Cueva del Fantasma

Cave of the Ghost

Useful Information

Location: Venezuelan Guayana.
(5.456329, -62.456879)
Open: no restrictions
Fee: free
Classification: Speleologyerosional cave SpeleologyTectonic cave Lower Precambrian sandstones and quartzites of the Venezuelan Guiana Shield
Light: n/a
Dimension: Portal: H=250 m, W=90 m.
Guided tours: n/a
Photography: allowed
Bibliography: Roman Aubrecht, Charles Brewer-Carías, et al (2012): Venezuelan Tepuis: Their Caves and Biota, Acta Geologica Slovaca, Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia. ISBN: 978-80-223-3349-8 researchgate
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1994 inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
02-JAN-2002 discovered by Charles Brewer-Carías.


The Cueva del Fantasma (Cave of the Ghost) is located in the Venezuelan Guayana, a remote region of huge crystalline plateaus, quartzites and metamorphites of Precambrian age. This landscape is the place where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's book The Lost World takes place. The huge plateaus locally called tepui, were the place were the last surviving dinosaurs were discovered in the book.

In reality, there are no dinosaurs, but still the tepui are enormously interesting. Precambrian rocks, among the oldest rocks on earth, composed mainly of sandstone with high content of quartz, often quartzite, resisted erosion for billions of years. Nevertheless, they were eroded, and the plateaus are only a small rest of the formerly huge plain. Cut into segments by rivers, which formed valleys and gorges, they became islands, table mountains, separated by wide valley or even plains. Cueva del Fantasma is interpreted as the remains of an impressive gorge. The narrow gorge collapsed at the rim and was thus closed to form an enormous cavern.

This cave is so huge, it is big enough, for two helicopters landing on the floor. A waterfall coming down one wall forms a small pond on the floor.

The cave was discovered by helicopter by the team of Charles Brewer-Carías. He is world-famous among cavers for his numerous finds of quartzite caves in the tepuis of Venezuela. When he first saw the cave, he remembered the cave that served as a refuge for the character The Walking Ghost, illustrated by Lee Falk. The comics were featured in the Sunday press.

A quite popular bit about this cave is that it actually is not a cave but a collapsed gorge. And while some caver might have put it that way once, it is not the speleological truth. A cave is a natural void underground, and in that sense this is definitely a cave. However, other caves in the tepuis are karst caves, which means they were created by the solution and erosion of quartzite by acidic water. This cave was formed by erosion and then by the collapse, the geologic term is "tectonic cave". So this cave is definitely a cave which was formed by erosional and tectonic processes.

Now it is not easy to visit this cave, it is definitely not a tourist site, and the best way to visit is by helicopter. There are numerous sights in the park which are visited on tourist trips, like the famous Angel Falls on the opposite site of the tepui. This one is obviously not on this list, so we guess the only way to see it is to hire a helicopter for an hour at Canaima airport. This is definitely not cheap, but it's the tour of a lifetime!

And a last comment on the UNESCO WHL status. This site was inscribed on the list in 1994, but discovered in 2002. The reason for this is simple, the whole area of the Canaima National Park, where this cave is located, was listed.