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5th February, 2014

El Guamache, Margarita Island.

Today MV Saga Sapphire spent the day visiting Margarita Island, which is located off the north cost of Venezuela and is also known as ‘the pearl of the Caribbean’. We started our transit of the narrow channel between the Island and the Mainland of Venezuela at 4:30am this morning and I was on the bridge for this passage due to the narrow confines of the channel. As we approached the Port of El Guamanche, the pilot boat sped out towards us just before the berth, and after carrying out the usual exchange, I proceeded to take the ship towards the pier. This morning started of grey wet and windy and the berthing was quite challenging with the fresh breeze trying to stop the ship berthing by blowing it away from the quayside. But using the engines and the rudder and the Bowthruster, I managed to get the ship into position and the crews fore and aft started sending their lines ashore to keep the ship alongside. There was a tug available and was compulsory so we had to take it, so as we were holding the ship against the wind, I asked the pilot to get the tug to push us and keep us in position. However the tug had gone so basically we were forced to take the tug, we paid for it, but it did nothing!!. Not a good feeling for a frugal Scotsman!

We were all docked alongside for 7:45am in the port of El Guamache and the nearest town was located approximately 15 miles away, however there was a beach conveniently located just next to our berth and passengers were able to wander along to spend a relaxing day by the seaside. The walk from the ship to the beach was a pleasant one with many stalls to browse and locals to chat to. This was an ideal time to buy souvenirs for loved ones at home.

Many passengers booked one of our shore excursions today to see a bit more of the island. The ‘Discover Margarita’ tour gave a real insight into the history of this island. Passengers visited a small town called El Valle which was the birthplace of Venezuelan hero, Santiago Marino. Passengers also went to the historic fort of Santa Rosa where passengers learnt about Luisa Caceres de Arismendi, a heroine of the War of Independence against the Spanish. This was the site where she was detained for three years in a darkened dungeon while her husband Juan Bautista Arismendi was fighting for independence. The ‘Natural Wonders of Margarita’ took passengers to La Restiga which was declared a national park in 1974 and covers 115,000 acres. It is a haven for pelicans, white herons, cormorants, hawks and white ibis. Passengers boarded a traditional ‘peñero’ a small motorised craft which holds 6-8 people. They travelled through the natural canals and beneath the dense canopy of mangrove trees. This was a great way to see the birdlife, flora and fauna of this varied and unusual eco-system. The final tour on offer today was ‘Pueblo de Margarita & Los Jovos’ which gave an insight into rural island life. The visit to this replica of a typical old Venezuelan village showed examples of hand built mud buildings including houses, artisans’ workshops and chapel. Passengers on this tour also tasted the local sugar-cane and some of the fruits that are grown here.

All were back on board by 5:30pm and we set sail for our fourth port of call in the Caribbean Islands. Passengers are looking more and more sun-kissed as the cruise continues with temperatures averaging 29C each day. The Perfect Mood Duo played out on deck as we sailed away from Margarita Island. After dinner we welcomed to Cabaret Showtime Maria King with her beautiful voice and personality. We also showed our evening movie out on the open deck, where passengers enjoyed a movie under the stars in this beautiful Caribbean climate.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.