This unique adventure is a remarkable blend of adventure and learning that will take us exploring a stunning country having once in a lifetime escapades, whilst gaining a fantastic knowledge of the Spanish language and South American culture. Based in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, this program will take us on a voyage of excitement through a country filled with spectacularly beautiful scenery and a rich tapestry of dramatically different landscapes from wild snow capped mountain peaks to the exotic golden sands of over 1,750 miles of Caribbean coastline.
Our main base will be a Caribbean Lodge on one of Venezuela’s most beautiful beaches, Playa Colorada (literally ‘the beach of many colours’). From here we will embark on amazing adventure travel expeditions to explore remarkable caves and caverns, trek to the top of the world’s highest tabletop mountain, kayak under the lush canopy of a rich jungle delta, go on a jeep savannah expedition, meet uniquely preserved indigenous tribes, wander the streets of historic cities, and dance to the beat of exotic Latino! Our opening and closing weeks of adventure will be spent on the shores of the Caribbean, sea kayaking to remote islands, playing a variety of beach sports, and swimming in Caribbean waters amid a kaleidoscope of tropical fish.
There are 7 start dates each year and students can enrol for 3,4,5,8,12 or 24 weeks. Over the course of 24 weeks we will fit in 200 hours of Spanish lessons around our adventure for the day, with learning designed to be interactive and spontaneous. Rather than being cooped up in classrooms we will take our Spanish lessons in the open air of South America to make speaking Spanish seem entirely natural, thus progressing our written and oral communication from the very first day. Our Spanish skills will progress so much during our time here that for eight weeks we will be able to interact naturally with the local community as we work on local community volunteer projects. As well as improving our Spanish, aiding an under privileged yet extremely beautiful part of the country will also give us the opportunity to help with some extremely necessary and worthwhile local volunteer projects, gain some amazing new friends, and take home amazing memories and stories to tell for years to come.
Our prices are very comprehensive with no hidden extras! We can also assist booking your internal flight from Caracas to Barcelona (where we will provide complimentary airport transfer to our Caribbean Lodge on Playa Colorada).
START DATES Remainder 2015: 5th Oct, 30th Nov
START DATES 2016: Jan 11th, Mar 7th, 2nd May, 27th June, 25th July, 3rd Oct, 5th Dec
Upon request we can assist with process of earning Academic Credit.
Weeks 1,2 and 3 - Learn Spanish, kayak to remote Caribbean islands, swim in crystal waters, rock climb, abseil down a waterfall, explore mysterious caves and caverns, see the rounded mountains of Caripe and explore the flourishing Guacharo National Park.
Our plane touches down in Barcelona where a Jakera representative will meet us and take us to our new home amid the coconut palm trees of the Playa Colorada. Here we will spend the opening fortnight of our adventure learning Spanish, visiting local islands, going on a kayaking adventure, learning to rock climb and abseil, and immersing ourselves into the local culture and atmosphere with some Salsa and Merengue dancing classes!
Each weekday morning we will fit four hours of intensive Spanish tuition around our daily adventure with lessons designed to teach Spanish in a natural and spontaneous fashion by imitating the way people acquire their mother tongue. The lessons are comprised of four 45-minute sessions with 15-minute breaks and focus on developing student comprehension of the four main language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Speaking Spanish from the very first day and practicing it in specially designed exercises such as role-plays, situational dialogues and work projects, will improve vocabulary and accent whilst giving students the confidence to actively use and improve their Spanish outside the classroom. Visiting the area’s vibrant markets and beautiful surrounding towns will provide the perfect opportunity to interact with native speakers whilst immersing us in the area’s colourful South American culture.
Outside Spanish lessons’ we will also get the opportunity to practice our adventure sports skills as we embark on a variety of exciting adventure activities. We will perfect our sea kayaking technique, learn to climb, and even get the chance to abseil down a waterfall! Our culinary skills will also be improved and expanded when we are taught how to cook the delicious local dishes such as Catalina, Calamari, Arepas and Pabellon. A three-day kayaking voyage will take us exploring the beautiful islands that are scattered along Venezuela’s coastline in the warm crystal waters of the Caribbean Sea. At each island we visit we can explore, relax on the golden sands and snorkel in the brilliantly clear waters seeing a kaleidoscope of tropical fish, soft corals, seawhips and dolphins, before camping on the deserted beaches and falling to sleep to the sound of the sea.
We will then head to lush mountains of the Caripe to visit Venezuela’s most famous cave and first natural monument, the Cueva Del Guacharo. The 6.38-mile length of cave harbours incredible stalactites and stalagmites, and is long considered to be one of the most complete cave ecosystems on earth. The limestone cavern is home to a vast array of wildlife that includes a spectacular colony of huge Guacharos birds, the only nocturnal bird species on the planet that feed on fruit. To conserve the cave-system and natural feeding ground of the birds, the Guacharo National Park was created, meaning over 242 square miles of beautiful lush vegetation lie stretched out before you when you emerge from the cave. We can go trekking in the nearby mountain areas, or can explore the surrounding area visiting coffee plantations, fruit and vegetable farms, and the lively local markets famed for selling delicious locally grown strawberries topped with cream!
Weeks 4 and 5 - Explore the Orinoco Delta seeing an abundance of wildlife, kayak to remote Warao settlements, and learn to survive in the jungle like a Warao Indian.
Our fourth and fifth weeks will take us on a spectacular adventure to kayak along the Orinoco River in the Orinoco Delta; an area fringed with beautiful mangroves and freshwater swamp forests. The delta is home to a great variety of species of fantastic scientific and biological importance, which will give us sightings of river otters, crab-eating foxes, the rare manatee, and an amazing colourful spectrum of birds that include parrots, toucans and macaws. The Orinoco Delta is also the home of the Warao Indians, an indigenous people inhabiting thatched roof huts built on stilts along the fertile delta. ‘Warao’ literally translates as ‘The Boat People’, referring to the Warao’s intimate connection to the Orinoco River, where babies often learn to paddle in a ‘bongo’ (a wooden canoe) before they learn to walk.
Living from the river and fertile delta, the Warao are masters of fishing, farming, and weaving, using their skills to turn plants into baskets, hammocks, and other fine products. Visiting the Warao families will give us the rare opportunity to sample their way of life, learning how to cook in clay cooking pits and weave basket trays. Our guides on this unique adventure will also show us how to survive in the jungle with lessons that include how to forage for food, fish in the delta, cook our catch, make shelters to sleep in at night, and live in the spectacular scenery the way the Warao’s have for centuries.
Weeks 6, 7 and 8 - Play beach sports, snorkel in crystal waters, enter a volleyball competition, visit historical cities filled with history, go on a Jeep safari to see the magical Tepuis Mountains and trek to the top of Mount Roraima
Continuing our Spanish course, we will expand our vocabulary, hone our grammar, improve our confidence, and get more and more fluent in the wonderful language every day. We should be progressing well and be able to have basic conversations with each other and the area’s inhabitants, which can be put to good practice when we learn how to play volleyball and enter into a tournament with the local community! In the afternoons’ we can explore the area, snorkel, play sport on the beach, swim in the gorgeous warm sea, kayak, abseil, or just relax soaking up the impressive weather of Venezuela.
As well as possessing stunning beaches, scenic deltas and impressive mountains, Venezuela also contains amazingly beautiful cities filled with history and culture. We will take a trip to Cumaná, a busy maritime city that boasts one of the largest tuna fleets in Venezuela, situated at the mouth of the Manzanares River on the Caribbean coast. Cumaná was the first city to be founded by Europeans on the South American mainland, and still possesses a beautifully wide variety of colonial style architecture including a large old Spanish fort named the ‘Castillo de San Antonio de la Eminencia’ (‘Castle of Saint Anthony of the Eminence’).
Leaving Playa Colorada through Barcelona we will then embark on a weeklong Jeep Safari into the mystical highlands of Venezuela to visit indigenous settlements, witness the amazing array of huge waterfalls scattered along our route, and travel through the amazing Tepuis (huge vertical 3000 foot table-like mountains that stand as isolated islands in the Sabana). Known to local people as ‘Houses of the Gods’, the Tepuis are the wild, beautiful home of the Pemon Indians, which remain largely unexplored. During our eighth week, we will hike to the summit of the world’s largest tabletop mountain, Mount Roraima. Being the location that inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, we will embark on an adventure with the same excitement, having ‘no doubt that our leader will make good his statement… that we are really on the eve of some most remarkable experiences’ (The Lost World). Each day on this beautiful route to the top of the mountain, we will have our dinner under the stars and fall to sleep in tents listening out for dinosaurs! Our 5-6 day journey will take us passing stunning waterfalls, unique rock formations, and through cloud forests until we reach the summit. The top of the 3,000-foot Tepui will be our home for two nights so we may fully experience the amazing environment with its moon-like appearance and out of this world views.
On our way home we will spend part of the day in Brazil where we will celebrate our conquering of Mount Roraima with a traditional BBQ type feast, and visit a local town called La Lina where we will get chance to do some shopping and relax.
Weeks 9, 10, 11 and 12 - Volunteer in the community
Now we have mastered the basics of Spanish our language skills will be put to the test, as we get involved in one of the variety of community projects that take place in the area. Though we will no longer have Spanish classes, every day we will interact with native speakers of Spanish using Spanish as the main language in which we communicate, which is always the most effective way to learn and master any language.
The variety of community projects ongoing in the area that we can be involved in includes;
Teaching in the local school. We teach subjects such as sport, geography and English to local children, and providing basketball and football pitches for local poor children.
Working in a newly constructed community centre for the village (recently completed by volunteers). Where local children are taught English, health and safety, local and global geography classes, sports, children’s educational games. As well as this there are evening classes for adults.
Marine Conservation Project. Where we can contribute in a group form to a particular marine based problem, such as; Awareness / promotion to local boat owners and beach visitors on marine awareness. Beach Reconstruction where we will help to clean beaches, repair local buildings and traditional shelters.
Tree Mission. Where we can educate the local community about the dangers of deforestation, replant trees in the natural environment (working in the nursery and in the field) and maintaining the walkways in the area.
Getting involved in such essential projects will give us a true sense of achievement, as we help this underprivileged region of Venezuela. To be able to stay, work, aid, and learn from these communities is a rare opportunity and great honour. It will completely submerge you in the language and culture of Venezuela, whilst allowing you to make a huge difference to the local community.
Weeks 13 to 20 - Volunteer in community projects and get work experience
We will then have the opportunity to choose which volunteering project or work experience placement we are most interested in undertaking for the next eight weeks of our Venezuelan adventure. There are a rich variety of worthwhile projects to choose from, which include teaching English in the area’s schools, helping with National Park Programmes, guiding tours, aiding with the management of hotels, bars and restaurants, building and constructing local amenities, teaching adventure sports activities, taking photographs, and even reporting as budding journalists. If there is a different subject you are particularly interested in (which will be discussed early on in our stay), we will try to find you a similar project.
Depending on our choices will mean we will either stay in our camp at Playa Colorada OR our Posada in Merida OR live with host families, giving us a rare opportunity to fully immerse ourselves in the culture of the South American communities.
Our range of volunteering opportunities will allow us to gain a range of knowledge and plethora of skills, whilst helping vitally required sustainable schemes in extremely poor parts of Venezuela. The projects we may also get involved in include:
Helping a foundation for street children
Students will join other volunteers and workers in aiding some of the area’s poorest children. We will be included in the foundation’s staff rota, with duties that include cooking, cleaning, putting the children to bed, coaching sports, and creating and organising your own extra activities with the children. Extra activities in the past have included teaching English, German, art, music, and even taking children on ice-skating excursions! Any new fun and creative ideas are welcome and actively encouraged, as we believe the ‘hands on’ approach to the programme gives people a greater opportunity to actively help the local community whilst changing individuals’ lives.
Working at a zoo / aquarium
Any keen wildlife enthusiasts will have the opportunity to choose from helping with the underwater activities of a local aquarium, or aiding with the animals of a local zoo. Students will help to feed the animals, clean their living quarters, maintain the upkeep of their home, and accompany Phillipe (the English speaking vet) on his rounds.
Teaching at a Warao Indian school
The Warao Indian School was created to give the children of the families working or living in the vicinity of the lodge a better chance to integrate into society, whilst maintaining their roots in lessons dedicated to learning about the Warao culture. Students will assist local teachers with their daily activities and lessons in the school, and help out in the lodge in the evenings.
Weeks 21 and 22 - Trek from La Paragua to Canaima, visit isolated villages, sleep in the wilderness, and see Angel Falls
It’s back on the road once more to spend one week trekking from la Paragua to Canaima, an area so remote that it is not uncommon to see illegal gold dredging in the rivers or spot panther tracks along our route. We will rest at isolated villages along the way, where we are often the first foreigners the inhabitants have ever seen. Each night we will eat dinner before falling asleep under the stars to the sounds of nocturnal South America.
Week twenty-two will be based in the village of Canaima where we will refresh our Spanish teachings with some more Spanish classes during the day. In the afternoons we can explore the village and surrounding national park, a stunning location that attracts adventurous tourists from all over the world. The Canaima National Park is teeming with a spectrum of wildlife, spectacularly powerful waterfalls, and ‘Auyantepui’, the mesa on which the highest waterfall in the world, Angel Falls is located. There will be an optional overnight trip to visit Angel Falls (additional cost of approximately USD 150) and see the spectacular 807 metre uninterrupted drop of water, before concluding our week with a flight back to La Paragua that will give us remarkably stunning views of this uniquely beautiful area from the sky.
Weeks 23 and 24 - Relax at Playa Colorada, play beach sports, and celebrate completing our amazing adventure
The final two weeks will return us to the warm sands of Playa Colorada, where we will be able to relax and soak up the sunshine to fully rejuvenating ourselves before our flight home. A further 20 hours of Spanish lessons will allow us to demonstrate how far our knowledge of the Spanish language has progressed since we landed on Venezuelan shores six months previously. We can also play some beach sports, go on kayaking adventures to the surrounding islands, snorkel in the beautiful waters to see the stunning marine life, abseil, or get involved in any other seaside activity we desire. There will be some amazing parties to enjoy which will not only allow us to perfect our Salsa technique, but will also provide the opportunity to say farewell to the friends we have made and the country we have made our home, before the sun sets on our unique Venezuelan adventure.