The approximately 30,000 km² park extends in the southeast of the country on the border with Guyana and Brazil. It is located in the Guiana Mountains, a high plateau made of granite and sandstone with table mountains. In the dense rainforest there are spectacular waterfalls such as the Angelfall (Salto Ángel), the highest waterfall in the world, as well as the Salto Kukenam and the cascades of the Canaima lagoon.
Canaima National Park: Facts
|Official title:||Canaima National Park|
|Natural monument:||National park partially populated by the indigenous people of the Pemón (estimated to be up to 10,000 people) (since 1962), 30,000 km² between Río Carrao and Lema Mountains (northern border), the Pakaraima Mountains to the Brazilian border in the south, the Río Venamo and the Roraima Mountains in the east and the Río Caroní in the west; 65% of the park is taken up by table mountains (»tepui«); Part of Canaima are Gran Sabana (800-1500 m), the sandstone plateau of Chimantá and Auyán-Tepui as well as the world’s highest waterfall “Angel Fall” with a drop of 1002 m|
|Location:||on the border with Guyana and Brazil, south of Ciudad Bolívar|
|Meaning:||Due to weathering unusual geomorphology – called »tepui« – and high endemism as well as protection of the Río Caroní, with whose hydropower 60% of the national energy is generated|
|Flora and fauna:||up to 5000 types of flowering plants and ferns as well as 500 types of orchids are known, as well as Tepui vegetation such as Drosera roraima and Utricularia humboldtii; 118 species of mammals such as giant otter, giant anteater, giant armadillo, forest dog, ocelot and long-tailed cat, as well as 550 bird, 72 reptile and 55 amphibian species|
Point of God in the Park of Evil
For the Pemónes they are the holy seats of the gods, for the geologists one of the oldest mountain formations in the world. It is the table mountains in the tropical southeast of the country that the Parque Nacional Canaima, founded in 1962, protects on the borders with Guyana and Brazil. The so-called Tepuis, made up of sandstone, quartz and agglomerate, come from a time when Africa, together with America, still formed the major continent of Gondwana. The initially contiguous area of the South American Guyana shield was later cut into individual blocks by persistent rivers.
Out of awe of the gods, the local ethnic groups never dared to climb the strangely shaped table mountains, mostly between 2000 and 2700 meters high, because they did not want to desecrate them through such deeds. Luminous quartz, reminiscent of freshly fallen snow crystals, cover the weathered sandstone surfaces, and numerous rivers furrow the rocky plateaus with their course. On the Tepuis you can find numerous vegetation islands with mostly only plants occurring here.
Splashing waterfalls “sail” unchecked from the peaks into the depths. The most spectacular is certainly the highest waterfall in the world, the Salto Angel, discovered by the American bush pilot James Crawford Angel in 1935, called “Churún Merú” – “big water” – in the language of the Pemónes. It is located in the north of one of the most attractive table mountain massifs, the heart-shaped Auyán Tepui, which is surrounded by the tannin-colored rivers Carrao and Akanán.
Angel had actually flown to this area because of the disdainful gold. Twelve years before the “Angel’s Fall” was discovered, he had been sitting in a hotel bar in Panama City with no commission and no prospects when a mining engineer hired him to search for gold in Venezuela according to philosophynearby. Together they found the “gold-bearing” river; but despite persistent attempts, Angel never saw him again alone. During his last reconnaissance flight, he had to make an emergency landing on the Auyán-Tepui. Fortunately, he was accompanied by the most famous biologist in Venezuela at the time, Félix Cordona Puig, who knew the descent. This is how the western world learned of the existence of the highest waterfall in the world, which fully deserves its name.
The southern edge of the Auyán-Tepui delimits the primeval gorge landscape of Kavac. Groves of Buriti palm trees, wide grasslands and savannah spread further south. Countless rivers criss-cross the wide plain, lined with loose gallery forests and a multitude of epiphytes, shrubs and lianas. The numerous table mountains are particularly impressive, and one that bears the name “Sleeping Indio” actually reminds of the face of a resting Indian. Like guardians over the day and night, two table mountains are placed in the east and west of the national park, which the Pemónes call the sun and moon.
Lush framed by ferns and mosses, the waterfalls Kamá-Merú and Chinak-Merú pour into the depths. The Quebrada de Jaspe is an extraordinary feast for the eyes, in which a transparent river bubbles over a bed of pure jasper. The “mother of all waters”, as the Tepui Roraima is also called tellingly, discharges the three border rivers of Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil on its rugged plateau starved with orchids.