CANAIMA

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Let us go to the north of South America, namely, to Venezuela, which is extremely popular in terms of economic investments in the tourism sector. At Columbus time, the country was called the Land of Grace because of its abundant flora and fauna, and fertile soil. It is in these bountiful lands where the famous Canaima is located, which is mentioned in many stories, legends, fairy tales, films, folk art pieces, and works of art.

This National Park is located in the Venezuelan state of Bolivar, in Gran Sabana, namely, the Guiana Highlands, rocks of which are up to 3.5 billion years old. It was opened June 12, 1962, having received an area of 3,000,000 hectares, due to which it became one of the largest national parks in the world.

English physician Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, May 22, 1859. In 1912 he wrote a novel, by which a silent film was produced in 1925. The novel’s name was “The Lost World.” Its plot included a struggle with dinosaurs for some imaginary mountains, which strongly resembled the tepui, the typical mesas found in the Guiana Highlands. Later, in 2001, there was published a novel by Walter Kirn “Up in the Air.” In 2009, a film was produced by this novel, which became one of the serious contenders for the Academy Award.

This National Park (NP) is considered as a globally unique one due to its level of socio-cultural and scientific diversity. Its mountains, so called tepuis, are very low  - from 300 to 900 meters - covered with thick forest of Gran Sabana and washed by countless rough and deep rivers. The rocky tepuis are the most attractive element of the park. Their natural beauty is unique. The most famous of them are the Iru-tepui, Acopan-tepui, and Auyan-tepui. The surface area of the latter is 700 sq.km. It gives rise to one of the wonders of the world, the highest waterfall in the world - 979 meters in height  - which was called Churun-meru by the Pemon Indians that had found it. However, in 1937 the American aviator James Angel gave it a new name - Salto Angel. Since 1994, the waterfall has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It drops from the edge of the mountain Auyan-tepui, the height of which is 2,400 m. The mountain’s name in the Pemon Indians’ language was Kerepakupay-vena. In addition to this magnificent monument of nature, here you can also visit the popular Canaima Lagoon. Many people come there to have a look at it and spend some time on the magnificent grounds for vacationers, as well as to see other places, such as the Christian missions in the Indian villages Camarata and Canavaen. The most beautiful waterfalls of the park have names in the language of Pemon Indians  - Apuraren, Toron-meru, Chinak-meru (also known as Salto Aponvao), Techinek-meru, and Ivana-meru. The word meru stands for waterfall. It should also be noted that the best time to visit the waterfalls is the rainy season, which lasts from May to November. In Canaima tourists can visit various Indian tribes - Pemon, Akeruna, Kamarakotos, and Taurepan. Also, there is the second highest waterfall in the world, which is called Kukenan.

Rivers: Rivers took a hefty space of the park. Of these, it is worth listing Yuruani, Curran Aponvao, Kukenan, and Uriman. They all fall into one of the deepest rivers of the country - the Caroni river. The Caroni river, before falling into the Orinoco river - the largest river in Venezuela  - forms the largest human-made lake of the country - Guri lake. Water from the lake is used for power generation. There is the largest hydroelectric power plant in Venezuela.

Flora: It is safe to say that, the species of plants growing on the two largest tepuis in the mountain range - Masisi de Chimanta and Auyan-tepui - cannot be found elsewhere in the world. An example is the Ayensuya of bromeliad family, and many other species, growing at an altitude of between 1800 and 2600 m . On Roraima-tepui, under multiple rocks and small caves, you can find exotic ferns of Hymenophyllaceae and Pterosonia families, as well as different species of orchids. Among the latter, we can mention Donstervillia, which can be found only in this place.

Fauna: The fauna of this area is not completely studied. Some endangered species can still be found there - for example, the giant anteater, tiger, Brazilian otter, armadillo, and jaguar.

Birds: Here you can find vociferous wren, capuchinbird, and cock-of-the-rock.

Vertebrates: There also are vertebrates such as yellow-footed tortoise, iguana, Schneider’s dwarf caiman, and rare species of chameleons.

Snakes: There are many species of snakes in the NP - for example, the giant anaconda, boa constrictor, and one of the most venomous snakes in the world - Lachesis muta.

You can go on an air excursion over the park, or take a tour by car or by boat. There are several airports and airstrips in the park. Some corners, where hotels and hostels are concentrated, can be reached by road. The territory of the State of Bolivar is so huge that it extends far beyond the NP Canaima and overlaps some other NPs. But it is the NP Canaima that borders with Guyana and Brazil. The border passes near towns of Santa Elena de Uairen where different cultures are peacefully living together - Indians, Brazilians, Germans, Colombians, and people from Guyana. The NP is 1,380 km from the capital of Venezuela, Caracas, but in order to go from there to the Brazilian Boa Vista, you have to drive only 206.22 km (128.14 miles).

Therefore, we hope that you decide to visit this park, just as we - the members of the editorial board of the VIGIL magazine - did this having arrived to this unusual and beautiful part of Venezuela. Here you will find something that you have never seen before, and it will be a real pleasure for you. Remember also that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is not only the largest repository of oil on the planet, not only the world’s highest and longest ropeway in America running 12.5 km at an altitude of 4765 meters above sea level, not only beautiful valleys, snow-capped peaks, beautiful beaches, and picturesque islands of the Caribbean, but also - and this is the most valuable - wonderful people of this country. Come here, you will love it!