Envision a level, verdant terrain that appears to be on the edge of the planet, complete with astronomically tall waterfalls and unique plant and animal species. Although it sounds like something from another planet, this is one of Venezuela’s greatest treasures.
Venezuela’s Tabletop Mountains, or tepuis, were formerly a portion of an extinct supercontinent. What remains after millions of years are fragments of vertical landmasses that reach above the clouds and into the sky. Dense jungle gives way to an elevated platform home to novel and as-yet-undiscovered lifeforms.
Learn everything there is to know about Venezuela’s breathtaking Tabletop Mountains and what makes them so special.
What Are the Tabletop Mountains in Venezuela?
The tepuis of Venezuela are the remains of a massive sandstone plateau that formerly stretched from the Amazon Basin to the Orinoco River. The plateau broke apart and crumbled around 300 million years ago, leaving vertical remnants of the massive Gondwana supercontinent that once stood. These are among the continent’s earliest geological formations.
The enormous and magnificent Tabletop Mountains are referred to by the aboriginal people of South America as the “house of the gods.” The tepuis rise sharply from the tropical jungle, but despite their name implying they are part of a mountain range, they are solitary and unconnected to one another. It is feasible to host endemic species because of their isolation.
The tepuis, which are found in the Guiana Highlands of South America, cover more than half of Canaima National Park’s terrain. They are distributed throughout southeast Venezuela and close to the borders of Guyana and Brazil. There are sixty tepuis, the most famous being about six. The largest is Auyantepui, which is 270 square miles in size and home to the tallest waterfall in the world, Angel Falls, while Mount Roraima served as the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Lost World. Sarisarinama Tepui has magnificent circular sinkholes that drop far into the mountain’s summit, while Autana Tepui has a unique cave.
What is Special About the Tabletop Mountains?
The Venezuelan Tabletop Mountains are unlike anything else in the world, from their strange rock formations and flat summits to their evolutionary secrets. Few have made it across the perpendicular terrain of any tepui, which is so steep it looks like a citadel. The warm, humid environment of the lowlands contrasts sharply with the chilly air of the top. These landmasses are unique, particularly for scientists studying the evolution of species, because of the variations in the vegetation, climate, and terrain from top to bottom.
Some of the most breathtaking panoramas on Earth may be seen in Canaima National Park, which is home to dozens of tepuis and stunning landscapes. From literature to films, these geological formations and the woodlands around them have served as inspiration for artistic creations. It’s hard not to imagine dinosaurs and other amazing creatures prowling the lowlands and cloud-covered peaks.
Though its terrain is devoid of mythical creatures, these mountains are home to a vast array of fauna, some of which are unique to each tepui and cannot be found anywhere else.
The longest quartzite cave in the world, with 14 miles of tunnels and three rivers, and the tallest waterfall in the world, Angel Falls, are both found in Venezuela’s Tabletop Mountains. There are new kinds of blind fish, minerals, and microorganisms in the cave system. The age of the system is uncertain, although some study indicates that it hasn’t changed in tens of millions of years.
Flora and Fauna of Venezuela’s Tabletop Mountains
The dense jungles below and the high, level peaks of the tepuis are home to a wide variety of animal and plant species. Monkeys, bats, snakes, iguanas, sloths, pumas, and jaguars are among the most prevalent creatures.
The amphibians on the mountain are among the most unusual species. Around 60 million years ago, the tepuis were isolated, causing species from the lowlands to end up on the tops of various masses. The tepui frogs are unique to each tepui they live in and were isolated during their development. Instead of hopping, the pebble toad on one tepui rolls away from predators by curling up into a ball. These little toads are very good at hiding since they look like the black stones on the top of the mountain. Oreophrynella macconnelli is a different species that descends to the forest floor from tree canopies in search of safety.
There are more unusual specimens in the highlands besides animals. The flora in the area is endemic to one third of it. It’s also fascinating to see the striking contrast between the vegetation found on summits and the lowland woodlands. There are meadows, small bushes, and plants on the tops of the tepuis. Much of the flora and fauna found on the summits of the 60 tepuis evolved independently, giving each tepui its own distinct identity.