Sima Martel

Sima Menor

Useful Information

Location: Parroquia Aripao, Municipio Sucre, Bolivar State, Venezuela.
Sarisariñama Tepui, El Caura Forest Reserve, Jaua-Sarisariñama National Park
(4.677700, -64.222039)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: KarstTiankeng SpeleologyQuartzite Karst Caves
Light: n/a
Dimension: L=155 m, W=110 m, VR=248 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Sima Martel, Parroquia Aripao, Municipio Sucre, Bolivar State, Venezuela.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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25-NOV-1961 discovered by famous jungle pilot Harry Gibson.
1976 first explored by a Venezuelan-Polish expedition.


The Sima Martel (Martel Abyss) is a tiankeng located on the Sarisariñama Tepui. There are actually two huge tiankenks, and this is smaller one, so it is also called Sima Menor (Small Abyss). However, with a diameter of 120 m and a depth of 248 m it is not small at all. The tiankeng was named after the famous French speleologist Édouard-Alfred Martel.

The tiankengs were discovered by famous jungle pilot Harry Gibson from his plane. The other one was explored in 1974 by an expedition organized by the explorers and adventurers David Nott and Charles Brewer-Carias. Eugenio de Bellard Pietri, a participant of this expedition, named the sinkholes after two famous explorers. But Sima Martel was actually first explored by the next expedition in 1976.

The Sarisariñama Tepui has its plateau around 2,300 m asl and a surface of 482 km². It was named after a legend of the indigenous Ye’kuana of an evil spirit, which lived in the tiankengs and cried "Sari, Sari" every time he fed on humans. The upper layer is quartzite of the Palaeoproterozoic Roraima Formation. Unlike most other tepuis the plateau is a forest with 25 m high trees, and an enormous biodiversity. The most famous endemic animal on the plateau is the frog Stefania riae.

The next road is 100 km away, so the only way to visit the tepui and the tiankengs is by helicopter or plane. We guess the best way to see it is to hire a small plane for two hours at Canaima airport, which is 230 km to the northeast and a tourist center of sorts. This is definitely not cheap, but it's the tour of a lifetime! In theory, it's possible to actually enter the tiankeng, either with a helicopter or by foot if you are a very good climber. However, it is located in a nature reserve and a national park, and such visits require a permit.