The mountains, plains and forests of the Gran Sabana are protected by the Canaima National Park, located in the south of Bolívar State on the Venezuelan-Brazilian border, around 1,400 km from Caracas. Known to the indigenous Pemon Amerindian people as Wek-tá (the “place of mountains”) the Gran Sabana lies on a plateau of the Guyana Shield. This is one of the world's oldest geological formations, dating back over two billion years ago to the Pre-Cambric era. Over time, river erosion of the sedimentary rock has created huge table mountains with vertical cliffs that rise out of the flatland and forests into the skies.
In the Pemon language, these mountains are known as tepui (meaning “house of the spirits”) and are shrouded in local myths and legends. The various Pemon tribal groups – the Kamarakoto, the Arekuna and the Taurepan – are now concentrated in several small communities dotted around the Gran Sabana such as Kavac and Kamarata, established by Capuchin missionaries in the 1940s and 50s.
Tourist access to many areas in the Gran Sabana such as the Roraima tepui is controlled by Inparque (National Park Institute). To trek here you should hire the services of a Pemon guide or porter. This provides employment opportunities for the local community and ensures the safety and security of visitors to this ancient and breathtaking region.
Travelling in Gran Sabana
The most important town in the region is Santa Elena de Uairén, the municipal capital, which is 15 kilometers from the Venezuelan-Brazilian border. It has a population of approximately 30,000 inhabitants and is the starting point for treks to Mount Roraima. Frequent buses using the main Venezuela-Brazil highway (BR-174) connect the Orinoco towns of Ciudad Guyana/Puerto Ordaz and Ciudad Bolívar to Santa Elena. From Ciudad Bolívar it is possible to fly into the village of Canaima, either to stay at the Canaima Lagoon or continue by boat and on foot to see Angel Falls. Small 6-seater aircraft also connect Santa Elena with the regional towns and missionary settlements of Kamarata, Kavanayen, Wonken, El Pauji, and Ikabaru. There are direct flights from Caracas via Puerto Ordaz, to Ciudad Bolívar and to Canaima, flying over Angel Falls. There are also regular flights connecting Canaima and Puerto Ordaz to the Caribbean island of Margarita.
For the international traveller, the main attractions of this region are the Canaima Lagoon, Angel Falls– the world’s longest waterfall – and a trek to the top of Mount Roraima, at 2,810 m the highest of the tepui and the triple border point between Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana.