Situated just eleven degrees above the Equator and approximately 80 nautical miles north of Caracas, Los Roques is an archipelago encompassing forty-two coral reef islands and hundreds of sandy cays or islets. Because this reef is home to a wide variety of seabirds and rich aquatic life, the Venezuelan government declared Los Roques a National Park in 1972, limiting commercial development and preserving the natural beauty of the area for years to come. The reef may be called Los Roques, or "The Rocks", but in fact there are very few rocks here beyond the cliffs of El Gran Roque. Powdery sand and sun rule these islands. Lacking mountains to catch clouds and rain, Los Roques is also very dry. Although cooling trade winds blow consistently most of the year, the hot climate limits vegetation to cacti, mangroves, and leafy ground-covering plants. On this protected park you will see iguanas and turtles nesting on protected cays. The only mammal here, beside the domesticated kind, is the fishing bat. There are over ninety-two species of birds, including the blue-eyed brown booby, pelicans, laughing gulls, frigate birds, terns, lapwings, plovers, and great blue-and white-necked herons. Over half of these migrate to North America in the summer months. Occasionally, pink flamingos find their way here from Bonaire and mainland Venezuela.
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