Situated within the Potaro-Siparuni Region of Guyana, Kaieteur National Park lies right at the heart of the Guiana Shield. The area encompasses expansive table-top mountains, which are some of the Earth’s oldest rock formations. In this article, we look at the region’s unique geology, rich biodiversity, and Amerindian legends surrounding Kaieteur National Park.
The Kaieteur National Park Act was passed in 1929 to protect its natural beauty.
Implemented by the Kaieteur National Park Commission, the legislation today covers a 242-square-mile region featuring numerous landmarks of outstanding natural beauty, such as Kaieteur Falls.
Kaieteur Falls is one of the park’s most important sites.
First reported by British geologists Barrington Brown and James Sawkins in the late 1880s, Kaieteur Falls is the park’s most visited attraction. Located where Mount Roraima and the lowlands collide, the 781-foot-tall Kaieteur Falls is the world’s largest single-drop waterfall by volume of water.
Kaieteur Falls was named in honor of Old Kai.
Old Kai was a wise Amerindian chief and a mentor of his people. According to legend, Kai’s people were repeatedly subjected to raids and tormented by an enemy tribe. In his search for a solution to the issue, Old Kai consulted with the Great Spirit, Makonaima, who told him that to resolve the situation, it would require a personal sacrifice. According to legend, Old Kai paddled his canoe over the waterfall in the ultimate act of heroism, reportedly saving his people, who dedicated the falls to his memory.
Kaieteur Falls is home to the Makonaima bird.
Known locally as Kaieteur swifts, these birds nest in the cliffs of the waterfall, diving directly through the waters at dusk every night.
The region is also home to Chenau, or “mountain chickens,” which are actually giant frogs found in abundance from May to June every year. Kaieteur National Park is also inhabited by the electric blue tarantula and the giant river otter.
The Patamona people are the self-proclaimed guardians of Kaieteur Falls.
The Patamona are an intensely spiritual people, embodying the true essence of Guyana’s ecotourism sector, conserving their cultural heritage and protecting their ancestral lands through a community-operated, sustainable enterprise.
Mount Roraima is located within Kaieteur National Park.
Nicknamed the “floating island,” Mount Roraima is so unique that scientists are still trying to understand its delicate ecosystem.
From first glance, the difference between Mount Roraima and most other mountains is striking. With all four sides of the mountain forming sheer cliffs approximately 400 meters tall, Mount Roraima’s flat summit makes it appear like a giant tabletop.
This curious geological formation is one of the world’s oldest mountain plateaus. Unlike most traditional mountain ranges, which are usually created by two continental plates colliding together, geologists believe that Mount Roraima was formed around 2 billion years ago, when sand formed on the bottom of an ancient ocean, eventually turning into rock. For context, the Earth itself is around 4.5 billion years old and Mount Everest was formed about 60 million years ago.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel, The Lost World, is set on Mount Roraima.
The novel is about an expedition to the plateau, where explorers find many ancient species still alive in isolation. Many curious creatures call Mount Roraima home, but no one is really sure how they got there. It is unclear whether they evolved from other species over the centuries, or whether they traveled there somehow.
Thirty-five percent of species that live on Mount Roraima are endemic, including the pitcher plant. The pitcher plant is a carnivorous plant that features a characteristic pitfall trap: a deep, fluted cavity filled with digestive liquid with which it traps its prey.
In 2017 dozens of new animal species were discovered in the Upper Potaro region.
A team of intrepid researchers conducted a month-long expedition in Kaieteur National Park and the surrounding area. New species identified as a result of the expedition included 15 types of aquatic beetle, six species of fish, five odonates (flying insects), and three new plant species. The team also recorded several species that had never before been observed in the region.
The Kaieteur Plateau is an important habitat for a wide variety of animal life.
This unique ecosystem supports numerous rare and endangered species, including the golden rocket frog, jaguar, white-lipped peccary, Guianan cock-of-the-rock, and tepui swift.
In fact, more than 50 percent of Guyana’s bird species, 43 percent of its amphibians, 40 percent of its odonates, and 30 percent of the country’s mammal species inhabit the Upper Potaro region.
GBTI is proud to support Guyana’s thriving ecotourism industry.
As Guyana’s oldest bank, GBTI is uniquely placed to provide technical and financial support for local and community-based ecotourism enterprises throughout Guyana.
In 2014 GBTI entered into a GY$60 million agreement with the Guyanese government and Conservation International to launch the Rupununi Innovation Fund. The venture provides support to tourism and agriculture-based enterprises, facilitating their participation in Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy, which promotes conservation through the use of green energy.