12 Enchanting Facts About Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela
Lake Maracaibo is a vast lake in the Maracaibo basin in the northwest of Venezuela. It is one of the largest natural lakes in South America—and one of the oldest bodies of water in the world!
Many rivers flow into Lake Maracaibo including the Catatumbo River. The northern part of the lake has brackish water, while the southern part is freshwater. Read on to learn about Lake Maracaibo’s history and importance.
Why is Lake Maracaibo Important?
The earliest people to settle in Lake Maracaibo were the indigenous Guajiros. European explorers discovered the bay in 1499. Amerigo Vespucci named Venezuela after Venice in Italy.
Lake Maracaibo is both a bay and a lake, which makes it different from many other bodies of water. During Venezuela’s War for Independence, it was the location of the Battle of Lake Maracaibo in 1823.
El lago de Maracaibo (Lake Maracaibo) is one of the world’s richest oil producing areas in the world. Many pipelines run under the lake and transport the oil into storage tanks. Most of Venezuela’s petroleum production comes from Lake Maracaibo.
12 Enchanting Facts About Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela
Learn more about this fascinating natural wonder in Venezuela with these 12 fun facts.
1. It has a rare lightning phenomenon.
Lake Maracaibo is the most famous lightning hotspot in the world. Its weather is one of its main attractions. Nighttime thunderstorms have an average of 230 lightning strikes per 0.3 square miles.
This natural phenomenon is Relámpago del Catatumbo (Catatumbo lightning). The pink color that illuminates the sky is an epic sight to see. Many believe it’s due to the brackish bay that opens to the Caribbean Sea.
A quarter of the population of Venezuela lives here. Lightning is dangerous and many people die each year because of it. The lightning occurs about 300 days per year where Lake Maracaibo and Catatumbo River meet.
2. It’s shallow.
Like most large bodies of water, Lake Maracaibo is a transportation artery.
The lake is quite shallow, making it challenging for ships to navigate. In the 1930s, they dredged the lake. By 1957, the depth of the channel finally accommodated large ships.
3. It’s one of the oldest lakes on Earth.
Lake Maracaibo is one of the oldest lakes in the world. That’s why it has a rich geological history. It’s one of the largest fossil fuel reserves.
Nowadays, more than 15,000 miles (24140 kilometers) of oil crisscross the lake floor. When it was booming, about 90% of Venezuela’s economy came from oil and the lake was one of the main sources.
4. It was the site of a 19th century battle
The “Naval Battle of the Lake” occurred in 1823. José Prudencio Padilla led the battalion against the Spaniards and, against all odds, won. This guaranteed Venezuela’s independence. That’s why the Battle of Lake Maracaibo was crucial for the country.
5. It’s a lake and a bay.
Lake Maracaibo is not only a lake but also a bay. It also has a narrow strait that separates the north and south parts of the lake.
Its topography suggests that Maracaibo used to be a river that dried out and was then flooded again by the postglacial rise in sea level. That’s why the lake isn’t as deep as many other lakes around the world.
Check out the map below:
6. Cabimas lies on its northeastern shore.
The city of Cabimas, Venezuela lies on the northeastern shore of the lake. It is an important center for the Ambrosio oil fields.
Cabimas’ economy also includes cattle raising, agriculture, and fishing. Some of its main crops are cassava, sorghum, and maize.
7. It is one of the richest petroleum-producing regions.
Lake Maracaibo isn’t one of the largest oil producing regions in the world! The lake’s first productive well from 1917 extends 20 miles (32 kilometers) down into the earth.
The lake basin supports most of Venezuela’s petroleum output. After investments from the U.S., the Netherlands, and the UK, the petroleum industry in Venezuela was nationalized in 1975.
8. It’s full of duckweed.
Oil causes many environmental problems and pollution. Lake Maracaibo has been infested with duckweed since 2004. The government of Venezuela has spent approximately $2 million per month to clean up the lake. Venezuelan oil companies also provide funds to clean up the lake.
Although the duckweed doesn’t look bad, it affects the ecosystem and the animals living there. Currently, the only solution is to manually remove the duckweed. Overgrowth of duckweed leads to a lack of oxygen in the lake. This, in turn, suffocates marine life.
9. It has economic importance.
Most of Lake Maracaibo has shallow water. A canal enables ships to access the ports of Cabimas and Maracaibo.
It isn’t just enchanting to look at but a gold mine for Venezuela thanks to oil and fishing. It is rich in resources. Tourists who come to see its lightning also helps the economy of Venezuela.
10. It’s a favorite destination for both locals and tourists.
The lake is accessible for international tourists to get there and take a tour of the lake. The incredible lightning display captivates visitors. The city of Maracaibo is well developed, and the lake is a sight to see!
11. Getting there is easy.
Traveling here is surprisingly easy; there are even direct flights from Florida. Once you arrive at Maracaibo, decide which lake tours you’d like to take. People say that visiting the lake is a mystical and unforgettable experience.
12. Lake Maracaibo has incredible biodiversity.
Many mammals live in this rich region of Venezuela, including the opossum (Marmosa xerophila) and the vesper mouse (Calomys hummelincky).
They are dry habitat animals due to the dry forests in Venezuela. Colorful marine animals like the Guiana dolphin and birds such as hummingbirds, chestnut piculet, and black-backed antshrike live there.
Travel to Venezuela and Practice Your Spanish
Lake Maracaibo is full of wisdom, wonder, and culture. Are you ready to visit Venezuela for an unforgettable experience full of lightning and nature.
An incredible reason to learn Spanish is to become a translator or interpreter and travel for a living! Spain, the United States, and many countries in Latin America are looking for interpreters and translators. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, interpreters and translators are among the top five fastest growing occupations, and the opportunities in these fields are expected to increase by 46% by 2022. Why not learn Spanish and advance your career as you travel?
There’s no better time than now! Sign up for a free Spanish class before your trip to Venezuela and get on the path toward fluency today.
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