Discovering Venezuela's Lost World: Mount Roraima

Mount Roraima is the highest of the Pakaraima mountain chain in South America and one of the world’s most extraordinary natural geological formations. The 31 square kilometer summit area of Mount Roraima is defined by 400 meter tall cliffs on all sides and includes the borders of Brazil, Venezuela, and Guyana.

Roraima is an interesting mountain located in the Guiana Highlands. The peak actually shares the border with Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana, but the mountain is almost always approached from the Venezuela side. The Brazil and Guyana sides are much more difficult. The mountain's highest point is Maverick Rock which is at and on the Venezuela side (thought some other sources may differ on this).

The Guiana Highlands is a very unusual mountain range covering parts of Venezuela, Brazil, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. The highlands are made of ancient sedimentary rock that is over two billion years old and are some of the oldest sedimentary rocks on the planet.

The mountain is known as a Tepui, which describes a flat-topped mountain with vertical sides. Many waterfalls spill off Roraima, and the other Tepuis; nearly everyone has heard of Angel Falls, which spills off another nearby Tepui. There are many interesting plants that grow on the summit, including many carnivorous plants, i.e., ones that eat insects. There is little soil on top because the constant rains wash it away.

Since long before the arrival of European explorers, the mountain has held a special significance for the indigenous people of the region, and it is central to many of their myths and legends. The Pemon and Kapon natives of the Gran Sabana see Mount Roraima as the stump of a mighty tree that once held all the fruits and tuberous vegetables in the world. Felled by Makunaima, their mythical trickster, the tree crashed to the ground, unleashing a terrible flood. Roroi in the Pemon language means blue-green and ma means great.

Monte Roraima was the first of the Tepuis to be climbed and the credit goes to English botanist Everard Im Thurn on an expedition sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society in 1884. It was his subsequent lectures in England, that are believed to have inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's book 'The Lost World'.