IntroductionAside from the Andes and the Gran Sabana, Venezuela's most notable physical feature is Los Llanos, a nearly 800-mi/1,609-km stretch of grassy plains that extends from the Orinoco River west to Colombia. Los Llanos constitutes almost a third of Venezuela's landmass and nurtures one of the most diverse groups of wildlife in the Western Hemisphere: There are some 300 species of birds, 20 reptile species and 50 species of mammals, including the ubiquitous capybara, or chiguire, the world's largest rodent. Other, less commonly seen animals include otters, jaguars, monkeys and crocodiles. During the dry season, December-April, Los Llanos is a natural destination for birders and nature enthusiasts. Visitors generally stay at ranches, or hatos; the most popular are Hato Pinero and Hato el Cedral. These ranches consist of private lodges that have television, air-conditioning, and separate dining and recreational facilities, although they are not luxurious by any means. Tourist packages available from these locations range from three to seven days in length and include transfers to and from the airport, three meals a day, fishing and hunting, Jeep and horseback rides, and treks with experienced guides.
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