Travelling south from Ciudad Bolívar, one enters the Gran Sabana, with its distinctive tepuis, or table-top mountains, rising with sheer walls from the surrounding forest. There are over a hundred of these extraordinary structures, few of which have ever been climbed or properly explored.
Puerto Ayacucho is near the Orinoco’s famous Atures and Maypures rapids, considered by Humboldt as the eighth wonder of the world. To the south, inaccessible by road, is the start of the Amazon rainforest, home of (among others) the Yanomami Indians.
In the south-eastern corner of Venezuela, comprising Bolívar and Amazonas states and covering 45% of the country, lie the Guayana highlands which are part of the pre-Cambrian Guiana Shield, one of the oldest rock formations in the world. The fast-flowing rivers that cross the Gran Sabana, their waters usually dark brown from the high levels of tannin (an excellent insect repellent!), often plunge over rocks full of semi-precious minerals, creating spectacular falls and rapids.
Canaima, right in the middle of the Gran Sabana, is beside a beautiful lagoon formed by the mighty Carrao river. It is also the jumping-off point for trips to the Angel Falls, either in an overflight by small plane or by water on a canoe trip up the Carrao and Churún rivers. The Angel Falls plunge from the summit of the region's largest tepui, Auyán-tepuy (whose surface covers 700 square kilometres).