Relampago del Catatumbo... The Catatumbo lightning Phenomenon

 Photo courtesy of our partner in Venezuela, Alan Highton

Photo courtesy of our partner in Venezuela, Alan Highton

They say there is something strange in the air where the Catatumbo River flows into Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela...

For 160 nights out of the year, and lasting as long as 10 hours at a time, the sky above the river is illuminated by almost constant lightning. This lightning phenomenon produces as many as 250+ strikes per hour.

Known as the "Relampago del Catatumbo," this lightning storm has been raging, on and off, for as long as people can remember. Actually, the first recorded writing was in a 1597 poem "The Dragontea" by Lope de Vega.

De Vega tells of Sir Francis Drake's 1595 attempt to take the city of Maracaibo by night, only to have his plans foiled when the lightning storm's flashes gave away his position to the city's defenders. This happened again on July 24, 1823, when, during the Venezuelan War of Independence, Spanish ships were revealed by the lightning and defeated by the Simón Bolívar's navy.

The lightning, visible from 400 kilometers away, and is so regular that it's been used as a navigation aid by ships and is known among sailors as the "Maracaibo Beacon."

It's still unknown exactly why this area should produce such regular lightning. One theory holds that ionized methane gas rising from the Catatumbo bogs is meeting with storm clouds coming down from the Andes, helping to create the perfect conditions for a lightning storm.

With a total of roughly 1.2 million lightning discharges per year, the Relampago del Catatumbo is thought to be the world's greatest producer of ozone. As the lightning rips through the air, it produces nitrogen oxide, which is broken down by sunlight and converted into ozone.

This lightning, while not our only focus on our trip to Venezuela, provides a fantastic bookend for the beginning and the end of our time together. In between you will enjoy time at our bed and breakfast in the Andes Mountains. Here we will explore the micro climates of the various valleys and give you the opportunity to photograph many indigenous species such as hummingbirds and the beautiful  Violet-tailed Sylph.

To learn more about the trip with Tim Vollmer and Kevin Pepper please visit,


Kevin A Pepper

Kevin is a photographer and educator based in Waterloo, Ontario. His first love is photographing nature, regardless of the season or weather condition; the Ontario landscape and its wildlife are his inspiration. But you will also see other styles of photography in his portfolio. From street photography to urban exploration of abandoned buildings and architecture, he loves to capture it all with his camera for his corporate clients and his growing personal portfolio. Kevin’s images have been featured in Canadian Nature Photographer, PHOTONews Canada, Photo Technique Magazine, The London Free Press, The Weather Network, and National Geographic Online. His diverse client list includes the City of Cambridge, Olympus, GORE Mutual, TVO, and African Lion Safari. Kevin also operates “Northof49 Photography”, a company launched in 2012 dedicated to teaching amateur photographers through International and Canadian-based workshops. In the coming year, Kevin will be leading workshops in Iceland, Mongolia, Tanzania, Venezuela, Provence, and numerous destinations across Canada. Website: