Canaima and its profusion of natural wonders is a real hidden gem inside the country of Venezuela. As soon as visitors step foot in the area, they are literally transported to another world. And the real jewel is the enchanting beauty of Canaima National Park—a perfect combination of nature’s magic and the limits of reality. Shaped by breathtaking mountains, or tepuys, which are crisscrossed by countless rivers, streams, waterfalls, forests and savannahs, the area spreads across the landscape like an ocean of green. This place really is a must-visit for all travel and nature enthusiasts.
Declared a national park by the Venezuelan government in 1962, Canaima National Park is located in the southwest of Venezuela, south of the Orinoco River, in the municipality of Gran Sabana in Bolivar State. The park comprises 3 million hectares of stunning beauty, making it the second-largest protected area in Venezuela and the sixth in the world. Not surprisingly, in 1994 Canaima was declared a Natural World Heritage site by Unesco.
Some of the most fascinating features in Canaima’s diversity of attractions are the tabular formations of tepuys, which rise abruptly on the horizon among the savannahs and dense forests. These impressive tableaus of vertical walls and flat tops with rose- and yellow-coloured rocks, are home to an incredible variety of tropical flora and fauna, including monkeys, poison arrow frogs, and hundreds of species of orchids and bromeliads.
Canaima boasts many hidden treasures too, which make it perfect for adventure-seeking adrenaline junkies. After all, the world’s oldest rock formations can be found here, some of which date back some 2 billion years. These rock formations belong to the so-called Guayana Shield, although in geological terms, they are part of the Roraima Formation.
Then there are the famous Angel Falls, locally known as the Salto Ángel. This top tourist attraction is a breathtaking natural monument. It has many smaller falls that form one impressive cascade that will dazzle and delight visitors. Angel Falls is the world’s tallest waterfall, measuring almost a thousand metres in height, which is around 20 times the height of Niagara Falls, and is characterised by both an incredible beauty and a fascinating history.
It is named after James “Jimmy” Crawford Angel, who first saw the waterfall in 1933 with his partner while searching for the legendary McCracken River of Gold, or the Golden City. He returned again in 1937 with his wife and friend Gustavo Henry Gardener, who had to stage a daring emergency landing on top of the “Auyantepuy”, or “devil’s mountain”. Their aircraft was able to reach the top of the tepuy and there it remained for 33 years until it was taken down by a helicopter.
Jimmy Angel and his three companions managed to descend the tepuy and return to civilisation by hiking through the jungle for 11 days. Meanwhile, the plane is currently housed in the Aviation Museum in Maracay in Venezuela, while a replica of can be found in its original resting place.
To enjoy the best views of Angel Falls, tourists must hike the Auyantepuy, although the trip itself has many attractions. The boat rides and treks through the jungle offer unique views of Venezuelan flora, fauna, and terrain. And after a long, hot hike, swimming in one of the refreshing natural pools beneath the towering falls is a magically rejuvenating experience. Moreover, tourists can also take flights over Angel Falls from Canaima. These are not to be missed.
There are several ways to get to the fall. By plane, from the Simón Bolivar International Airport in Maiquetia, Vargas State, to Tomás de Heres Airport in Bolivar State. There are also flights from Manuel Carlos Piar international Airport in Puerto Ordaz city. From there, small planes can take you to Canaima itself, which is located in the northern area of the Park.
For ground transportation from Caracas city, travellers should take the highway to Oriente until they reach Bolivar State. Another option, although somewhat of an expensive one, is to hire a helicopter or small plane from Canama airport, or take a boat trip from Canaima town. Boats depart from Ucaima port along the Carrao and Churúm rivers. For control freaks and those who prefer peace of mind, pre-booked tour package to Canaima are available in Venezuela. But however you get there, Canaima should be on every traveller’s bucket list.
Text By: Ivone Liu & Photo Credit: Venezuelan Embassy