Gran Sabana, Venezuela – Part 1


Route Santa Elena de Uairen, Venezuela – Kavanayen, Gran Sabana, Venezuela (10)
Distance 230Km (Direct)
Travel Time 3 hours
Road Conditions Good tarmac, dirt road 60Km to Kavanayen
Weather Warm, overcast at times
Terrain Flat savannah, some hils and large tepuis
Food and Petrol St Elena, Rapidos, Luepa El Fuerte
Accommodation Camping, pousada Aron Den in Kavanayen


This SouthEast part of Venezuela is a very special zone called the Gran Sabana. It’s naturally stunning, sparsely populated and is apparently some of the oldest terrain formed on Mother Earth. Here the jungle from the Amazonas basin further south becomes a less dense. You are surrounded by hills with savannah grassland and pockets of jungle interspersed.


The most prominent of these hills are the unmistakeable mesa, locally called Tepuis. These hills or mountains rather, slope upwards gradually and then rise sharply along tall cliffs walls, coming to rest on a flat top surface – kind of like Table Mountain in South Africa. These tepuis are famous the world around for their uniqueness and size, the highest in the world being Mount Roraima right here in the Gran Sabana, at over 2000 metres. Because of their formation these have incredibly different landscapes on top, unlike anything “down here on earth”. We do attempt to ride up the dirt road to the village of Paratepui at the foot of Roraima but it’s pretty soggy and we don’t want to put the bike through more punishment after our BR319 tour, so we turn around and move on up the main highway.


The area is absolutely overrun by waterfalls. They’re coming out left and right of all the surrounding Tepuis, the highest one being the highest waterfall in the world named Angel Falls, only reachable by boat or plane. However there are countless smaller ones all over the area and easy to get to, by the main road, a bit like in Presidente Figueiredo in Brazil.


Our first night we camp by Salto Karuai.


We dine at a simple little restaurant there run by a guy from the Guyanas who speaks good English. A few young Venezuelans from Ciudad Bolivar are there too, so we get in conversation and end up being taught the local dance moves to music running on the all-important cell-phone-jukebox.


After a refreshing morning shower in the waterfall we visit salto Kama



…and then we find a nice quiet camp site at salto Kawi, which is wonderful. The family taking care of the place are really friendly and even lend us use of their braai.



That seals our fate obviously, and we stay a couple of days enjoying this magnificent place. Early mornings we’re first to be found down at the waterfalls and rock pools, swimming and sunbathing before any of the day-tourists arrive. Nights are spent at the fire, with drink and good food.


Befriended a little pup and took him for a shower…

A lot of better-off Venezuelan families are touring the Sabana with 4x4s at this time of year, for winter (???) holidays, and a really nice family arrives – the only people to share the camp site with us. They’re from Barcelona in the North and they’ve come here on holiday. They’re a really sweet family, parents and three daughters, all musically gifted. We enjoy conversations, breakfasts and BBQs together and Ebru and I listen to them singing and playing their instruments. Lovely people!




It must be mentioned that finding food out here in the Gran Sabana is not so easy, so if you want to camp it’s beat you get ample supplies from Santa Elena or Puerto Ordaz. We did find some bits and pieces from villages along the way such as San Francisco de Yurani and around Rapidos de Kamoiran, but that was really basic stuff. The best place we found along the way was actually the Bodega on the roadside 23Km north of Kawi, where the lady has a public telephone and a number of basic foods and drink, including beer if you’re lucky. (Kavanayen village has its own shops and is well stocked.)


As for petrol, it just gets cheaper. Filling up is the highlight of a road trip through Venezuela – always leaves you with a war fuzzy feeling, so if you can do it with your own vehicle, I recommend it!


At the station leaving Santa Elena we were gifted petrol from the attending soldier, stating it was a welcome present from Venezuela. At the following petrol station at Rapidos, through we had to return a day later as the tanker truck hadn’t yet arrived, a 12 litre refill cost us about 1.50 VEF. Working that out on our USD-VEF exchange rate, we just got petrol at about 0.007 USD per litre. Incredible!


We head out to Kavanayen after 3 days camp. This indigenous village is about 70Km down a dirt road (supposedly 4×4 only but it was in pretty good condition at this time) off the main highway.



It’s not as “wild and indigenous” as you might imagine – no grass skirts and face paintings – but it’s very secluded and it’s got its charms. Apparently Chavez even has a holiday house out here. We get a nice room at a local Pousada near the plaza (Aron Den, 125VEF/dbl), buy food from the local shops and fire up a magic BBQ at night. There are a few other accommodation options too.


We do some exploration riding around the area but the deep sand tracks are too difficult and far too unnavigable for us to find our way to any of the famous 160+ metre waterfalls in the area. There are some beautiful views and some intriguing footprints in the sand.


On the bright side though, we can now clearly hear that chinking noise which indicates that the cam chain tensioner is failing, and we don’t have a spare, so we’re going to have to make a trip back to Boa Vista in Brazil.


On the night before we leave, Max and Erica show up. Too bad we have to leave early the next morning. But we’ll surely catch you guys up the road. In the mean time, let knock up a nice BBQ!

FYI this is a list of the approximate distances I recorded riding around this area:
KM -18 Venezuela Border
KM 0 Santa Elena (Petrol, Food)
KM 60 Paratepui Turnoff
KM 65 San Fransisco de Yurani Village (Food)
KM 80 Salto Karuai (Camp)
KM 118 Salto Kama (Camp)
KM 119 Salto Kawi / “Las Piscinas (Camp)
KM 143 Rapidos Kamoiran (Petrol, Snack food eg Bread, coffee)
KM 167 Kavanayen Junction (Petrol at El Fuerte Luepa nearby)
KM 170 Luepa Airport
KM 229 Kavanayen Village (Accommo, Food)


Now before I forget, let me mention to you that on the dirt road leading to Kavanayen there are some houses where the owners sell artesanal produce, which I sadly neglected to buy any of. But if you’re in the area I recommend getting your hands on a jar of the most unusual chilli sauce money can by… more info in this post…*L