This is a trip that has been in the planning for four years now. In 2012 it was Hurricane Sandy up the east coast of the US that cancelled the trip, then in 2013 it was an election in Venezuela... then, starting in 2014, the destination has been filling up with tourists and reporters coming from around the globe to witness this natural occurrence... Now finally, due to a cancellation from a German Media Company, my friend, Alan has opened up a few days for me and four guests in 2016...
So, I'm really excited to announce that I am finally going to photograph something that has been on my bucket-list for a long time. A centralized lightening cell that sits 80km off of the camp we stay at,... in an area rich in wildlife and great culture in the floating city of Ologa.
Day One (November 1, 2016) - Arrival in Caracas and be taken to hotel by private driver. We will have a group dinner and stay in Caracas
Day Two (November 2, 2016) - Today we travel to El Vigia by domestic flight in the morning. We get picked up at airport in El Vigia and taken to our destination near Ologa for your first night of the Catatumbo Lightening Phenomenon.
Day three to Day Five (November 3 - 5, 2016) - We are at Ologa photographing wildlife and landscapes during the day and the lightening at night.
Day Six (November 6, 2016) - We travel back to Caracas and will stay at hotel in Caracas.
Day Seven (November 7, 2016) - You will be taken to Caracas International Airport for your flights home.
The Catatumbo Lightening tour starts in Caracas, Venezuela. When your international flight lands you will be met by a private driver and taken directly to our hotel.
Together we will gather at the hotel and have a group dinner and get some rest before we depart the next day for El Vigia.
We will be picked up at the hotel and taken directly to the airport to se can board our domestic flight from Caracas to El Vigia. At the El Vigia airport we will be met by Alan Highton, our guide and a good friend of mine.
The first few hours' crosses, by car, the flat lands of the Maracaibo depression. Cattle, plantain and fruit farms adorn this landscape. It is our policy to visit some local stalls along the way to buy some of their produce. That way we contribute to their economy and you can enjoy different tastes of the tropics.
In the early afternoon we begin our wildlife adventure. The first 5km. of our boat trip goes through dense flooded forest. Howler monkeys are common along with iguanas, butterflies and different species of birds. This forest is part of the Juan Manuel national park, 2,300 sq. km. of nature reserve.
Wildlife observation is a thing of luck. Along with the common animals, there is always the chance to observe some very special fauna. Other lucky sightings are otters, ocelot, capuchin monkeys, tamanduas, caiman and other illusive species.
By the mid afternoon we are crossing the biggest lake in South America; the Maracaibo Lake. With a surface area of 13,000 sq. km., this lake is like the ocean... and on our way, lets stop and pick up some soft shelled crab from one of the local fisherman for our barbecue tonight.
The Sotalia fresh water dolphin is a regular in these waters. Pelicans, osprey, terns and many other maritime species of birds are seen. More than 130 species of fish can be found in this basin.
Our destination for the next four nights, the wonderful floating city of Ologa, one of the most photogenic villages in Venezuela. Most of the houses are on stilts with coconut trees and, as the day descends, the towering clouds of the Catatumbo lightning phenomenon show themselves. The village and the lagoon, of the same name, are a visual paradise.
During our visit, on 75% of nights, a relatively distant lightning show can be seen around Ologa, in the early evening. These flashes are red, due to their distant nature. This is good time for a barbeque dinner, meat or vegie, and some drinks and deep conversation that leads to an early siesta... because what usually happens 3 out of every 4 nights after midnight for a few hours is the main reason we are here... the Catatumbo Lightening show that centers over the lake near the city of Ologa.
This phenomenon of the Catatumbo is a wonderful story. It occurs at least 10hrs a night and 280times in an hour, with the phenomenon happening 120 - 140 days a year between the beginning of June and the end of November.
It is a natural phenomenon which only happens at this one particular place and is responsible for approximately 15% of ozone production on earth.
The first written mention of the Catatumbo lightning was in the epic poem "La Dragontea" (1597) by Lope de Vega, which recounts the defeat of English raider Sir Francis Drake.
History books actually now show the lightning has played a significant role in Venezuelan history, helping thwart at least two nocturnal invasions of the country. The first attempt was the aforementioned failed 1595 landing of Sir Francis Drake when it revealed his surprise attack to Spanish soldiers in Maracaibo. The other was during the Venezuelan War of Independence in 1823, when it betrayed a Spanish fleet trying to sneak ashore.
All of the photos we take on this site will be one's storm chasers around the globe will be jealous of... the kind of lightning photos they spend years attempting to take as they follow storms across the US Midwest... but here, we will sit lakeside, barbecue fired up with soft shell crab and steak cooking as the lightening show passes in front of us.
The camp we stay at is basic. There is one room with bunk beds and space for hammocks for those that want to swing themselves to sleep ;-). But we do have showers and flushing toilets. ;-)
My friend, our guide and camp owner, Alan Highton says, "This is not 4* luxury but the 5* magic in front of your lens is something that you will not see anywhere else" .........
Details of the Workshop:
Only Four People Can Attend This Year
Price of Workshop is: $2995USD
Deposit required to secure your space: $750USD
Balance of workshop due August 1, 2016
Included: All accommodation during workshop, airport pick up and drop off in Caracas, all meals during workshop, bottled water and soft drinks during workshop, photography teaching while at Catatumbo.
Not Included: Items of personal nature, traveler's insurance, alcohol, entrance visas if required, extra days if required.
Gear Suggestions: DSLR, wide to medium telephoto lens with large aperture of f2.8, sturdy tripod, wired remote or wireless remote, lightening trigger for best results, rain cover for camera, 300mm to 400mm focal length for wildlife.
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