Carrao river with tepuis at the back (from left to right: Kusary tepui, Kuravaina tepui and Kurun tepui). Picture by Javier Mesa.
THE CANAIMA NATIONAL PARK
The Canaima National Park is situated in the south east of the Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela, to the south of the Orinoco River, in the region called Guayana, in the State of Bolivar. It lies (from east to west) between Latitude coordinates 60° 40’ and 63° 00’, and (from south to north) between Longtitude 004° 40’ and 006° 40’. The delimitation of the Canaima National Park covers an area extending from the Sierra de Lema, in the north, to the Sierra Pakaraima on the frontier with Brazil, in the south, and from the chain of eastern tepuis along the frontier of Guyana (the “Zona en Reclamacion”) to the Testigos tepuis in the west (see map). The Park is home to at least 145 mammal species, some 41 per cent of the mammals known in Venezuela, and 495 bird species, including endemic forms and those that migrate through the area. There are many unique plant communities and species to be found in the tepuis, known from nowhere else in the world.
The Park was created by Presidential decree no. 770 on the 12 June 1962 and given the name “Canaima” to honour the Venezuelan author Romulo Gallegos. It comprises some 30,000 square kilometres (approximately the size of Switzerland), is the second largest national park in Venezuela following Neblina (Parima Tapirepeco Park in the State of Amazonas) and is one of the largest national parks in the world. It was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994. “Canaima” is a word of Pemon origin meaning a mythical entity associated with death or disease – when the indigenous Pemon die or become ill, they say it is “Canaima”.
The Canaima National Park is one of the principal destinations for both national and international tourists in Venezuela. On this website you will find valuable information to help you to explore and admire this marvellous, unique location. While you are there, however, it is of the utmost importance to maintain respect for the fragile and ancient ecosystems you will encounter. Please help to conserve them and follow our “recommendations for visitors” outlined on this site.
The Park is divided into two principal sectors: to the west you will find the famous plateau of Auyantepui (‘Devil’s Mountain’), to the north west of which is the tourist camp of Canaima, with white sandy beaches and waterfalls bordering a beautiful lagoon. On the south western side of Auyantepui are the communities of Kamarata, Kavac and Uruyen, each with its own airstrip and accommodation. Excursions by boat to the base of Angel Falls can be organised from both Canaima and Kamarata, and from Uruyen it is possible to climb to the summit of Auyantepui, an adventure on foot which takes several days and which requires a reasonable standard of fitness. Auyantepui was first climbed in 1937 by Venezuelan explorers Gustavo Heny and Felix Cardona, after an exhaustive search by aeroplane for a possible ascent route.
In the Eastern Sector of the Park or the Gran Savanna the main road (Carretera Troncal 10) passes through El Dorado on its way south, passing close to the impressive eastern chain of tepuis, presenting a wonderful panorama en route to Santa Elena de Uairen. From there, trips can be organised to the summit of Mount Roraima, the “Lost World” of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which was first climbed by British explorers Everard Im Thurn and Harry Perkins in 1884 (for a description of the history of exploration of Mount Roraima, please refer to the Illustrated Guide Map to Mount Roraima, ISBN 0-9544350-0-1). The sister plateau to Roraima, Mount Kukenan, is currently off limits to visitors although there is a recognised ascent route to the summit, which was pioneered by a team from the University of Bangor, in Wales, in 1962, following a detailed aerial survey of the cliffs. The eastern half of the Canaima National Park is dominated by the high rolling savannah of the Gran Sabana itself, called “Tano-tei” by the indigenous Pemon people.
Administratively, the Gran Sabana is situated in the State of Bolivar. This is the traditional land of the Pemon, who have inhabited the region for centuries, and whose linguistic origins stem from the Carib people. Today, there are some 20,000 Pemon, but there are also creoles and foreigners – some 17,000 Brazilians, Colombians, Guyanese, and Europeans among other ethnic groups living in the Gran Sabana. The majority of outsiders are miners, although there has recently been a significant increase in those working in the tourist industry, based mainly at Santa Elena de Uairen, Canaima, Icabaru, Uriman, El Pauji and a few other centres.
WESTERN SECTOR OR CANAIMA HIGHLIGHTS:
Auyantepui seen from Carrao river.
Heliamphora Sp. Auyantepui summit.
Aonda Canyon, Auyantepui.
Aerial view of Angel Falls during dry season.
Kusary, Kuravaina and Kurun tepui .
Auyantepui seen from Uruyén Camp.
Canaima Lagoon Falls.
Aerial view of southern walls of Auyantepui.
EASTERN SECTOR OR GRAN SAVANNA HIGHLIGHTS:
Open savannas and termites mounts on a hill.
Kukenan tepui seen from Tök River Camp site.
H. nutans and Bromelia. Mt. Roraima.
Ascent route to Mt. Roraima.
Acopan tepui, 2,400 m.
Kama Falls, 55 m.
Upuigma tepui, 2,200 m.