Roraima is a table mountain and one of the main attractions of the Latin American continent. “Roraima” translates to “big blue-green mountain.” The flat top of the tepuí rises high above the clouds. Travelers who have conquered Roraima feel as if they are on another planet: the views from the top of the mountain are so unrealistic. Being on Roraima can be compared to being on a desert island. Only instead of the blue waters of the sea, the tepuis are surrounded by an ocean of milky white clouds.
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Video: Sunset on Mt. Roraima
Where is Roraima
The natural landmark is located in the territory of three states at the same time. Most of it belongs to Venezuela. The other host countries of Roraima are Brazil and Guyana. Table Mountain is located at the southeastern point of the Canaima National Park, which belongs to Venezuela.
Birth of a natural wonder
Table Mountains are called mountains with flat peaks and nearly vertical walls. This type of mountain came from a sandstone plateau located between the Rio Negro, Amazon, and Orinoco rivers and the Atlantic Ocean. Erosion had been acting on the plateau for a long time and that caused it to break up. This has resulted in mountains with peaks as flat as the surface of a table. Roraima is called the highest tepui in Venezuela. The highest part of the mountain reaches 2810 m.
Climate, flora and fauna
The climate in the lowlands of Roraima is almost the same as at the top of the table mountain. Seasons of drought here are replaced by seasons of rain. The higher you go up the mountain, the colder and wetter the air becomes. In the morning hours the temperature does not exceed 0 ºC. The rainy season lasts from May to October. During this period, fog falls on the plateau, which does not disperse for weeks. Visiting Mt. Roraima during the rainy season is not recommended.
One-fifth of the surface of the table mountain is occupied by bodies of water: rivers, small lakes and peat bogs. The most impressive place, called “the bow of the ship”, is considered the northern tip of Roraima. It is a sharp ledge.
Many of the inhabitants of the animal and plant life of Mt. Roraima are endemic. This means that the living creatures are constantly in a limited area and go through their own evolutionary path. One of the striking representatives of the endemics of the Tepuis is considered to be Oreofrinella kwelcha, a small-sized black toad. The amphibian’s peculiarity is that, unlike its brethren, it can neither swim nor jump. If Oreofrinella is threatened, it curls up in a ball and rolls down between the rocks.
Expeditions that have visited the plateau have managed to describe about 230 plant species. The greatest diversity is represented by the composites, millipedes and orchids. Many plants have been forced to adapt to the local soil, which has lost much of its organic and mineral matter due to constant rainfall. Of particular interest are the insectivorous plants: Drosera roraimensis, Helimamphora spiny, and vesicle.
Surrounded by legends
The word “tepui” (or “tepuy”) of the Pemon Indians of the Roraima area is not only used to refer to the table mountains. Above all, it is the name of the abode of the gods. One of the legends says that on the mountain once lived the goddess Quin. She became the foremother of all people on Earth by analogy with the biblical Eve. According to another legend, Mount Roraima was part of the trunk of a giant tree from which all the fruits of the planet originated. One day the tree was cut down by Makunaima, the hero of local legends. The stump that was left was called Mount Roraima.
Locals never go up to the “abode of the gods. The place is cursed to them. A man who dares to climb to the top will be severely punished and pay with his life. Scientists believe the legend is worth heeding. However, the journey to Roraima may not end badly because of the curse: The top of the mountain often attracts lightning, which can kill a man.
Modern scientists have not been able to solve all the mysteries of Roraima. During one of the expeditions on the plateau, a circular area was discovered without any vegetation. Such an area could not have appeared naturally. Moreover, a silvery powder consisting of an alloy of rare metals was found on a strange part of the plateau. It was found that it is impossible to obtain such an alloy, even with the latest equipment. Among the scientists there is a version that the mountain has been repeatedly used by aliens as a space launching pad.
Many unusual things the researchers have found in the mountain caves, the walls of which were painted with images of animals and creatures that resemble humans. Scientists found strange skeletons. From the bones emanated a sweet aroma. Inhaling the unfamiliar smell, some members of the expedition fell into a coma for several days. When they regained consciousness, they told colleagues about their strange visions and travels to other worlds.
One expedition lost its bearings on the plateau. The explorers wandered for months. At one point, the scientists themselves described, they were caught up in a whirlwind and swept away from the top of the mountain. A few moments later, the expedition found itself in the middle of an Indian settlement living near Roraima. The explorers were sure they had only been gone a couple of months. It turned out the expedition had dragged on for four years. According to the scientists, being on Roraima for such an amount of time was impossible. The supply of provisions was designed to last several weeks. The travelers would have starved to death. Time flowed differently on the tepui than it does everywhere else.
Exploration of Mount Roraima
The first descriptions of the mountain can be found in the works of Sir Walter Raleigh. The English explorer described Roraima in 1569. The first Europeans who explored the area around the mountain were the Englishman Yves Sern and the German Robert Schombruck. They published a report on their expedition in a German magazine. Then came the book, in which Sern and Schombroek described in detail the unusual flora and fauna of the environs of the “abode of the gods. Many fellow scientists did not believe them. The book, written by Sern and Schombroek, was categorized as science fiction.
It was only possible to reach the top of the mountain in 1884. The expedition led by Edward Im Thurn made the ascent. The flora and fauna of the top of the tepuis were even more amazing than the flora and fauna at the foot. For hundreds of years the plateau had been isolated. No one had climbed it, and no one had descended from it. Isolation from the outside world has allowed Roraima to preserve unique species of plants and animals that are already extinct or have been exterminated from the planet.
Thanks to an expedition in the 2000s, the largest known quartz cave system in the world was found on Roraima. To get into the cave, you have to descend to a depth of 72 m. The uniqueness of the 11 km long dungeon is that it has 18 exits.
Mention of the legendary mountain can be found in both fiction and film. “The Abode of the Gods” has inspired the creativity of many artists.
- The general public became aware of Mount Roraima through the novel “The Lost World” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The English writer was inspired by the published accounts of the expedition led by Edward Im Tern. Conan Doyle “settled” dinosaurs on Roraima. In the plot of the novel, they were able to maintain their population by being isolated from the outside world.
- In the early 1990s, famous Hollywood director Steven Spielberg chose the foot of the “abode of the gods” as the setting for his sci-fi movie “Jurassic Park.
- Roraima was the subject of the 2008 Gryphon Productions documentary “The Lost World,” a film about the journey of the team to the Roraima. The film recounts the journey of a team of modern explorers who dared to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors.
- In 2009, “Pixar” film studio created the animated film “Up”. Mount Roraima was chosen as the place of action.
How does the climbing take place
Every year, thousands of tourists visit the tepuis. The journey begins from Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. From there, adventurers head to the small town of Santa Elena de Huiren. You can get there from the capital by bus. A tour to visit Roraima must be purchased at local travel agencies.
Climbing the mountain on your own is forbidden for two reasons. First, it is too dangerous. Secondly, the “abode of the gods” is located on the territory of the national reserve. The traveler, who bought the tour, gets a guide at his disposal. This guide is usually a member of the Pemon tribe, who knows the Roraima Mountain itself and its surroundings very well. You can hire a whole team of guides. Indians will carry the traveler’s belongings and prepare food for him. A trip with a guide-carrier will cost $250. If hikers prefer to cook their own food and carry their own belongings, the tour will cost no more than $150. It is also possible to climb Roraima by helicopter. However, not many adventurers choose this way to conquer the plateau because of the high cost. In addition, the traveler will not be able to get acquainted well enough with the flora and fauna of the mountain.
From the city of Santa Elena de Huiren, the expedition arrives at the village of Paratepui. Travelers are usually transported by jeep. The tour lasts from six to ten days. First, the guide leads his clients through the savannah to show the foothills of Roraima. On the third day, the ascent begins. It is necessary to prepare for the hike in advance. To climb the mountain, a person must be in good physical shape. It is desirable to undergo a complete medical examination before the trip. You are advised to take only the most necessary things for the trip: warm water-proof clothes, mosquito repellent and a food supply designed for 6-10 days.
Tepuy Roraima is the highest among the table mountains located on the Guiana Plateau. It is located in the southeast of Venezuela’s Canaima National Park, at the junction of three nations – Venezuela, which accounts for 85% of the mountain, Guyana (10%) and Brazil (5%). Despite its considerable relative height of 2,338 meters and its seemingly inaccessible sheer walls, Roraima is considered easy enough to climb, but at the same time unsafe because of its stone mazes in which one can get irreversibly lost. Hikers are required to have a guide who is familiar with the trails and resting places. Climbing on your own is categorically forbidden.
- The height of Roraima above sea level is 2810 m.
- The area of the upper plateau is almost 34 square kilometers.
Mount Roraima: Characteristics
Dense white clouds often hang over the steep slopes of the tepuy and turn the flat peak into a mysterious island floating in the sky. An amazing world of unspoiled nature, outlandish colored lakes and fantastic landscapes complete the picture and attract millions of travelers with their mystery. The names of individual sections speak for themselves – Labyrinth, Jacuzzi, Valley of Crystals, etc.
The fifth part of the plateau is occupied by water objects – lakes with crystal clear water, peat bogs and rivers rushing into cracks, cascades and running down from precipices with high waterfalls. Numerous karst caves form a whole system of underground cavities Roraima Sur, a total length of 15 km and a difference in height of 73 meters. In 2003-05 speleologists discovered and mapped the largest karst cave in the world, called Crystal Eye.
From afar the plateau looks like a completely flat area, but there are both hills and depressions. Chaotic and bizarre piles of rocks are everywhere, and they are the result of uneven weathering and washing out of the sandstone. They look like fantastic castles, frozen giants, giant mushrooms, mythical animals and space aliens.
The mountain has an irregular shape. It stretches from southwest to northeast and has a semi-circular notch on the west side.
Roraima is surrounded by tepuis – Kukenan in the west, Wei Assipu, or Little Roraima (Roraimita) in the east, and Yuruani in the northwest.
Flora and fauna
The inaccessibility and isolation of the Roraima tepuya from the surrounding natural world have allowed the uniqueness of the plants that grow here to be preserved. The acidic soil, impoverished by leaching of organic and mineral substances, forced them to adapt and, for the sake of survival, to coexist with different species of organisms in mutually beneficial symbiosis. The most striking representatives of this “fusion” are the insectivorous plants – vesicle, the endemic Roraima sundew and the heliamphorus, which is found in other Venezuelan tepujas. About 230 species of vascular plants have been found and studied on Roraima, including millipedes, orchids, and compositae. Two species of endemics are found only on this table mountain. Trees on the plateau are stunted, with leathery leaves.
The sandstone surface is covered with microscopic black algae and lichens. Its contrast with the clear, bright pink stone under the clear water evokes an inexpressible emotion.
The evergreen tropical forest framing the tepuis is often woven into impenetrable thickets. There are tree ferns and palms in the undergrowth, and epiphytes are present on the trees, using other plants only as a physical support. More than 25 species of orchids can be found on the mountain.
Of the living inhabitants of the Roraima Plateau, of particular interest is the tiny black toad, a relict Guiana harlequin. It cannot jump or swim and when it senses danger, it immediately curls up and rolls into the nearest crevice. On the plateau you can see small birds, as well as butterflies, which have a dark color. There are reptiles, amphibians, 5-centimeter gulliver ants, and rodents. It is said that there are extant here, unknown to the modern world, 15-meter-long monsters that resemble snakes, but with a huge head and a back with several humps. Such stories may seem like just another legend of Roraima, but it is worth bearing in mind that the tepui still holds many unsolved mysteries, and the first accounts of explorers who got into the “nonexistent world” were perceived by contemporaries as nothing but the fiction of an unhealthy perception.
Many species of birds nest at the foot of the mountain. Small mammals and reptiles live here. Bats, spiders and locusts love the caves.
The origin of the Tepuis
About 200 Ma, the lonely cliffs were home to a vast plateau of Precambrian sandstone. In the process of erosion and tectonic movements weak rocks were washed away and weathered, resulting in the formation of tepuis, characterized by relatively flat tops, vertical walls, the presence of numerous sinkholes and caves. The rock contains large amounts of quartz, which forms white-pink crystals.
In the language of the Pemon Indians, the indigenous inhabitants of the Great Savannah, the word “tepui” means nothing less than “home of the gods” and the dwelling place of the mawari spirits, the guardians of the savannah. On Roraima, according to their legends, resides the foremother of all humans, the goddess Quin.
Climbs on Roraima
For Europeans arriving in South America, Mount Roraima remained unexplored for a long time. It was conquered only by the brave and hardy Indians, who upon their return told their tribesmen of the enchanted beauty they had seen. No documentary evidence of those ascents, of course, remains, but the stories themselves, embellished and turned into legends, are handed down from generation to generation to this day.
According to researchers, Mount Roraima was first described in 1596 by Walter Raleigh, one of the best admirals of the English Navy and one of the first colonizers of North America. One day he was told about a mythical South American country called Eldorado, which possessed countless riches and gold mines. This prompted Raleigh not only to organize an expedition into what is now Venezuela, but also to personally participate in the six-month campaign. Traces of the legendary country and gold have not yet been found, but impressions, including tepui, have been witnessed. By the way, in the middle of the XIX century. near the places surveyed by the expedition still found gold reserves and even organized the extraction of precious metal on an industrial level.
The first attempts to ascend the Roraima tepuy date back to the first half of the 19th century. In 1835, the table mountain so impressed German explorer, geographer and ethnographer Robert Schomburg, who happened to be nearby, that he made several attempts to climb to the top. However, they all turned out to be futile.
He managed to conquer the mountain only in 1884 during the expedition of a British team led by Everard im Thurn and Harry Perkins. The reports incredibly surprised contemporaries. The scientific society simply refused to believe the researchers, considering the evidence fantastic fiction.
In 1911. Arthur Conan Doyle completed a science fiction novel, The Lost World, recounting the adventures of Professor Challenger and his friends. It described a mysterious plateau in the Amazon basin, where the characters discovered a completely different world inhabited by prehistoric animals and long-extinct plants. Conan Doyle’s work was a great success, has been translated into many languages and has been filmed several times. The prototype of the place of action was Mount Roraima.
Today, tourists from all over the world regularly climb the tepuy Roraima. The approach is from Venezuela. Groups are accompanied by guides and porters. The duration of the tour is usually 5-7 days. There are strict limits on the number of visitors per month.
The Great Savannah region is influenced by a tropical climate, but climatic conditions on the plateau of Mount Roraima differ from the weather observed at its foot. While below the average annual temperature is +20-22 degrees Celsius and precipitation does not exceed 1500 mm per year, at the top of the tepuya the average annual temperature is close to +10-12 degrees (sometimes dropping to +2). Rainfall here is up to 4000 mm per year. In addition, the plateau is characterized by high cloudiness, frequent thunderstorms and humidity of 75-85%.
The best period for travel is the dry season – from December to March. Before you travel, be sure to be vaccinated against tropical diseases.
How to get to the Roraima Tepuya
The Canaima National Park office and, at the same time, the tourist pass point is located in the village of Paraitepui, 15 km from the foot of Roraima Mountain. The road to the village is 25 km long and leads from San Francisco de Juraini, located on highway 10. The road crosses the eastern part of Venezuela and connects the town with Santa Elena de Huiren, where the third largest airport in the state of Bolivar is located. The distance between the settlements is 70 km. There is a bus service.
From San Francisco de Juruaní and Paraitepuy, it is possible to pick up tourists by jeep.