informed us that we had to pay an extra US$ 38 departure tax
each. He also stated that Bolivars (Bs) could be exchanged on the black market
and was illegal and would cost you a five year jail term. First choice would
exchange Bs 1600 to the US$ 1. The hotel would only do Bs 1500 to the US$
1, the man in the souvenir shop did Bs 2000 to the US$ otherwise exchange at
Cambio where you could get minimum Bs 2350 to the US$.
We also booked our excursions .. we decided to go
for the 1) Landcruiser 2) Orinoco Delta/Canaima Angel Falls adventure 3) Sunset
cruise (First Choice Margarita/Venezuela excursions)
After the meeting we headed down to the beach..
which was about 200-300m walk from the swimming pool area. It was a nice
clean secluded beach. To the left of it you could see the beach at Dunes resort
and could get to that beach via the golf course. The sea was mostly calm but a
lot rougher towards Dunes beach.
Had lunch back at the restaurant at 13:30 then for
the rest of the afternoon sat by the swimming pool in the shade with occasional
dips in the pool to cool off. We met some of the Animation Group. The
blokes tend to wore yellow t-shirts with tight blue shorts and the ladies
leotards etc.. We met Esteban a bloke from the animation team who spoke
very good english and seemed to be doing a lot of Ali G impersonations and
The sun seemed to be extremely strong and lots of
suntan lotion was a must!! there's lots going on around the pool as the
animation team provide entertainment from 9am in the morning to late at night on
a daily basis. Activities included aerobics, stretching, diving, pool
volleyball, some fun and games, dancing, football etc..
In the evening we ate at the El Fogon where you
could eat from the buffet or order from the menu. We ordered from the menu
and items included dishes with chips... pizzas and pasta. The waiters were
generally nice but they seemed to take away plates rather quickly before Kim
finished eating or they seem to clear the tables rather quickly when we both
went up for our second helping.
Pretty much a relaxing day sitting in the shade..
caught the sun a wee bit too much the day before. Played pool volleyball in the
morning session by the pool, in the afternoon played bingo again.
Landcruiser day: we were picked up at 8:40
am by SAID who was an Indian. In our group was Steve and Wendy from Exeter
and we had to pick up two other ladies from the Laguna Resort. SAID spoke
excellent english, basically the excursion was a whole tour of Margarita Island
then heading towards Peninsula De Macanao in an air conditioned Toyota 4x4.
We headed off along the coast and SAID giving us brief history of important
landmarks and events as we drove by them. We drove past a government
building and he referred to that building as the mafia.. Ignoring the politics
the margaritians were either pro or anti Venezuelan depending on their social
class (that's another story for you to decide if you visit Margarita). (Pics: landcruiser excursion)
(map of Margarita)
Heading towards the Macanao Peninsula on the main
road leading towards the other island the tour reps said to keep a look out for
one of the land marks. 'Big tits' as the guides called it.. The big tits was two
big mountains sticking out of the middle of nowhere and now we understood where
the rep was coming from. (We found from our other excursion and many others that
people went on that the tour guides kept pointing out at this landmark... you
could even see it on the sunset cruise). Whilst driving on the peninsula
we noticed that it was a lot hotter, drier, desert conditions. The soil more
red. Lots of desert plants including three different types of cacti. There
was hardly any rain on this part of the island.
One of the first stops was at the Marine Museum
where you could see turtles and the north shark, and inside one building you
could actually pick up and hold starfishes, sea cucumber, hermit crabs, sea
urchins etc and watch the other sea animals in their tanks. Then we headed off
into the Macanao Peninsula and did a bit of offroading, had lunch at the beach
(choice of red snapper or steak). We had red snapper which tasted great, then
for a quick dip in the beach. Then we headed off to the protected national park of
La Restinga where we were off in a motorised boat for about 30 mins. On
this particular excursion we saw and held sea horses, starfishes and a crab then
headed back to land to finish off our excursion on the rest of the island back
to the hotel.
We drove past Juan Griego and SAID said that you
could have a lobster meal for two including wine for about US$25. And arrived
back at the hotel shortly before 18:00. A fantastic day of sight seeing,
lots to take in... Drinks were provided on this excursion including beers etc..
We tipped SAID at the end.
After landcruiser excursion we all headed down to
the spa to chill out. Towels were provided.
Lazy day at the pool (towels available at the
pool), and we used the gym - lol
Another lazy day at the pool.. Played bingo and won
it.. the prize being a Hesperia Hotel t-shirt, unfortunately I didn't win any
rum ;(. Also we headed off to the other beach that was nearby, Dunes.. To get
there you have to walk through the golf course and there is a path. On
there was locals selling wares and off course the Dunes resort. Took some photos
on their beach.. on that day the sea was quite rough and when it came in, it
almost swept Kim off her feet as well as some of the locals which was extremely
funny as we wasn't expecting it. In general the beach at Dunes was quite nice
but they definitely had rougher waves than over at Hesperia Isla Margarita
Orinoco Delta / Canaima / Angel Falls adventure
which included two days and one night away from the hotel. We were picked
up by minibus at the hotel at 07:50 fortunately there was 8 of us from the hotel
and that was the total amount of us for the whole excursion which was nice. (On
other times especially at peak periods the group could be as large as 20). We
arrived at the Porlamar airport to catch the 09:30 flight to the mainland which
was 45mins. We met our tour guide Alex who was Italian/Venezuelan and spoke good
english. (Pictures of aeroplane)
We got onto the 12 seater LTA single engine plane.
It was a smooth flight in the air we flew past Coche island, then as we flew
over the mainland the views were great. So much greenery/vegetation.. we
also saw the oil fields etc.
We landed and then took a small coach to part of
the Orinoco delta river via a few pit stops to get some refreshments and visit
the lavatories. The total time on the coach was about an hour and half, we drove
through a town then through the countryside, which was unbelievably flat and
very scenic. When we got to meeting point at the river we got into a
Indian canoe with a big fat engine on it. (pics
from Orinoco Delta)
It was an unbelievable sight seeing the native
Indians living by the river just underneath the main road. So basic commodities
and they seem to enjoy it and they did have an electrical supply as one
household had a TV, another had a fridge. The kids couldn't have been more than
5 were climbing trees and jumping off the branches into the river, swimming,
canoeing etc it was great to watch.
The canoe ride was about an hour and 30mins into
the jungle to get to the camp. Alex said that we had travelled about 98km.
On the way to camp we saw red monkeys, pretty blue butterflies, numerous birds.
At the camp we had lunch, did a bit of kayaking
which is worth it if you want to do it. The accommodation was pretty basic, you
get a room with toilet and a shower, there is no air conditioning but there is a
ceiling fan and electricity. It was great. At the camp was a parrot
and a turtle and a cat.
At about 16:30 we headed off onto the boat deeper
into the delta, armed with mosquito repellent (lots of it!!!). We stopped off
for a breath excursional chat with Alex about the history of the place. We
did a spot of piranha fishing, I caught two and Kim caught 1 but the Indian
caught 8!! This was particularly fun as you can feel the piranha gnawing/chewing
away at the bait but it was hard to actually catch the fish on the hook! Alex
caught the largest piranha of the day and then showed us his jaws! They were
unbelievable sharp almost like sharks teeth.
After a while we saw fresh water dolphins, then the
Indian and Alex could hear a bear in the river. We stopped fishing and just
caught a glimpse of the bear getting out the river and heading back into the
background. We headed out into a big lake.. which at the bottom was rich in oil
but the government had decided to protect the nature and ordered out the oil
diggers. Here we had snacks and drinks then it got dark and we could see
lightning in the clouds. Once it was dark all the mosquitoes were out, we
could see the odd bat and on the odd occasion we would hit a shoal of sardines
and they would jump into the boat. The sky was beautiful... all the stars were
crystal clear and you could see Orion's Belt etc... We could see Jupiter which
was the brightest star in the sky.
We then tried to find the Cayman.. We didn't see
any but the Indian could spot them.. He managed to catch one but then it got
away.. heading back to camp there was a rather large one hidden in the
vegetation. We couldn't see it but some other people could it was too large and
too deep to get out. The Indian was amazing with his night vision and how he
spotted the Caymans from that far out was any ones guess but it was an amazing
During the excursion we stopped off in the middle
of the river and the engine was turned off... To listen to the background noise
in the jungle was a unique experience.. The animals in the background were quite
We headed back into camp just before 21:00 everyone
bursting for the toilets and bitten (except Kim) by mosquitoes and had dinner.
We had a very nice evening meal and some piranha that we caught earlier in the
day. Then we set off to bed as we had a 04:00 start the following day to the
Upon going back to the rooms we came across two
toads, one was the size of a size 4 mitre delta and the other about three
quarters the size. Apparently the cat gets a bit cheesed off with the toad
and it usually eats his meal for him, ie meat or fish or whatever is on offer.
Alex came knocking on our doors at 04:00,
surprisingly we slept quite well, left the fan running all night as well as the
light (energy saving bulbs). Had a shower and breakfast. We got back on the
motorised canoe and headed back to the bridge. In pitch darkness the Indian
navigated us until the daylight started to emerge.
Back at the bridge where we set off the day before
we were greeted by the Indians with their wares. They had hand woven
baskets for Bs 5,000 -10,000 we bought a small one. They were all made
with expertise so pick carefully. We tipped the Indian boat driver then jumped
back onto the coach to the airport.
Some of us slept on the coach.. the mainland seemed
a lot more civilise than Margarita island. Quite a culture shock but intriguing.
Back on the plane we flew to the Canaima National Park (one hour and 45 mins
Just before we landed as the weather was good we
flew over Angel Falls (the highest waterfall in the world).. before that the
scenery was amazing, the landscape, mountains, vegetation the numerous
waterfalls. We flew twice over Angel Falls as it was getting too cloudy we
landed at the national park's airstrip. (Pictures
of Angel Falls etc)
We paid our Bs 8,000 each entry then a short walk
to the camp where we had breakfast. We left our belongings there and headed out
onto the beach onto another dug out Indian canoe. Here would go across the
lake seeing three water falls (three famous waterfalls of the Canaima Lagoon),
then walking over to the fourth waterfall through the tropical forest to the El
Sapo waterfall where you could walkthrough it, underneath it and the other side
and take pictures. (ie the scene from Last of the Mohicans). (Pictures
of Canaima Lagoon)
Underneath the waterfall we took photos and could
see where they filmed Jurassic Park, wow it was amazing!! Walking through the
waterfall was amazing too, there's no words to describe it the thunderous water
pounding on your head. Steve said this experience was ten times better than
Niagara Falls. This was one truly great experience and an excursion to do.
We had an Indian guy accompanying us he was great help with the ladies guiding
them through the slippery rocks. When they held his hand his grip was firm
but you knew that the ladies would be safe. Respect! (I tipped him for his help)
Afterwards we headed back to camp for lunch, then
flew back to Margarita Island. Unfortunately when we departed from the airstrip
it was raining hard, Angel Falls was too cloudy to see so we headed straight
back to the island. Upon landing we each heavily tipped Alex our tour guide
throughout the two days.
Conclusion of the Orinoco Delta / Canaima Park /
Angel Falls excursion : Absolutely fantastic breathtaking experience,
thoroughly enjoyed and won't forget and definitely an adventure of a lifetime.
nb: take mosquito repellent and use it, don't
forget to put the repellent on your face ;). On the Orinoco Delta evening trip I
got bit by mossies 76ish times in total. About 30 of them just on my face
alone!! You don't need to take malaria tablets if you go on this excursion
either just the standard normal injections are safe. Also although drinks are
provided its best to take a bottle of water.
When walking to the El Sapo (4th waterfall) its
about 1.5mile trek. You can go at your own pace even Wendy that had surgery on
her knees earlier in the year made it so its not as if its heavy hiking etc.
One word of warning, approaching the waterfall it can be quite slippery so wear
something that has some grip ie sandals or trainers (sneakers for those in the
US). And don't forget to apply mossie spray/repellent after walking out
the waterfall cos there are mossies around on the trek back.
2nd October -> 8th October
Spent most the time between the pool and beach. At
some lunchtimes we would eat at the beach restaurant where they did fantastic
burgers. In the evenings as it was low season the hotel only being 20% occupied
the only restaurant that was opened was the El Fogon. Here especially in
the second week we suffered from lack of variety of food. Recycled salads, and
often the same menu ie spaghetti bolognaise, the standard of food was going
I stress that the standards only dropped since the
evening meals where held at the El Fogon and since the occupancy at the hotel
fell due to it being the end of the high season. In the first week we
couldn't fault the food. However the second week it stood out a bit more, maybe
we was getting bored with the food etc.. but certainly at times if you did not
time your seating right you could end up with cold or warm food.
At times at the bar and the meals it would be funny
if they got your drinks right, if you had a tea or coffee you would be lucky or
extremely lucky to have a hot one.
During the day at the swimming pool, poolside
activities rolled on, it seemed a bit repetitive at times and the music was
quite loud. I don't blame the animation team at all they all seem to enjoy
their job starting work at 9am and often finishing at 11pm and beyond.
In the morning we went shopping to the Sambil Mall.
We missed the courtesy shuttle bus as it was on time and they didn't call for us
in reception so we took the taxi down which was BS 12,000 each way. There
was a shopping mall.. to be honest we didn't buy much apart from a few handy
craft items ie butterflies to go into our bathrooms. Depending on the
exchange rate you got you could bag a bargain. Its a little bit more
expensive than the other shopping centre further down town but this one had the
advantage that it was air-conditioned and all inside. And also no hustle
and bustle from the locals asking you to buy their wares.
In the evening we had our complimentary meal at the
Vandelvira restaurant - the al la carte menu. The food was ok, some of the
items off the menu was not suitable for Kim but they tried their best for her.
For starters we had fish soup, the other soup being
pumpkin cream soup. Then appetizers it was a king prawn with its head on on
Caesars salad with parmesan cheese. Then we all had tenderloin. The food
was ok but the trouble was that all the food seemed to be rushed out, and not
enough time for the food to digest and absorb the flavours. It was nice to be
waited on and not eat from the buffet I guess
Kim had some sort of food poisoning, some allergy
to food she had eaten at both breakfast and lunchtime. We had to call out the
doctor mostly because I was worried that Kim might have had a nut or something.
But to me it seemed like a dodgy cheese contamination on the food job.
Anyway the doctor came, fed Kim a steroid table, pumped some hydrocortisone
injection to stop her itching in her vein and also prescribed medication for
her. He was a good doctor the best from what the reception staff told us.
We paid him US$50 and well worth it as Kim was on
the mend. The reception phoned up the pharmacist for the medication and
they delivered to the hotel which was pretty good. It only took about 10 mins
for the medication to come in the end.
am - lazed by the pool/beach
In the pm we went on the sunset cruise
excursion. Sailing from the port of Juan Griego there was 20 of us on a boat
heading along the north west coast of Margarita Island to the tip of the island
where we would go for a swim in a secluded private beach. The beach was
nice and the water calm.. the sea water was extremely salty. The only
complaint about the beach was the rubbish that was left there by others that had
been there before us (a shame really same as monkey beach in Malaysia). Then we
headed back on the boat for some snacks and fruit.
If you was lucky you could drive the boat.. the
crew members were great and up for a good time. Then we saw the sunset from sea.
(pics from sunset cruise)
Then went back to the hotel
lazed by the pool/beach
am - lazed by the pool/beach
checked out at 12 - Kim wanted to catch the last
few minutes of the sun's rays as she could so we did. We had lunch, then
decided to use the spa/jacuzzi facilities one last time and obviously use their
shower there to get cleaned up before our final flight home back to Gatwick via
We got picked up at 17:00 then left for the people
at Dunes resort, then we got to the international departure terminal. Had to pay
US$13 each at the check in point and another US$25 each for the departure tax.
As we were queuing up the inbound flight from Gatwick arrived and was on the
other side of the screen.
Walked through the x-ray machine, duty free and
restaurants were upstairs, so i bought Kim some stuff to eat and bought some
cigars from the shop. Most items here were in dollars.
We left the gate and before boarding the plane, we
were searched once more by male and female guards. (Again the females complained
that they had their boobies touched by the female guard). All hand baggage
was searched briefly (They dint take much care with fragile items and
they also didn't search the hand baggage thoroughly). We boarded the plane with
the people bound for Aruba, took off at 19:55 and landed in Aruba an hour
earlier. As we were flying over the island it looked a lot more built up.
We got off the plane and walked into Aruba's duty free area for refreshments.
Duty free here was a little bit more expensive than in Margaritta but there was helluva lot more duty free items to buy including Louis XIII brandy.
We boarded the plane again at 21:55 local time and
set off to Gatwick, the flight was ok a bit turbulently at the beginning until
we got back into Europe.
Margarita Island was a fantastic island, at the
Hesperia Isla Margarita hotel we enjoyed fabulous sunsets. I think the
hotel was specifically designed to enjoy the sunset. In fact the sunset
from the hotel was better than the sunset on the sunset cruise.
The location of the hotel was just right.. it
wasn't a busy hotel so obviously much better if you wanted a quite holiday with
not a lot of people. The period we went for was just coming to the end of high
season and the hotel occupancy was at about 20-25%.
Food: Breakfast was great, there would be a
chef that would cook omelettes and fried eggs in the morning. Lunch was quite
good both at the beach bar and in the restaurant. At lunch times the chef
could also cook fresh beef, chicken, pork or fish on the grill. (On one
occasion there was beef kebabs). In terms of evening meals if the main
restaurant was opened then the food would be ok. Otherwise during low occupancy
periods obviously during our second week, evening meals tended to be in the El
Fogon and the quality and variety of food really suffered. Often the food
was cold, recycled. Especially with love for spaghetti bolognaise which
sometimes tasted bland. Kim and I lost our appetite about 3-5 days before the
end off our stay and waiting to get home to have proper food at my fathers
Unilever: We found that at one of the
weekends during our occupancy Unilever Venezuela would send employees and their
partners to the hotel to chill for the weekend which isn't bad. I wonder where
Unilever UK send their employees for their weekend breaks.
Currency: Take dollars, if you want a better
exchange rate then money is more valuable than cheques. Exchange at the Cambio
at the shopping malls. However by all means take US$ traveller cheques, you can
use this to pay the tour operator for excursions. For small items we found that
it was better to pay in Bolivars (ie souvenirs) and for larger more expensive
(ie jewellery, etc) items we found that it was better to pay in US dollars.
People: The reception staff were great,
polite, and friendly and courteous. The bar staff needed some organisation but
they were still quite nice. The waiters were generally good except a few
minority. The animation team were friendly and very hardworking, always making
sure you get involved if you wish, and respecting your wishes if you do not wish
to participate in their activities.
Excursions: All excursions were worth their
money. The Orinoco Delta/ Canaima / Angel Falls was definitely value for money,
with three flights included we wondered how the operator made their money.
Transport: With petrol/gasoline being as
cheap as it was out there taking taxis everywhere on the island was normal. Also
the daily courtesy shuttle bus into Porlamar shopping malls. (Be there
ontime as the driver will leave on the dot.)
Hotel: Overall I would rate the hotel 4
stars. In my opinion it just fell short of 5 stars but nonetheless its a
good hotel with a fantastic lobby. We were told by our tour rep that
Hesperia Isla Margarita was one of several hotels to have air conditioning in
Golf Course: Despite the weather conditions
ie being hot and not much rain, I guess its in pretty good nick.. not exactly St
Andrews but don't forget its a third world country and with its extremely hot
weather I guess its only natural for parts of the course to be in brown.
Safety Deposit Boxes: US$50 deposit on
arrival but get that back at the end and it costs US$ 19 for the keys.
Rooms: We often left the air conditioning on
during the day and when we got back for the evening or bedtime we turned off the
system altogether. As even on its lowest setting we were freezing.
Unfortunately we didn't get time to visit the beach
at Playa el Agua or eat out much.
Rainy season: We went just as the rainy
season was ending. To be honest whilst we was on the island and on the mainland
we didn't come across any rain at all. Whilst on the beach we could see it
raining on Dunes beach resort but only for about 10-15 minutes.
Margarita people: Very friendly, safe to walk through streets but stay on well lit
populated roads. The woman are ok.. a taster would be that Venezuela have
won more Miss World's than any other country and you'll soon find out why.
If you have any questions about Hesperia Isla
Margarita hotel, or First Choice excursions you can email me
nb about the hotel: Can always get new bottle of water from behind the
bar, beach bar, reception. towels are provided for the spa, gym, swimming pool
Would appreciate it if you signed me guestbook
(c) Cheester - no responsibility or liability can
be accepted for information used on these pages