Canaima National Park
Canaima National Park (Spanish: Parque Nacional Canaima) is
an 18.640 mi
in south-eastern Venezuela that borders Brazil and Guyana . It is located in the state of Bolívar, and was established on the 13 June 1962. It is the second largest park in the country, after Parima-Tapirapecó. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 because of the Tepuis (table-top mountains) that cover most of the park. The most famous Tepuis in the park are Monte Roraima, the tallest and easiest to climb, and Auyantepui, from which fall the Angel Falls , the highest waterfall in the world. The park is home to the indigenous Pemon Indians, part of the Carib linguistic group, which is in fact made up of three groups spread over such a large area (the park is the size of Belgium or Maryland). The Pemon have an intimate relationship with the Tepuis, and believe they are the home of the 'mawari' spirits. The park is relatively remote, with only a few roads connecting towns. Most transport within the park is done by light plane from the airstrips built by various Capuchin missions, or by foot and canoe.
The Tepuis are table-like mesas found only in the Guiana Highlands . These geological formations tend to be found as isolated entities rather than in mountain range fashion, which makes them the host of a unique array of endemic plant and animal species. Some of the most outstanding Tepuis are Autana, Pico da Neblina (the highest one, on the Venezuelan-Brazil border), Auyantepui and Monte Roraima. They are typically composed of Precambrian sandstone rocks, very hard to climb, and rises abruptly from the jungle, giving rise to spectacular natural scenery. Auyantepui in particular is the source of Angel Falls , the world's tallest waterfall.
Origin of the Tepui
The indigenous people called the mesas Tepuis, "Houses of the Gods". They are the remains of a large, quartz sandstone plateau that once covered the granite basement complex between the north border of the Amazon Basin and the Orinoco, between the Atlantic coast and the Rio Negro . Throughout the course of the Earth's history the plateau was eroded, and the Tepui were formed from the remaining monadnocks.
There are 115 such mesas in the Gran Sabana in the south-east of Venezuela , on the border with Guyana and Brazil . The precipitous mountains tower over the rainforest by up to 3.280 feet . The surface of the mountains displays various characteristics. On the plateaus of the mountains grow uninterrupted forests with a wide variety of orchid and Brocchinia species. Erosion and weathering has, over the course of the millennia, formed peculiar rock formations and labyrinths.
Flora and Fauna
The plateau of the mesas is completely isolated from the forest on the ground. On the one hand the altitude causes them to have a different climate from the ground forest, on the other the precipices are difficult to climb. This isolation has over millennia led to the presence of endemic flora and fauna. On the surfaces there is a temperate, cool climate with frequent rainstorms, while the bases of the mountains have a tropical, warm and humid climate. The isolation has led to the evolution of a different world of animal and plants, cut off from the rest of the world by the imposing rock walls. The Tepuis are often referred to as the Galápagos Islands of the mainland. The large number of plants and animals are of a unique variety and cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The floors of the mesas are poor in nutrients, which has led to a rich variety of carnivorous plants. The weathered, craggy nature of the rocky ground means no layers of humus are formed during rainstorms.
The mesas, also known as 'islands above the rainforest', are a challenge for researchers, as they are home to a high number of species which have still not been identified. A few mesas are cloaked by thick clouds almost the whole year round. Their surfaces could previously only be photographed by helicopter radar equipment. Humans have still yet to set foot on many of the Tepuis.
A few of the most notable of the 115 Tepuis are:
- Auyantepui . This well known mesa has a surface area of 700 km². From its surface falls the highest waterfall in the world, the Angel Falls .
- Roraimatepui , also known as Monte Romaima. A report by the noted South American researcher Robert Schomburgk inspired the English author Arthur Conan Doyle to write his novel “ The Lost World” about the discovery of a living prehistoric world full of dinosaurs and primeval plants.
- Kukenamtepui . The Kukenam Tepui was considered a holy mountain by the native peoples. Since 1997 it can no longer be climbed, as the precipice and the high plateau are particularly insurmountable.
- Autanatepui . The Autanatepui stands 4.265 ft above the forest floor. Inside the tepuis there are crevices of up to 1.312 ft deep, named the Simas. It has been suggested that these holes were once huge caves whose roofs fell in.
- Neblinatepui , also known as the Pico da Neblina, is the highest mesa.
- The Ptaritepui . The rock walls of the Ptaritepui are so isolated, that it is assumed that a particularly high number of endemic plant and animal species may be found there.