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In addition to the lodges listed in this guide, most of the tour agencies in Mérida arrange trips to the Llanos. Price wars are waged on the streets of Mérida. However, by opting for the cheapest options you may find yourself in an overcrowded van and sleeping in primitive conditions. That said, 4-day, 3-night tours from Mérida run between BsF1,500 and BsF4,000 per person; the price includes transportation, meals, and a variety of tours. The price range generally reflects the level of luxury you'll find in transportation and accommodations.

Isolated Lodges, or Hatos

Hato is the local term for a very large expanse of land. It designates a ranch or farm much larger than a finca or a hacienda. With the international boom in ecotourism, hato has also become the local term for an isolated nature lodge. Hatos in Los Llanos range from almost luxurious lodges -- with boats for river and lagoon excursions and large, open-air safari-style trucks for land tours -- to basic camps with a zinc shelter over a concrete slab where hammocks are hung inside mosquito nets. Tours at the more basic hatos are usually conducted by foot or horseback and, occasionally, in boats.

Choosing Your Hato -- Both Hato Piñero and Hato El Cedral are long-standing nature lodges, with capable and bilingual guides offering a steady stream of wildlife-watching tours. At each, you will see enough birds, mammals, and reptiles to keep you pinned to your binoculars and reeling off shots on your camera. However, they are different: In a nutshell, Piñero will give you greater diversity (of species), while El Cedral will give you greater density. Piñero is considered a better spot for spotting jaguar and other wildcats, although their spotting is still extremely rare. You can sometimes spot as many as 100 different species of birds in 1 day at Piñero. On the other hand, the sheer number of capybara at El Cedral -- more than 50,000 -- is mind-boggling. Moreover, El Cedral is perhaps the best spot for spotting anaconda, particularly in the dry season.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.