Saturday, 21 January 2012

The Angel Falls, Canaima National Park, Venezuela

A gorgeous waterfall postcard I received from a Unesco swap last year.

Canaima National Park is a 30,000 km2 park in south-eastern Venezuela that borders Brazil and Guyana. It is located in Bolívar State, and roughly occupies the same area as the Gran Sabana region.

The park was established on 12 June 1962. It is the second largest park in the country, after Parima-Tapirapecó, and sixth biggest national park in the world. It is the size of Belgium or Maryland.

About 65% of the park is occupied by plateaus of rock called tepuis, which are a kind of plateau of millions of years old, with vertical walls and almost flat tops. These constitute a unique biological environment, also of a great geological interest. Its sheer cliffs and waterfalls (including the Angel Falls, which is the highest waterfall in the world, at 1,002 metres) are spectacular landscapes.

The most famous tepuis in the park are Mount Roraima, the tallest and easiest to climb, and Auyantepui, from which fall the Angel Falls. The tepuis are sandstone and date back to a time when South America and Africa were part of a super-continent.

The park is home to indigenous Pemon Indians, part of the Carib linguistic group. 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. Pemons have developed some basic and luxurious camps, which are mainly visited by tourists from across the world.

In 1994, the Canaima National Park was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, as a natural reserve that has abrupt relief special and unique around the world, the tepuis.

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