Location: 12 km from Caripe, Monagas state Map
Area: 627 km²
Tel. 0292 641 7543
Entrance Fee: $6, kids $3
Open: 8am- 4pm
Cueva del Guácharo National Park is located 12 km
from aripe in Monagas state of Northwest Venezuela. This national
park covers an area of 627 km² and protects the delicate ecosystem
of Guácharo Cave that also gives the name to this nature reserve.
Guácharo Cave is largest natural underground system that measures a
total of 10.2 km (6.3 miles) in length. One of the first visitor of
the cave was famous German (Prussian) biologist Alexander von
Humboldt. Cueva del Guachara gets its name from guacharo birds or
oilbird that live inside. This nocturnal bird lives in the cave
system by day and leaves it to hunt by night. It has a radar
location system similar to bats to navigate underground as well as
night rain forests. You can camp out at the entrance to the cave and
watch these beautiful rare birds leave the cave around 6pm and come
back early in the morning around 4 am.
You can get here by bus or by getting a car from Caripe or Cumana, closest large settlement close to the cave entrance. Try to keep your voice down then you enter the cave. Many of its local inhabitants like oil birds and bats might be scarred by loud sudden noises. The temperature inside the cave usually remains at the comfortable 19 °C with humidity up to 100%. Although the whole underground system measures over 10 km in length only small fraction of this is open to the public.
The Guácharo Cave was visited by Alexander von Humboldt on September 18, 1799 by the German naturalist, although previously it was constantly visited by indigenous people of the Chaima Ethnic Group, the Guácharo cave was important for this ethnic group and represents an important part of their beliefs, and where the piaches also carried out their rituals; "shamans" of the ethnic group, is located 4 km from the closest town, which is Caripe del Guácharo, north of Monagas State, right in the Cerro Negro sector of the Caripe massif. It is located at an altitude of 1065 m, with an average annual temperature of around 21°C, it is considered to be approximately 10.5 km long. It is carved out of sedimentary rocks that were formed 130 million years ago in the Mesozoic era in an ancient sea. The sea withdraws as a result of the lifting of the earth's crust, giving rise to the Eastern Massif. Water erosion produces leaks that originate a whole network of branches and interconnected galleries. Throughout the cave there are many galleries or rooms, among which are: the Great Hall of Landslide, the Hall of Alén, the Precious Hall, the Hall of Silence, the Hall of Giants, among others.
The total extension of the cave is not known exactly, which constitutes a great mystery and gives rise to many myths.
One of the outstanding characteristics of this monument is that it serves as a habitat for the guácharo (Steatornis caripensis), a bird with nocturnal habits adapted to live in the dark, which only leave the cave at twilight and at night when they go out in search of food. Some bats, insects, rodents, arachnids and beetles also coexist in this ecosystem.
The Steatornis caripensis or guácharo is a frugivorous bird that inhabits the first gallery of the cave, it comes out at night in search of food. Its name is onomatopoeic, it is derived from the Quechua waqay (scream or cry), due to its characteristic song. Its color is brown with black and white spots, a long tail, and bristles around the beak. It measures about 19 inches long, and they have about a 36-inch wingspan. The guácharo produces in the cave an organic layer called guano, formed by vomited seeds and excrement that constitutes the basic nutrient of the cave ecosystem. The most important daily event in the park occurs in the afternoon when the birds leave the cave in large flocks to look for food. This same species gives its name to another natural park: The Cueva de los Guácharos National Natural Park on the western slope of the Cordillera Oriental, in Venezuela. A large amount of food for these birds is found in the remote environment of the cave and in other places; The Mata de Mango area is particularly important, in the Caripe River Middle Basin sector. In the nocturnal flight, the guácharos travel up to 120 km away to search for fruits and fatty seeds, especially in the non-breeding season, while in the breeding season they search for food within a radius of about 40 km. So the guácharo leaves the cave daily in search of food; it does so by flocks of thousands of individuals. It then returns to digest and feed the chicks. Approximately 10,000 specimens are estimated inside the cave.
Other typical animals of the place
There is a wide variety of birdlife within the Park, consisting of approximately 370 species of birds, among which are; chivi cabecigris, Fafao gargantiblanco, Pica Flores Negro, Pico de Frasco Esmeralda, among others. There is also a variety of mammals, such as the Araguato monkey, the puma, the cinchated peccary, the tapir, the caramerudo deer, among others.
The mountainous landscape, with rugged relief, given by a very dense hydrography that results in narrow valleys limited by strongly inclined slopes. There is a very common tree, the copey and Clusia alata. Among others are the Laurel, the guayabito, the paneco and the platanillo. Associated with these trees are tree ferns and a large number of epiphytes and climbers. Orchids or the so-called flower of May abound; recognized as the National Flower of Venezuela.