Ocean Explorers Society

Ilos de Los Roques

Laura Mankoff, now one of our long-distance members, sends this trip report from Ilos de los Roques, off Venezuela. Laura writes:

Hi everyone!

Just thought we’d share with you our unexpected trip to the isle of Los Roques, Venezuela we just did this last week. We were fortunate to fill in two spots on the live-a-board M/V Antares Dancer III after another couple had to back out. We had three days to prepare and go.

What a wonderful trip it was. Bob had been very skeptic of live-a-boards and I was having a hard time getting him to agree to do one and now he is like, “I could do three of these a year!” Sometimes you just have to push them a bit…

We spent a week diving the Archipelago of Los Roques about 150 miles off the coast of Venezuela, South America. Grande Roque was our home base island. Very quaint, with about 200 residents. Of course everyone comes to the airport to see who has arrived. The language is Spanish.

It was absolutely beautiful. The houses. although close together, were colored in pastels and were neat and clean. The tourist stuff was expensive. We did better at the airport in Caracas where we landed on the mainland. Spent altogether about 12 hours there. Not much fun…

The diving was outstanding. The turquoise colored waters were beautiful and clear (most of the time). We suspect that the visibility had to do with the time of the year. In one area, the vis wasn’t great at all as the reef was very damaged by the last hurricane, Dennis. Lots of silt all over the reef, suffocating it. It was pretty sad to see it happen.

As we moved to several other spots, the conditions got better along with the visibility, which never got better than 60’, however the reef was beautiful, virgin and pristine. Not much damage to the reef at all. The hard corals and soft corals were enormous, towering above you. The fish life was also amazing. Literally freeways of creole wrasse in the millions would be swimming everywhere. Of course, none wanting to pose for a picture.

They were busy feeding on the plankton rich water, hence the lesser visibility. There were reports from other in our group that spotted eagle rays were around. Bob and I saw one the whole trip. But then we had our noses in the reef taking pictures. There were nurse sharks and lots of moray eels, 10 pound lobsters everywhere. But we needed permits to catch them. I would imagine they would put up quite a fight.

Water temps could have been warmer too. Avg. temp was about 78 degrees. We all complained and by the end of the week, none of us wanted to put on that cold wetsuit one more time. Our last dive was a pre-dawn dive. Yep we made the crew get up at 5:00am to take us diving. Apparently, a tradition started by a couple of our diver friends on other trip. The parrot fish were just starting to wake up from their little cocoon’s.

Bob and I took lots of pictures. Had some developed on board. The crew explained our group of 12 was the youngest group they had on the ship. Of course this made of all feel pretty good, as our group age ran from 24-44. At least we weren’t the oldest of the group. The crew went out of their way for all of us. Apparently we were the friendliest group to come aboard. It may have been our own group dynamics as we all knew one another pretty well to start with so no one was a stranger on the trip.

I’m still swaying from the swells which probably got as high as 4 feet. We dived from a 34 foot tender boat which was just big enough and spacious enough that we weren’t all over one another. The M/V Antares Dancer holds 12 passengers and 6 crew. The meals were wonderful. We kept teasing Rafael that we wanted him to come home and cook for us. We had to settle for a picture of him and the rest of the crew.

Bob unfortunately didn’t make the last two dives, although became “Iron Bob” for doing the 5 dives a day. Most everyone else took a break and sunned themselves on the upper deck, but not Bob. On Thursday morning after our second dive, he slipped leaving the tender to the Antares Dancer and sprained his ankle. So he was out for the rest of the dives.

The rest of us decided not to do the night dive that night and Juan Carlos our Dive Master was very happy to have a break. Poor Bob was feeling pretty bad. With no doctors around, we waited til we got home to take him to the ER for xrays. Luckily no broken bones, just a bad sprain.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience. We needed badly to get away and after my boss was stuck in California for an additional week due to the snow were received here and I had to work the store alone, dig out the parking lot and try to keep things going, he had no problem with me taking the week off for this trip.

So.... all you diving enthusiasts out there, the Antares Dancer is a great live-aboard. You’ll love the crew and diving. Best time of year would be May when waters are warmer and vis a bit better, but for those of you used to cold water, 78 degrees is probably warm for you. I’m looking into tropical dry suits next. I can’t stand the cold.

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