Living Edens: The Lost World
Eco Explorer: Terra Zone

The Lost World’s craggy peaks and twisted rock sculptures may look like scenery from a Steven Spielberg film, but the main artist at work on this production is age. At an estimated 1.8 billion years old, these tabletop mountains are among the oldest rock formations in the world.

The foundation for the massive sandstone massifs was laid when South America and Africa made up the continent Godwanaland. Water and air are thought to have transported sand from nearby eroding mountain ranges to the area that would become the Guyana Highlands, home to the tepuis. When South America broke apart from Africa, about 180 million years ago, fissures and fractures formed in the highlands’ sandstone plateaus known as the Roraima Group. Forces within the earth lifted up some sections of the plateaus higher than others. Erosion over millions of years did the rest. Made of sandstone and quartz, the tepuis have been in their present form for the past 3 to 4 million years.

The towering tabletop mountains are found mostly in southeastern Venezuela, though some examples exist in northern Brazil and western Guyana. The largest and most imposing examples are located in Venezuela’s Canaima National Park.

The soil on top of the tepuis is acidic and poor in nutrients — a fact that makes some of the Lost World’s best-known plants carnivorous. On the top of some tepuis, dwarf forests can be seen; on others, meadows. Peat covers many of the summits. Jagged piles of quartz and sandstone jut out of the mountains’ surrounding savannas and jungles.

This is a humid environment and the area is crisscrossed with rivers and waterfalls (often seasonal), among which the 3,212-feet-tall Angel Falls — the world’s highest waterfall, located on the Churún River — serves as the star attraction. River beds of solid jasper in reds or oranges also provide an exotic touch — one of the most popular stops for tourists is at Jaspé Falls.

Temperatures generally range from 46° to 68° Fahrenheit. On the top of Mount Roraima, temperatures have dipped as low as 33.8° F, but no frost has been recorded. Rainfall is plentiful (79 to 157 inches per year) and humidity consistently high.

Angel Falls is more than three times the height of what famous monument?

The Empire State Building

The Eiffel Tower

The Great Pyramid of Giza

The Sears Tower

Want to go to Angel Falls? Prepare for an adventure. If you opt to depart from Canaima National Park on a dugout canoe with a Pemón guide, travel time can take up to three days during the dry season (roughly December to April) with plenty of canoe-carrying thrown in. During the wet season, canoe travel can be quite dangerous; some guides will outright refuse to go. If water doesn’t work, Avensa, Venezuela’s national carrier, also runs daily flights over the falls as part of a tour package to Canaima National Park. Failing that, there’s a less popular cross-country trek to the falls from Kavak or Uruyen tourist camps. Travel time? Between 6 to 10 days of hiking.

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