Roraima

  • Road to Roraima - © From Flickr user Adalbertop
  • Mount Roraima - © From Flickr user PaulaFassina
  • Mount Roraima - © From Flickr user PaulaFassina
  • Mount Roraima - © From Flickr user PaulaFassina
  • Mount Roraima - © From Flickr user PaulaFassina
  • Mount Roraima - © From Flickr user PaulaFassina
  • Mount Roraima - © From Flickr user PaulaFassina
  • Mount Roraima - © From Flickr user PaulaFassina
  • Kukenan Roraima Pan 2 - © From Flickr user Adalbertop
  • Mount Roraima - © From Flickr user Slash__
  • Mount Roraima - © From Flickr user Slash__

Key information: Roraima

  • One of the world's oldest and strangest geological formations, unique to this area of the Guyana Highlands.
  • An ecological island plateau, cut off from surrounding country by a vast drop on all sides, which inspired Conan Doyle's Darwinist classic, The Lost World.
  • Extraordinary combination of erosion sculpture, sink-holes and quartzite caves, and flora and fauna so unique it is described as The Galapagos of the skies.
  • Superb views down across the surrounding plains when the cloud allows.
  • Though not great in distance from the start-point, this is a tough walk - with very demanding ascent and descent - in remote, inhospitable country. Guiding is essential, especially on the mountain-top. It is often very wet here - Come prepared.
  • ANYONE GOT ANY GOOD PICCIES? WE WOULD BE DELIGHTED TO GET THEM!

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating84
  • Beauty34
  • Natural interest18
  • Human interest0
  • Charisma34
  • Negative points2
  • Total rating84
  • Note: Negs: a very tough climb to the top; frequent cloud cover and rain.

Vital Statistics

  • Length: 70km
  • 5-6 days
  • Maximum Altitude: 2,800m
  • Level of Difficulty: Difficult
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Mount Roraima - © From Flickr user PaulaFassina

WALK SUMMARY

Monte (Mount) Roraima is the largest example of a geological formation known as a tepui, or tepuy. Unique to the area of South America where Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana meet, these waterfall-covered table-mountains were formed by seabed erosion after the breakup of the supercontinent two billion years ago. Their sheer-drop cliffsides have preserved their topland mesas in magnificent isolation from the surrounding forest and grassland, resulting in ecosystems that, like the Galapagos islands, are unique to each mountain. It's reckoned that 50% of the flora and fauna of Roraima is not found anywhere else. Nearby, the Auyantepui is the site of the world's highest waterfall, the Angel falls. This nearness, of course, is relative. The Gran Sabana is the size of Belgium, and has only one proper road in the whole region. Any movements are necessarily laborious and require the use of boats, 4WDs or old-fashioned foot-slogging.

Roraima's top, an object of religious veneration among the indigenous Pemon people, remained untouched by human foot until 1884 when the redoubtable Everard im Thurn braved the ramp-like route still used by walkers today. It has since been a source of fascination for biologists and artists alike. Reports of its exploration formed the basis for Arthur Conan Doyle's much-filmed dinosaur classic, The Lost World. More recently, the tepuis's unique ecosystems formed the basis of spider-shocker Arachnophobia.

Although most of the mountain is, in fact, in Guyana, im Thurn's route is the only trail that does not require technical climbing skills. And a tough walk it is: though only roughly 70km on paper from the starting village of Paraitepui, the surrounding grasslands are hot and shadeless, with bridgeless rivers to negotiate, and the ascent itself a gruelling, muddy ramp including waterfall-showers and vine-rope-pulls up a vertical cliff-face. Expeditions tend to allow for six days all-in: two-and-a-half to the top, one-and-a-half on it, and two for the return.

The first sight of the peak, after the uphill travails, is often rather disappointing. Cloud regularly cloaks the mesa: be warned, it rains here a great deal more than it doesn't, and the infertile sandstone environment seems barren and featureless. Exploration reveals a wholly different state of affairs, however, for Roraima shelters unique and stunning features - an entire plain of crystals; water-filled sinkholes of collapsed supercaves, which are like swimming in giant brass bowls; swathes of pink sand; precipitous gullies that vanish into darkness; and a host of orchids, carnivorous plants and reptiles that, some of them, pre-date the dinosaurs. A tiny black frog, for instance, which has no foot-webs, cannot swim and does not pass through a tadpole stage, is genetically related to African frogs; their ancestors last saw each other billions of years ago.

Roraima's inhospitable tabletop is a Darwinist dream; and, when the clouds lift, the views across the great green striding plains of South America are breathtaking.

Nights on the top are spent in nicely-named hoteles - cave-overhangs which provide some shelter for tents. Guides are essential here, as this is dangerous terrain and easy to get lost in. Spend a couple of exhilirating days exploring, then return by the same route.

ANYONE GOT ANY GOOD PICCIES? WE WOULD BE DELIGHTED TO GET THEM.

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist. Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.

Guidebooks/maps/background reading

Suggest books and maps

Guidebooks

Venezuela - Thomas Kohnstamm, Sandra Bao, Beth Kohn, Jens Porup/Lonely Planet
Venezuela – Angela Baynham/ Insight Guides
VenezuelaAlan Murphy, Dan Green/Footprint Guides

Other books

The Lost World – Arthur Conan Doyle: fictional account based on early exploration. Full of fighting lizards.

Quest for the Lost World – Brian Blessed: Roaring anecdotalist recounts his own trip.

Maps

Last Refuge map: http://www.stanfords.co.uk/go/south-america/venezuela/gran-sabana/maps-atlases/

Best times to walk/weather

Best times to walk

One can only make this walk during the “dry” (a relative word, here) season, December-March. The river-crossings are impassable at other times.

Weather

Hot and shadeless, though often wet, down on the plain; much cooler (around 10 deg C) and wetter on the mountain. Wet-weather gear, rainproof tent and warm clothes essential. Insects are also a problem.

Getting there/transport/permits

The Gran Sabana is in the remotest part of the Canaima National Park, and entry to the Roraima trail is via the Indian village of Paraitepui. There is an airport at Santa Elena de Uairén, on the Brazilian border about two hours’ rough drive from there; flights come in from Ciudad Bolivar and Brazil; there are no direct flights from Caracas, and due to an ongoing border dispute, entry is not possible from Guyana. There are also night buses from Ciudad Bolivar to Santa Elena, where plentiful tour companies offer trips to Roraima and clean, cheap accommodation is also available. Guides and limited porterage can also be found at Paraitepui, but you’ll need a tent to stay here and to bring all food with you.

 
Those on organised expeditions are likely to be transported from/to Ciudad Bolivar or Santa Elena.
 
Permits are needed to do this walk. They can be obtained at Paraitepui.

 

Route(s)

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Starting at Paraitepui (note: no parties are allowed to leave after 2pm), a just-under-five-hour walk across hot, insect-filled sabana, fording unbridged rivers with care, leads to the first camps, along the Tek or Kukenan rivers. Another three uphill hours takes you to the rainforest base camp at the foot of the Roraima “ramp”. The following day’s ascent is punishing: though well-used, this four-plus-hour uphill route is less a path than a scramble, swing and struggle through mud, loose rock and waterfalls, occasionally relying on vines for support. If this sounds offputting, it should: this is a tough climb and should not be underestimated.

 
There are no set routes at the top – you will need to explore. Discuss what is planned, and the alternatives, with your guide.
 
Interactive Map
 

Possible problems, health, other warnings

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  • Mountain weather: rain, wind, cloud and cold are almost inevitable at any time of year. Proper rainproofing is essential.
  • Variable temperatures – The sabana is hot, the mountain cold. Come prepared.
  • Heat, humidity and strong sun on the plain. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
  • Heights: can be dangerous; not for those who have difficulties with heights.
  • Harmful animals, including snakes, stinging/biting insects (the local biting gnat, the jejen, is notorious, and inhabits the sabana in droves) and plants. Take all appropriate precautions.
  • This is remote country: you will have to carry all your food and other supplies, both in and out, and help may be hard to get if things go wrong.
  • Health risks: this is a relatively undeveloped country, and you will not get prompt medical help of a standard available elsewhere if you become ill. Potential problems include malaria, typhoid and yellow fever. Come prepared, including getting all appropriate inoculations/medications.

See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
 

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
 

Make sure you have appropriate insurance.

Guided or independent?

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Independent

No.

Guided/supported

Guiding is required at all times, and is essential. Guides and expedition organizers can be found at both Santa Elena and Paraitepui. Expedition organisers include:

Accommodation

There is clean, cheap accommodation available in Santa Elena. Within the national park, camping is the only option – and only in designated campsites.
 

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Other information and tips

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Useful websites and information

There are many websites with information on this walk. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.

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Other things to do in the area

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Other walks

Angel Falls (includes a section by river): the world’s highest – 929m – waterfall. Named after the daredevil, James Crawford Angel, who “discovered” it by crashing his monoplane on top of its tepui in 1937.

Other activities

The Canaima National Park is roughly the size of Belgium, and is one of the world’s most eco-diverse sites.

COMMUNITY COMMENTS AND PHOTOS

Name: Administrator
Posted on: 05/01/2011

From Ben Weaver of South Africa:
 
"Conan Doyle was misinformed regarding Roriama. The district of Roraima where Indians snort a delightful hallucinogenic snuff, is actually 400 kms south west of the peak in Brazil.
I climbed the peak in 1983 with a guide. Went hypothermic on the ascent and starved throughout the 5 day venture. Mind you, there is an amazing quartzite cave which lights up like a giant chandelier at dawn. The entrance is marked by a sentinel shaped like a tortuga- or turtle.
I also think that the environment was described by Koestler as the habitat for the exqisite midwife toad. I did not see one when on the mountain but if I had, I would have eaten the toad without guilt or compunction."


Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

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Mount Roraima - © From Flickr user PaulaFassina

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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Mount Roraima - © From Flickr user PaulaFassina...
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