A lot of the countries I have visited are renowned tourist hotspots, and it is proving more and more challenging to find a travel location if both safe and not overly touristy. One such location that fascinated me for years is Caniama National Park in the heart of the Venezuela. What am I saying, it’s not safe at all, but it had captivated my imagination from an early age. The reason behind this, was because it is home to the world’s highest waterfall – Angel Falls
Angel Falls stands at 979 m (3,212 ft), and is definitely classified as ‘off the beaten track’ as it is located in the middle of an isolated jungle.
Getting there is definitely complicated as there are no roads that lead to this spectacular location. If starting in Caracas (the capital) it’s a LONG bus journey to Puerto Ordaz or Ciudad Bolívar, where you will catch a small plane to the Canaima base camp, from there it’s a 4 hour boat ride and then at least an hour hike to the base. It sounds like I am complaining – but honestly it’s one of the best wandering memory trips we have ever made – a true wilderness adventure! I couldn’t recommend this any higher. I know I have banged on about the wilderness before, but this was true wilderness…
The bus journey I would avoid as it’s long, uncomfortable and honestly a bit boring. You can take the option to fly the whole way, including flying over the falls (but not landing) but where is the fun in that? The flight from Puerto Ordaz or Ciudad Bolívar on a clear day allows you to view some of Venezuela’s truly remote jungle and spectacular scenery. It’s amazing to think that vast parts of this jungle may still remain unexplored, mainly due to its remote and inaccessible location. Apart from the jungle you can see what we could only describe as a ‘lost word’ of table top mountains, rivers, jungle and native villages. Landing in Canaima camp is also a plus point of this trip as it includes many smaller waterfalls, a pink lake and a touristy yet somewhat isolated native township.
The trip to Angel Falls from here is at least 4 hours in a wooden canoe usually between June and December (the wet months), with the occasional break for a swim, or the essential walk as the canoe cannot make it through certain rapids. You get a real sense of the isolation that surrounds you and if you are lucky you could even see some of the native wildlife that lives in the forest, such as giant river otters, jaguars, eagles, spider monkeys, river turtles or sloths. Our unique treat was eating Termites direct from the mound, interestingly they taste like mint. About 3 hours into the boat trip the landscape starts to dramatically change, and the Tepui’s take prominent position behind the jungle. These Tepui’s are like worlds of their own, protruding high above the tree line, accommodating unique ecosystems, and forming the dominant view the closer to Angel Falls you get. They were also inspirational to writer Arthur Conan Doyle when he wrote ‘the lost word’, and you can see why. It’s a magnificent feeling to be sat in a small hollowed out Canoe while drawing closer into what feels like a valley surrounded by these magnificent geological structures.
Four-five hours in and you get a glimpse of the Angel Falls, its grandness cannot be captured by any image online, it truly is magnificent. You expect next to hear a giant crash of water, but this waterfall doesn’t give you that, as it’s so high that the water gets captured by the wind and lightly sprays a huge surface area. As the boat takes the last corner you can see the falls clear in front of you, be it a few miles back from the river – that is the feeling I cannot capture in words and the feeling that is worth the whole trip and more! The hike from here to the base of the falls is around an hour up hill, and again is fascinating, as you get to see the jungle/rainforest in all its colourful glory on a well-trodden path. Three quarters up the track is the picture point where you get great views of the water fall itself and hear the roar of the water more clearly. Many people make it here and no further as the view is so spectacular you get spell bound by it and time just ticks away. However if you continue upwards, it is possible to take a swim/bath in the first pool (being every careful of course). Being so close to the equator this place is usually very hot and humid, and this water is freezing cold! – A great way to cool down. If you are the first group to arrive the grandness of this place and the silence of the jungle can be quite overwhelming, as this will be one of the most isolated places you will ever visit (there are no towns around the waterfall for miles and miles (hence the journey)). There are few places in the world that have impacted me as much as this did – it’s simply mesmerising.
Since it is such a long journey back, we opted to stay overnight at the base of the falls. Now this is a true campsite, a Tin Roof, a Fire Pit and hammocks hanging from the poles holding the tin roof up. No lights, no gas, no civilization for over 4 hours in any direction, this was truly an experience in the South American jungle. You don’t realise how dark the night is, until you spend a night where there is no light pollution for miles and miles. It was quite daunting, even though I had spent nights like this in America, Australia and recently Africa this was a different experience all together. This was not for the easily scared! We were covered in bug nets, and were even visited by some local spiders and snakes during the evening. As the sun rises; you awake to the dramatic landscape view of the falls just a few miles away – it’s one of the most dramatic and beautiful places I have ever a woken in – simply awe-inspiring.
As you can probably read in my story, this was one magical place and in all honesty one of the best adventures of our live’s – A true Wandering Memory.
Check out my other Venezuela blog here.