Gran Sabana in Venezuela

The emergence of the Gran Sabana

The Gran Sabana is one of the most spectacular (and therefore one of the most photographed) regions in Venezuela. The area is part of Bolivar state and it extends south to the border with Brazil. The Gran Sabana is known for its stunning geological formations, the tepuis or table top mountains. These unique and awe-inspiring mountains were formed millions of years before the Earth's land mass split into different continents. It is thought that the Gran Sabana tepuis were formed in what today is the African continent some 2,000 million years ago, and throughout the millenia they drifted west as the South American continent separated from Africa. Part of the Gran Sabana was declared a protected national park in 1962.

The weather in the Gran Sabana

Frequent rainfall is one of the main characteristics of the weather in the Gran Sabana. In fact, the rainy season in this area is one of the longest in the country, extending over a period of 10 months every year. The southern areas of the Sabana tend to be drier, especially between January and March, which are the driest months. Despite the frequent rains, average temperatures in the Gran Sabana are quite pleasant, typically hovering around 22°C during the day and dropping to 15°C at night. The hottest months are March and April.

Nature and animals in the Gran Sabana

The unusual landscapes, fauna, and flora of the Gran Sabana are the main reason why visitors choose to travel to this area. Despite being a savannah, there are several distinct ecosystems in this region, including wetlands, gallery forests, and tropical forests. Natural scientists and geologists consider the tepui summits as separate ecosystems, as the isolation and old age of the land in this part of the Gran Sabana have created a micro-climate where endemic plants and animal species thrive. The area is criss crossed by several rivers, and waterfalls are plentiful. In terms of vegetation, the Gran Sabana is home to many species of flowers, shrubs, and trees. Some of the trees in the southern area of this region can reach heights of up to 131 feet. Wildlife is also abundant in the Gran Sabana, which is the natural habitat of cougars, giant anteaters, river otters, jaguars, toucans, harpy eagles, howler monkeys, capybaras, and bush dogs.

Habitants of the Gran Sabana

To this day, the Gran Sabana's remoteness and isolation keeps the area sparsely populated. There are only a few villages here (like Canaima, Santa Elena, and Kavanayen), which function as gateways to the national park. For the most part, the Gran Sabana is inhabited by the Pemon, an indigenous group that remained unknown to the Western world until the 18th century. The Pemon live in small communities of up to 70 individuals, and make a living through agriculture, tourism, and the trade of jewellery, handicrafts, and food staples with other native indigenous communities in the Amazon.

Interesting places for tourists

The small settlement at Canaima is one of the most visited places in the Gran Sabana, as it gives access to the spectacular Canaima National Park, where the Angel Falls are located. The trip to Canaima is only possible by plane, and during the journey visitors can admire the immensity of this territory and its key landmarks, such as the tepuis or the confluence of the Orinoco and Caroni rivers. The town of Santa Elena, located near the border with Brazil, is a popular starting point for visitors interested in doing treks around Roraima, where Venezuela's highest table top mountain is located. Nearby is Kavanayen, a small Pemon village which is known for its well-preserved churches and Capuchin missions. San Francisco Yuruani is another Pemon village where visitors often stop to browse through the handcrafted jewellery made by local artisans. Some parts of the Gran Sabana were exploited by mining companies during the early 20th century, and some remains of the mining industry can still be visited at towns like El Dorado. Canoeing and 4x4 trips are other popular activities in the Gran Sabana. These can be arranged in Pemon villages and have the advantage of offering support to local eco-tourism initiatives. Tours to the Roraima here