The ‘floating island’: Mount Roraima

It might look like it’s straight out of a sci-fi movie, but this natural wonder is completely real, and fully awe-inspiring.

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Today we will talk about Mount Roraima, one of the oldest formations on Earth, bordered by three different countries (Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana) whose border lines intersect on the massive shelf, is surrounded by 400 meter (1,300 ft) tall cliffs was a place of mystery, myths and legends for the indigenous people that used to live here centuries ago. While its cliff walls are only scalable by the most experienced of climbers, there is a hiking path up the mountain’s natural ramp-like path (usually a two-day hike).

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Mount Roraima, part of Venezuela’s 30000-square-kilometer Canaima National Park, is the site of the highest peak of the country of Guyana’s Highland Range. The mountains of this range, including Roraima, are considered to be some of the oldest geological formations known, some dating back to two-billion years ago. Its near daily rains have also created a unique ecosystem which includes several endemic species, including a unique carnivorous pitcher plant, and some of the highest waterfalls in the world.

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The tepuy’s steep sides, surrounding rainforest, and altitude at summit create a unique climatic environment that is most notable for its changeability. Moist air rising off the surrounding rainforest in the tropical heat creates heavy rain clouds that billow up and across the summit of Roraima causing frequent showers and downpours. Due to the altitude, nights on the summit are cool.

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Long before the European conquistadors took over these lands, Mount Roraima was considered a symbol of these regions, an “axis mundi”, an enormous tree within which all the vegetables and fruits of the world grow.

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The first recorded person to climb this tepuy was Sir Everard im Thurn in 1884.

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Culturally, the mountain has long held significance to the indigenous people of the area and features prominently in their myths and folklore. This remote landscape of jungle and cliffs inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for his classic novel The Lost World in 1912. He envisioned cavemen and prehistoric animals running amok atop the summit. Although far-fetched, the idea is a valid one: the tepuys are regarded as ‘islands in time’ by scientists since species have developed in complete isolation on top of them over millennia.

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