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CANAIMA - VENEZUELA


Canaima is one of the most intriguing and fascinating places in Venezuela and starting point for Angel Falls and a number of jungle expeditions and programs. With about 12,000 square miles of tropical jungle, rivers and savannah, Canaima National Park is one of the largest parks in the world. For comparison sake it is more than three times the size of Yellowstone National Park and ten times the size of Yosemite National Park in the United States of America.
  

The area is a dream come true for birdwatchers, nature lovers and wildlife observers. Immerge yourself in rapids and be amazed by the beauty of the chain of seven magnificent waterfalls of Laguna Canaima. The area is one of the main destinations and one of the most beautiful places in Venezuela. Located on a wide, peaceful stretch of the Rio Carrao, a series of broad cascading waterfalls pour into the tranquil lagoon.

 

With comfortable lodges, great food and fantastic scenery Laguna Canaima is a great place to relax, boat, and hike. It includes a trail which leads behind a waterfall from where a short walk takes visitors to Pemón Indian village. Laguna Canaima is also the starting place for the fly-over and boat trips to Salto Angel (Angel Falls), the world's highest waterfall, with an uninterrupted drop of 807 meters / 2,647 feet (16 times the height of Niagara Falls).

 

Silhouetted against the blue sky and rising high above Canaima’s jungle and savannah are the park’s most dramatic features, the mysterious Tepuys (flat-topped mountains) and simas ('sink-holes' of jungle up to 350 meters  / 1,148 feet wide, surrounded by sheer cliffs). In the language of the Pemón Indians, the word Tepuy means “table mountain.” Composed of two billion year old rocks, the ancient Tepuys shelter plants which grow nowhere else in the world, some are unique to only a single tepuy.

 

The two most well known Tepuys are Roraima and Auyantepuy. Roraima, the highest of the Tepuys, was the setting for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel, The Lost World. Although no dinosaurs rampage across Roraima’s top, the strange plants, valleys of crystals, pools of water and weird rock formations, appear to be from another planet.

 

From high atop Auyantepuy, the largest of the Tepuys, Angel Falls, the world’s highest waterfall, plunges over 3000 feet to the jungle below. The falls were named for Jimmy Angel, an American bush pilot and gold-seeker who first reported the waterfall in 1933. To the Pemóns the Tepuys are sacred guardians of the savannah where the “Mawari,” spirits who may steal the souls of the living, make their home. Around 15,000 Pemóns live in the park where it is believed their ancestors settled about 200 years ago.

  

Although the traditions of Pemón society warn against climbing the tepuys, many of the Indians make their living guiding visitors on backpacking trips to the tops of these mountains. The gateway for the trek to Roraima is the Pemón village of Parai Tepuy. All visitors must check in at this village where supplies for the trek are carefully noted. Upon returning, empty containers must be produced to insure that no trash was left on the mountain. Backpacks are also carefully inspected and weighed to prevent the removal of crystals and minerals from the tepuy.


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