Picture yourself on warm white sands with the waves tumbling onto the shore beside you; water so clear you can make out the sand at the bottom, and the sun shining in a cloudless sky up above. Welcome to El Guamache, the sole port on Isla Margarita off the coast of Venezuela – home to striking wildlife and natural beauty, and the gateway to one of Venezuela's most popular sites of pilgrimage.
Visitors around El Guamache and the wider isle will find that the emphasis is very much on the life aquatic – whether you're spending time amongst the marine wildlife in the beautiful national parkland nearby, or browsing the exhibits of diving equipment, aquariums and skeletons on display in the Marine Museum. Alternatively, you may have the option to travel further afield to the beautiful Church of Our Lady, or dine out in popular Porlamar.
La Restinga National Park
Find starfish, crabs and seahorses in the lagoon of the magnificent national parkland, where you'll find yourself surrounded by mangrove forests and brightly-coloured birds. Some shore excursions could offer you a tour of the parkland, with the option to take a tour on a small boat across the lagoon and its adjoining canals. This trip could be the perfect chance to get some photos of the region's pelicans, cormorants, cranes and parrots in their natural habitat, or even hold one of the large red native starfish in your hand during your boat tour.
Museo Marino de Margarita
Visitors may get the opportunity to visit the charming, villa-style Marine Museum during their time on Isla Margarita, home to numerous aquariums and exhibits of turtle, squid and even whale skeletons. You'll also find comprehensive displays highlighting the gear needed for deep-water diving in decades past, including underwater cameras and breathing equipment – as well as fascinating displays of marine life, particularly the native crustacean variety.
Basilica Virgen del Valle
This beautiful church lies further afield from El Guamache in El Valle, but is well worth the journey if you get the opportunity to see it on your next cruise around Isla Margarita. The basilica stands on a chequered town square, and is a favourite attraction for tourists and devout Venezuelans alike. The church's main appeal lies at its heart – a statue of the Virgin Mary, thought to be the oldest in South America, standing in an enchanting smaller space reminiscent of the sea. Here the Virgin is particularly venerated as a patron of sailors and fishermen, and with such a strong maritime tradition on the island this church regularly draws large crowds of visitors.
Shopping in El Guamache (Isla Margarita)
As Isla Margarita's one and only port, you won't struggle to find souvenir shops nearby once you step off your ship in El Guamache. A quick look around the harbour will reveal a number of shops, many of which specialise in locally-made glass dishes, pendants, necklaces and earrings, as well as crosses and even Christmas trees.
Eating Out in El Guamache (Isla Margarita)
El Guamache offers visitors a choice of bars where they'll be able to get a drink and a snack, although the island's eateries tend to be concentrated around the much larger town of Porlamar. Here visitors will find a much wider choice of restaurants; enjoy freshly-caught tuna with locally grown herbs, or dig in to a slice of homemade coconut cheesecake with a glass of wine or a coffee liqueur.