Exuma Cays

Forty kilometres (25 mi) south-east of the Bahamian capital Nassau is Beacon Cay, the first of 365 cays belonging to the Exuma chain. The Exuma archipelago continues 150 km (90 mi) southwards in a gentle curve, ending with the two main islands of Great Exuma and Little Exwna. The islands are sparsely populated, mainly by conch fishermen, but offer a wonderful environment for yachting, sailing, diving, and coral reef and cave exploring. Some of the cays are just barren chunks of reef, others are islands with densely vegetated rolling hills, caves and grottos to explore. The Exumas are famous for their pristine beauty, outstanding anchorages and breathtaking marine environment. Under the clear turquoise waters are beautiful natural gardens of coral teeming with fish and lobster. With the excellent water visibility and abundant marine life, the cays are popular with divers and underwater. photographers. Much of the area, including large tracts of offshore reefs, are protected as part of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, the first national marine park in the world. There are many endemic species within the park, including the Hutia, the only terrestrial mammal native to the Bahamas. Iguanas forage unmolested and sea turtles lay their eggs on undisturbed beaches without interference. The no-fishing policy means there are plenty of species to discover in the sea, but perhaps the most intriguing are the stromatolites, blue-green, reef-forming algae. Stromatolites are the oldest living creatures on earth, with some fossil reefs dating back 3.5 billion years.
Exuma was settled in 1783 by American loyalists fleeing the Revolutionary War who established a number of cotton plantations in the cays. George Town, the biggest settlement in the chain, was IS named in honour of George III, to whom the settlers maintained their sovereignty. One Loyalist settler, Lord John Rolle, was a major figure in the islands' heritage. On his death in 1835, he left all of his Exuma lands to his slaves. This led to a number of towns on Great Exuma being named after him (such as Rolleville and Rolletown). Today, George Town is a quaint village surrounding Lake Victoria, boasting a safe natural harbour. The harbour attracts boats from all round the world, and hosts the Family Island Regatta each year. The population of George Town grows from about 1,000 to more than 20,000 as teams from all over the Bahamas arrive to race around the harbour in traditional wooden boats. Hotels in Bahamas

Isla de Margarita

Margarita is mostly as brash as it is beautiful, Caribbean in looks and climate but completely South American by temperament. With 170 km (106 mi) of coastline mainly endless white beaches, breathtaking coves and picturesque, rocky headlands, and a lush interior where the bromeliads, orchids, palms, bamboo and thick giant ferns have been elbowed aside for passion fruit, guava, bananas and sugar cane, it's no surprise that the island is Venezuela's top holiday destination. It's just 60 kIn C 40 mi) from the mainland, and big enough at 78 km (49 mi) long to get lost in, despite the highly developed agglomeration of malls, high-rise housing, traffic and colossal duty-free warehouses on the Paraguachoan (east-side) Pertinsula. This intense urbanization, creeping out from the main coastal cities of Porlamar, Pampatar and Juan Griego towards the much smaller inland capital Asuncion, is made palatable by the determinedly carefree, pervading atmosphere. The casinos and night-life are really good, throbbing with 24-hour merengue and salsa in the crowded streets and on popular beaches like Parguito, Caribe and Puerto Cruz, next to huge tourist complexes. Constant balmy trade winds make Playa El Yaque in the south an international Mecca for windsurfers. For solitude, tranquillity and romance, you go west, to the Macanao mountains and dozens of small, deep valleys blazing with hibiscus and morning glory against the jigsaw of tropic green, sky and sea. To get there, you cross Margarita's central isthmus, a 10, 000 hectare (25,000 acre) wetland maze called La Restinga National Park. Oysters cling to mangrove-roots along the canals that thread this wilderness paradise of yellow-shouldered parrots and blue-crowned parakeets, and you might see ocelots in the dappled shadows. Eventually, the dozens of lagoons lead you to a 60 km (40 mi) sandbar of crushed coral and seashells. Hotels in Margarita Island
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