Landing on the Airstrip Hot
LOS ROQUES "In The News"
Los Roques: Seeing stars on the sleepy lagoon, continued...
Los Roques is the Caribbean's best-kept secret, and the A list knows it, says Andrew Thomas reporter from London times.
We landed on a sandy airstrip on Gran Roque, the only island within the archipelago with accommodation or anything approaching physical height. After collecting my bag from the plane's boot, I walked the 90 seconds from runway to residence: Gran Roque, in common with all the islands, is all but transport-free. Two small trucks, one to deliver water and a second to take rubbish away are the only petrol-driven vehicles allowed. There are no cars and no motorbikes, just the odd electric golf buggy. Not that there's a golf course, the islands are far too chilled out for that.
The stars come to Los Roques for the sea, not the tee. Boats, sailing, fishing, diving and posing are the be-all and end-all of the islands. Every night, mini-flotillas shelter in the calm waters between shores, gently rocking their passengers to sleep. The early morning brings the waterborne activity: fishing boats deliver their nightly catch, shuttles take tourists to other islands, yachts are rigged for another day's cruising. More decrepit vessels bob in the swell, little more than resting craft for pelicans between raids: the birds periodically taking off to dive-bomb the water, targeting fishy prey with a precision military tacticians dream of.
The pelicans are an impressive sight, not least for their ability to hold firm despite a constant and powerful breeze. Though the islands are away from the Caribbean's hurricane belt, strong trade winds are a perennial presence on Los Roques; tough for those trying to shelter under flapping sunshades, but great for those who sail.
Sailing around Los Roques is like cruising Greece in miniature island-hopping, with smaller islands and shorter hops. I spent 24 hours on a 53ft yacht Obsession, time enough to fly-fish for barracuda, snorkel alongside turtles and sail to three islands; Nordisqui, Celuisqui and Selesqui. The names are Spanish phonetic versions of the English originals like Northeast Cay, St Louis Cay and Sailors Cay. It's almost as if the Spanish cartographers, realizing the islands' star quality, set out to confuse a 16th-century posse of paparazzi. >>