To the Guarauno Indians, Orinoco means "a place to paddle". For the last 7,000 years or so, the Guarauno (Guarau- Warrau-Warao) have inhabited the swampy delta Amacuro and parts of Guyana and Suriname.
Their very name means "boat people". Warao kids learn to paddle a congo (dugout canoe) before actually walking. Their huts are built on stilts on the water. In fact, the name of the country itself: Venezuela is named after that.
When Alfonso de Ojeda - first one to explore the Orinoco river after its discovery by Christopher Columbus - he saw how they lived, and named the place "Little Venice".
Its name conveys much more than a "place to paddle" though.
Orinoco river is the world's third largest in terms of water volume, after the mighty Amazon river and the Congo river, in Africa - formerly known as Zaire river. It's also one of the longest in South America.
Actually, the top five rivers of South America (by length) include..
It flows west, then north - thus creating the border with Colombia - to finally head all the way to the east, receiving over 200 tributaries before discharging in the Atlantic ocean.
It's composed of four geographical zones...
The Orinoco river delta, comprising an area of about 41,000 sq km is also known as Delta Amacuro, name of the Venezuelan State located right there.
Sitting in the middle of it - between los caños Macareo and Mariusa - lies the Delta del Orinoco national park, one of the 43 of Venezuela.
With a tropical and wet climate, rainfall can reach up to 2,000 mm annually.
In fact, during rainy season - May through November - the river rises over 12 meters (40 feet) high.
The Orinoco wetlands ecoregion is composed by swamp forests and mangroves, moist forests and flatlands.
Home to several endangered species such as Amazon pink river dolphin, capybara, bush dog, Orinoco crocodile, jaguar, giant river otter and Orinoco goose.
They are mainly threatened by oil extraction, water diversion and dam construction as well as the increasing pressure added by population growth...
So you don't want to miss Orinoco river in your next Venezuela holidays.
Ciudad Bolivar is a great spot to organize both, your visit to Canaima National Park (including Angel Falls) and the Delta Amacuro. By the way, try and make it to the "Castillos de Guayana", about five hours away, it will give you superb views on the river.
Both castles (fortresses) were built during the times of Spanish domination.
San Francisco de Asis (1682) and San Diego de Alcala (1747) provided protection to early Spanish settlers from both, bucaneers and natives alike. They are located about 40 km away from Ciudad Guayana.
Ciudad Guayana (historically Santo Tomé de Guayana -1595 - first Spanish settlement) was recently born, but soon became the fastest growing city in Venezuela.
It was actually created in 1961, by merging two towns on both riversides of the Orinoco river: San Felix and Puerto Ordaz, not far from Ciudad Bolivar, about 80 km away.
Orinoco river certainly is a beautiful way to spend your Venezuela holidays...and your South America vacations altogether!..
Buses depart from "Terminal de Oriente", with several options: "Expreso Caribe", "Expreso San Cristobal", "Expreso Los Llanos", etc.