World's Highest Waterfall - All 979 metres!

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2020

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What I did
Salto Angel Falls
El Sapo Falls

Flag of Venezuela  , Guayana Highlands,
Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Will the Cloud lift?

The question is on everyone's mind.

We are so tantalizingly close to seeing the magnificent Angel Falls in its entirety. The highest waterfall in the world is right in front of us. We take lots of pictures anyway - the cloud cover is only near the top and gives the panorama in front of us a mystical feel.


We glance away for a second, then as our eyes come back to the vista in front of us, the fluffy white clouds dance on by, and there it is! Angel Falls, the whole 979 metres. It is a stunning sight. 

Jimmie Angel, an American bush pilot brought the knowledge of the falls existence to the world as recently as 1937 in a rather dramatic way. He was looking for gold but found the falls instead. He touched down on the top but the plane nose dived on landing, then became hopelessly bogged. He and his party of 3 others had an 11 day, very tough hike out to safety, with hardly any food. The plane remained on top of the waterfall until 1970. 

Jimmie would be stunned if he was alive today at the number of people who now come from all over the world to this very isolated place, to view the falls named after him. Perhaps if he had gone into tourism he would have found a different type of gold!

It is not an easy destination, but a must for those who tick off the iconic waterfalls of the world.

The group of us at the view point click away with our cameras, talk in subdued voices and just gape in awe. We are so thankful knowing that many people come all the way to this point and do not see the falls. Rain, cloud and even low water volume in the dry season, all stop people seeing what we are seeing today.  

Once again getting to this point has been a wonderful and complicated adventure. First we flew from Caracas to Puerto Ordaz. After staying overnight our next flight took us in a small 20 seater plane to the town of Canaima, where all Angel Falls expeditions leave from. We were taken by truck to a camp, then George our guide introduced himself. First he needed to explain that our itinerary had been changed around and we had 20 minutes only to organise just what we needed for the two days and one night at the falls and leave the rest behind. (Initially we were to stay in the town camp for the first night). We are adaptable so were readyon time to go with 10 others, who would form the rest of the group.

The truck then took us to a long boat with a powerful outboard motor where we sat 2 a breast on hard plank seats and began our upriver journey of 4 hours to Angel Falls base camp. The journey was broken after about an hour when we arrived at a substantial area of rapids where we were offloaded from the boat, had a picnic lunch then walked across land for half an hour while the boat driver negotiated the rapids alone. He then met us the other side. Another stop for a swim at a gorgeous waterfall eased our sore bums and backs after sitting for so long on a hard wooden plank in a bouncing river boat.

The scenery as we motored up stream is some of the most stunning we have ever encountered. Huge, jutting, table like mountains rise all around the river, stark and beautiful with long ribbon like snaking waterfalls. The river trip alone would be worth it even if there were no highest falls in the world to see

As we neared the camp we could see the higher part of the falls, partially covered in cloud but nevertheless, there in front of us. On arrival at camp we were allocated our hammocks, then spent some time at a view point near the camp, watching the play of clouds over the falls before a tasty and filling evening meal.

Our group is made up of 9 Latvians,1 Japanese lad and ourselves. None of us speak Spanish but thankfully our guide George and the others have excellent English. Other groups share the camp also with guests from all over the world.

After a rather fitful and uncomfortable night's sleep in the hammocks we were up at dawn to check out the viewing spot again, then after breakfast we prepared for our strenuous hike up the view point that would give us the view of the whole stretch of falls.

And that is where this story began - viewing the magnificent Angel Falls.

But our adventure was only part way through. Canaima National Park had some other wonders in store for us. First we had to reverse the boat journey from the day before but this time down stream. The scenery again took our breath away as did the rapids our boat driver expertly negotiated. We hiked back again over land where the worst rapids were, then road in the boat again until we arrived back at camp and for this night a comfortable bed instead of a hammock. Rain pelted us in the boat trip back and we were feeling so thankful it did not happen while we were trying to view the falls.

Next morning our group hiked to the Canaima Lagoon where amazing picture postcard waterfalls tumble wildly into the water. The Lagoon and falls have an "out of worldly" reddish sheen due to the plant tannins. A boat trip across the lagoon took us to a hiking path that led to a thunderous waterfall, Salto El Sapo. We had the most incredible adrenalin rush of walking right behind the falls and being bombarded by the ferocious water. As the water hits it momentarily takes your breathe away and you have to remind yourself to breathe. Both of us were instantly transported to the time at Iguassu Falls in Argentina where we took a power boat trip right into the falls, experiencing the same feeling.

Our time in the Canaima National Park in Venezuela has been astounding and so infinitely rewarding .

So glad we didn't listen to all the people who said don't go to Venezuela!  

Footnote: Canaima National Park is UNESCO World Heritage listed. 

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