Best known for its characteristic flat-topped mountain formations known as “tepuis,” Canaima National Park is a geologic marvel that astounds the most experienced geologists and intrepid travelers alike. Between the table-top mountains, grassy savannah blankets the valleys and the perimeters of the tepuis, which cover about 65% of the park. The park is the sixth largest park in the world, measuring three million (yes, million) hectares, and is located in Venezuela close to the border between Brazil and Guyana.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, the most prominent feature of the park is undoubtedly the infamous Angel Falls, which is the highest waterfall in the world: the water falls from the top of Auyantepui for almost a kilometer (979 meters to be precise). Angel Falls is 15 times higher than the Niagara Falls, and yet, in spite of its grandiose stature, the falls were ironically discovered by accident by an American flyer named Jimmy Angel in 1935.
Second to Auyantepui in popularity, Monte Roriama is the tallest and easiest tepui to climb (mind you, I don’t think there is anything easy about a four to five day hike up a wet and steep cliffside). The hike offers unparalleled views of the terrain and a refreshing splash in a “jacuzzi” at the mountain top – the jacuzzis are natural, clear pools of water that look inviting, but are painfully cold.
Aside from the stunning topography, Canaima National Park offers sightings of flora and fauna that are found nowhere else on Earth. One third of the plant species in the park, as well as 29 bird species, are endemic to the region. In addition, the park protects significant populations of five endangered mammal species: jaguars, giant anteaters, giant river otters, ocelots, and giant armadillos. It’s no wonder that Canaima served as the inspiration for the Pixar movie Up!