Where: Canaima National Park, Guayana, Southern Venezuela, South America
When: Most luscious in the wet season of May to November
Sights: The world’s highest waterfall reachable after a jungle hike or viewable with a plane tour
Where It’s At
If you were ask someone what it is exactly that Venezuela is famous for, those in the know will usually give you at least one of three typical answers: petroleum, beautiful women, and Angel Falls. Then if you were to follow up the last of these replies and take the time to search out Angel Falls, you will be guaranteed to witness one of the least ‘typical’ natural phenomena of the modern world.
Angel Falls is located in Venezuela’s Canaima National Park and at 979m above sea level it is the world’s highest waterfall, sixteen times higher than Niagra Falls. It is one of those few spectacles that on first sighting will send shaky impulses down your spine and makes your skin prickle up with goose bumps. For if you manage to get close enough you are likely to encounter a thunderous display of watery pyrotechnics, only made possible when millions of swirling, steaming droplets amass together in free fall and career incessantly downwards.
Angel Falls was named after the Canadian pilot Jimmy Angel who, with his wife in tow, landed on its summit in 1935. However Jimmy got a little more than he bargained for when his plane sank in a bog and it took him and his wife eleven days to reach the base on foot.
Visiting Angel Falls
Even today a trip to the top of the falls is no careless undertaking and it takes a dose of crazy Jimmy Angel’s spirit of adventure to travel to the point where you might view the summit – conditions permitting. If you do decide to take up the challenge you can expect to set off around 4.30am to take a dawn jeep ride to the shores of the Orinoco River, where a motorized canoe will be waiting to ferry you upstream. After a pit stop at Orchid Island there is the small matter of the white water rapids to cross, and then the two-hour jungle hike that will eventually lead you to the base of the falls. By that time, if you’ve managed to avoid being airlifted to safety on an emergency stretcher, you will be just a short sweat inducing climb away from that all important plateau where finally you can marvel at the falls in its full glory. Alternatively, you could always take one of the flight seeing tours that regularly pass over of the falls, but where’s the fun in that?
If you don’t fancy yourself as much of a Jungle Jim or Jane you might choose to take one of the flying tours available from Caracas or Ciudad Bolivar. It is more common to fly to Angel Falls from Ciudad Bolivar than it is from Caracas as this is this city is regarded to be the main entry point to the falls. Tours depart from Ciudad Bolivar in the morning between 7am and 8am and return between 4pm and 5pm. This round trip flight to Canaima will cost between US$160 and US$180 per person and can be booked through a tour operator. Alternatively, if you want to save a bit of cash you can contact one of the local airlines such as Rutaca, Convalles, or Aerobol and ask them to put together a no frills package flying you to and from Canaima and over the fall for around US$130.
Tourism website with lodgings, excusions and package trips to visit the falls.