Approach the Angel Falls from the top of Auyantepui or upstream via Churun River. Either way, going to the world’s magnificent cascades will allow the visitor an opportunity to enjoy the sight of canopied rainforest, tepuis rising like mesas in the skies, sacred canyons and rivers, vertical cliffs and grotesque rocks, and dazzling display of indigenous flora and fauna. The following is an all-encompassing travel guide to Angel Falls.
Angel Falls in a Nutshell
The world’s tallest waterfall at 3,212- feet was named after the person who first saw it in 1933, Mr. James Crawford Angel. It is called Salto Angel in Spanish and Kerepakupai-Vena in the indigenous Pemon language. Jimmy Angel flew over it and ecstatically announced that he found himself a waterfall. He didn’t return to the waterfall until four years later with his wife, when they landed on the tabletop of the forbidding Auyantepui. Tepuis are considered one of the world’s most ancient rocks going as far back as the Precambrian age – before there was ever life on earth. Auyantepui is the most colossal of these rocks in Guiana Highlands, and the Angel Falls cascades uninterrupted down its vertical cliff.
Best Time to Visit
This is one of the few destinations you would prefer to visit on the rainy season. The waterfall turns into a mammoth spectacle during heavy rainfall because its massive volume depends so much on the runoff from rain. It is therefore best to schedule your Venezuelan adventure between June and October. The table-top tepuis and the grand falls, however, have a charming fickle nature. The water may blast full power on rainy days, but you can’t second-guess the view. The clouds have a way of obscuring what could be a formidable panorama. The high river level also allows for smoother boat rides without rocks jutting out of the water. Just keep your fingers crossed that your visit turns out to be your lucky day.
The average temperature year-round in the Gran Sabana is 76.1°F. On the tepui summits it could well plummet to 32°F at night. Visibility is largely the interplay of several factors, such as, the tropical climate, the falls, the canopied rainforest, and the unique ecosystems of the tepuis. The wet season starts from June to October. Intermittent rains still occur from November to December. January through May is the dry season, with humidity and temperature becoming more comfortable.
Things to Do
The cascade is a hidden jewel, until now it still sits on a relatively unexploited jungle, 160 miles from Ciudad Bolivar and 1,000 miles from Caracas. The approach to the falls offers opportunities for varied activities.
1) Fly by Angel Falls to Auyantepui
Discover Angel Falls very much the way Jimmie Angel discovered it and find inspiration like Conan Doyle did in his “The Lost World.”
2) Ride in motorized boat to the falls
Take a curiara, or dugout canoe, upstream the Carrao and Churun rivers.
3) Walk through jungle terrain
Explore the Venezuelan flora and fauna. After the boat ride up Churun River, you will need to hike to the falls.
4) Swim in the small pools
There will be countless waterfalls along your trek to and from the Angel Falls. Take every opportunity to wade in the small pools that form at the base of waterfalls.
5) Take Eco-Tours
Walk to the Kavak Canyon and river, Kamarata Valley, and Kamadak. Learn of the Pemon, their villages, culture and way of living.
By any stretch of imagination, taking an adventure to the deep jungle of Venezuela in search of the world’s highest falls is no easy challenge. It is advised that you take a reliable and licensed tour operator or adventure organizer. It can take from three to nine days depending on the nature of adventure, routes, points of interest, and modes of transportations you take. An average adventure package of three days through most of the best attractions to the Angel Falls will cost around USD260 per person including all meals and basic accommodations, guides, and national park entry fees. More luxurious accommodations and food will cost around USD900.
1) Canaima National Park
Canaima National Park hides the world’s highest waterfall into its deep tropical forest. The park itself is a wide savanna which used to be a mine of gold and diamond. The national park is divided into two sections: the western and the eastern. The western sector includes the lagoon with the many jumps (called Axe, Swallow, Wadaima, Ucaima), the Wey Tepui, the Auyantepui, and the Angel Falls. The eastern sector covers the Gran Sabana or Great Savanna also teeming with tepuis and waterfalls. Entry to the park is USD8.
2) Canaima Lagoon
You arrive to your tour with a breathtaking flight that will take you to a landing strip near Canaima Lagoon or Laguna de Canaima. Spend the night in the village of the Pemon tribe while soaking in the view of the tabletop mountains and Angel Falls.
3) Hacha Falls
From the plane to Canaima Lagoon, you will see the beautiful Hacha Falls or Salto Hacha with tepuis in the background. Take a dugout canoe and ride on the lagoon, past the Hacha Falls.
4) Sapo Falls
Across the lagoon, walk and hike behind the gushing water curtains of Sapo Falls. It is one of the seven waterfalls that pour water into the Canaima Lagoon.
5) Ara-Meru Falls
Take a guided tour and swim in the cool waters of Ara-Meru Falls and explore natural formations of jade.
6) Mayupa Rapids
From Ucaima Port, you will ride curiara, the name for the motorized dugout canoe, to where the Mayupa Rapids begin. Hike the trail along the rapids, and take your canoe at a point where the water is calmer.
7) Rio Churun
The boat ride on Rio Churun is epic in itself. Much depends on the depth of the Rio. If the level warrants it, the boat ride will successfully bring you to the Mouse Island where you can camp and spend the night in hammocks facing and hearing the powerful pouring of the majestic water formation.
8) The Angel Falls
It is an hour hike from the Mouse Island, or Ratoncito, to the mammoth Angel Falls. Falling uninterrupted at 3,212-feet high and 500-feet wide at the base, the Salto Angel or Angel Falls, or Kerepakupai-Meru in Pemon, is the world’s highest free-falling waterfall. Find the lower pools, and bathe and swim to your heart’s content.
The impressive quartzite tepui is the largest of its kind in the Canaima National Park and the Guiana Highlands. It is called by many names and some of these are Mountain of Hell and Devil’s Mountain. It is a unique ecosystem supporting varied life forms and from it precipitates the mighty Angel Falls.
10) Kavak Canyon
Kavak River winds through the magnificent Kavak Canyon which culminates in Kavak Waterfall. A walk with a Pemon guide is needed to have a great experience. The canyon is considered sacred, and entry to it requires chants and rituals. This is a cultural adventure which you shouldn’t miss.
Location: Kamarata Valley, Canaima National Park
Where to Stay and Eat
The Gran Sabana Parque Nacional de Canaima, or the great savanna of the Canaima National Park, is one huge grass land where Jimmy Angel first set camp and where you can find your base to spend some days and nights, too. There are the local Pemon settlements, and fancy sleeping in palm-thatched huts called churuatas. Hammocks and tents are other alternatives, too, especially when your group will be camping at identified sites as you approach Angel Falls. At the Canaima Lagoon, there are several accommodations available.
Tour and adventure packages to Angel Falls already cover the cost of accommodations of these hotels and lodges. These places are also where you can find food and meals. Beyond these places, your best bet would be with your tour operator’s camping equipment and culinary skills.
1) Tapuy Lodge
This is a camp along Canaima Lagoon allowing for stunning views of many waterfalls and tepuis named Venado and Kursari. The design of the lodge is a beautiful merging of traditional materials and contemporary function. Private rooms have en-suite hot-and-cold shower and bathroom, and air-conditioning. Amenities include a living room, hammocks, and a tropical garden with huts facing the lagoon. Food is served in the restaurant and you can lounge in the bar. Room rate ranges from USD252 per night and includes breakfast buffet, lunch and dinner. This is usually integrated in the tour package.
Location: Canaima Lagoon, Canaima
2) Waku Lodge
Another camp opposite Canaima Lagoon offers several rooms that overlook the lagoon and a jungle garden. The private rooms have en-suite bathrooms supplied with hot water. Fans and mosquito nets keep mosquitoes and other insects at bay. There is a common living room with a direct TV. WiFi is free in the receiving area. You can have lunch a la carte in the Indian style restaurant situated along the riverbank. Rates start from USD168 per night.
Location: Canaima Lagoon, Canaima
3) Parakaupa Lodge
Thirty people can be accommodated in this camp with remarkable views of waterfalls and tepuyes. Double or triple rooms are available with private bathroom and fan. Complimentary bottled mineral water and ice will be served upon request. Relish Venezuelan dishes from this camp’s restaurant.
Location: a little distance from Canaima Lagoon, Canaima
4) Jimenez Camp
This camp is set on a beautiful tropical garden. Single and double bedrooms are available, each provided with ceiling fans, mosquito nets, and private bathrooms. Meals can be arranged with the owner who personally attends to the guests’ needs.
Location: first camp after the airport, Canaima
5) Camp Canaima Hotel
The architectural design of this 117-room hotel blends with the natural landscape where it is located. Rooms are available in single, double, triple and quadruple accommodations. Private bathrooms, hot water, daily maid service, and other conveniences are provided to ensure the comfort of guests. Meals can be arranged with the hotel.
6) Uruyen Lodge
This is a Pemon lodge deep in the Canaima National Park, and is operated by a family of the Kamarakoto tribe. Indigenous dwellings called churuatas line along the Yurwan River, and these are the accommodations for guests. If you opt for the deep forest hiking adventure, this is a place where you can spend several nights. This savannah is reached only by plane or by seemingly-endless hiking. In fact, Jimmy Angel landed not far from this location. Meals are served, but you can take extra precaution and bring your own water.
Location: Uruyen, Canaima National Park
7) Kavak Lodge
This is the other Pemon lodge of only two lodges in the savannah of Canaima National Park. If it is your lucky day, the Pemon hosts will share you their local music and ceremonial dances, and tell you of the local myths and legends. Meals are served to booked guests. To be safe, bring your own drinking water.
Location: Kavak, Canaima National Park
8) Arenal Camp
Enjoy spectacular views of the Wey-tepui and Auyantepui while camping in hammocks along the river banks of Carrao. The secluded Arenal Camp is the perfect place to rest amid silhouettes of the towering tepuyes.
9) Macunaima Lodge
This is a lodge with comfortable churuata facilities. A guest can choose to sleep on hammocks or beds.
Location: Near Kavak River,
10) Excursiones Pemon and Kavak-Yeuta
These two lodges join with Macunaima on the riverbanks of Kavak. The three lodges are operated by Pemon families and the Kamarata Valley community
Location: Near Kavak River, Canaima National Park
When Jimmy Angel flew over Auyantepui and the majestic falls, he said that he found himself a waterfall. He returned to “his” falls four years later and stranded his plane atop the tepui. Aside from the falls, he also found a lost world in Kamarata Valley where jaguars, anteaters, armadillos, sloths, and an array of birds thrive. The family of Jimmy and the family he adopted continued to find their way to the savanna, the canyons and rivers, the forests and tepuis, and the Angel Falls, long after Mr. Angel died. Their lives remain interwoven with the Pemon people in the Gran Sabana.
While you visit Angel Falls, explore as many places as you can – sleep in churuatas, ride on curiaras, breathe the clean savanna air and scents, hear the toucans and cicadas, and have fun learning about everything. You may not have a waterfall named after you, and as many opportunities to return to Canaima as Jimmy Angel did, but you do have a chance for a trip of a lifetime and savor every minute of it! And if you are leaving Venezuela via Ciudad Bolivar, Jimmy Angel’s Flamingo airplane, which landed in Auyantepui and stayed there for more than three decades, is now exhibited at the airport. Say hello and goodbye to the aircraft that brought the world to Angel Falls.