The Orinoco River is made up of around one hundred tributaries and distributaries that flow through the jungles of Venezuela and Colombia before terminating in the Orinoco Delta. This vast water basin covers 15,500 square miles of wetlands and swamp forests in eastern Venezuela, and drains into the Atlantic Ocean. The Orinoco Delta makes up one of the nine geographical regions of Venezuela, and contains an astonishing amount of biodiversity.
Every day, tides cause the Orinoco Delta to flood with salt water. This creates the perfect environment for mangroves. Fruit trees and orchids can be found deeper in the Delta, making up tangled forests that experience seasonal flooding. Anacondas, piranhas and caimans swim through the flooded forests, and sea creatures such as dolphins, seals and mantas make their way in with the tides as well. The treetops are alive with parrots and howler monkeys, and predators such as jaguars, pumas and ocelots prowl through the forest, searching for prey. The flora and fauna of the Orinoco Delta is a biologist’s dream, and includes species that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
The Delta is inhabited by the Warao people, who live in distinctive villages where the houses are built on stilts to avoid flooding. The lifestyle of the Warao is intimately connected to the water, and Warao children often learn to swim before they can walk. They are expert canoe-builders and fishermen, and also cultivate gardens where they grow fruits and vegetables. In more recent times, some of the Warao have made a living by acting as guides to adventurous tourists who want to discover the wonders of the Orinoco Delta for themselves.