The small settlement of Canaima is negotiable by foot. Trips up to the Falls, however, will be in a dugout canoe, or curiara. The 30-minute or so walk from the closest point on the river to the base of the Falls is not easy going because of large tree roots on the path and visitors are advised to take sports shoes or suchlike for this hike.
From Canaima, in the Goldilocks season when the water is neither too high or too low, you can travel by the motorised canoes (also still called curiaras) up the Carrao River, then the Churun river to a landing point where you can then hike through the jungle to the falls. The river portion takes about four hours and you should allow another hour or more for the hike. Canoe access to Angel Falls is not usually available outside of the rainy season of June to November.
Angel Falls or Salto Ángel is the world’s highest waterfall, dropping a total of 978m from the summit of the Auyan Tepuy, and with an 807m uninterrupted drop.
It is known as Parekupa-meru by the local Pemon Indians but gained the Angel name after US pilot Jimmy Angel crash-landed on the Auyan Tepuy while searching the area for gold in 1937. Instead, he found this spectacular waterfall. After 11 days of trekking, he reached Kamarata and made his find public. His plane was later recovered and can be seen in front of the airport at Ciudad Bolivar. After his death in 1956, his ashes were sprinkled over Angel Falls.
Angel Falls is situated in the Gran Sabana region of Venezuela. The area is filled with grasslands, with some dense jungle along the course of the rivers and at the base of the numerous tepuis, or flat-topped mountains. Angel falls is located on the side of the largest of the Venezuela’s tepuis known as Auyan-tepui.
There is an incredible variety of tropical wildlife in the area, including monkeys, poison arrow frogs and hundreds of species of orchids. Aside from the monkeys, mammals in the area are generally difficult to spot but include giant anteaters, armadillos, porcupines, three-toed sloths, otters, jaguars, pumas, tapirs and capybaras.
Angel Falls is deep within the National Park. When first entering the park (at the airport in Canaima) one must pay the park entrance fee of BsF. 35 (US$ 4). Visitor flying out to Canaima National Park must also prove they have received a yellow fever vaccination. Those who cannot prove this will be given the vaccination in the airport at Ciudad Bolivar.
The falls are located about 5 hours’ ride in a dugout canoe upstream from Canaima village. Most of the Park’s attractions can only be visited with a guided tour from Canaima. These can be booked from outside Venezuela, from Caracas, or from Ciudad Bolivar but prices are much more competitive in Ciudad Bolivar. Most tours that take you to the foot of the falls are two nights (one in Canaima, one at the falls) and three days, and combine all of the three elements below (and also include food and transport). Alternatively you can hire shorter tours just to go up to Angel Falls and back again. A typical tour will include the flight to Canaima, and then three days of meals and (very basic) accommodation at the various campsites along the river towards the falls. The trip involves several hours in a dugout canoe and a few hours hiking through gallery forest to the main viewpoint below the falls. Most tour guides speak spanish with limited English.
- Two day tours run to the foot of the Angel falls by motorized dugout canoe (curiara). The first day a five or six hour boat ride will lead you to the base camp. From there it’s a one hour walk to the foot of waterfall. Here you can take pictures and swim. The night will be spent in hammocks and the next day another a five hours will bring you back to Canaima.
- A half day tour brings you toIsla Anatoly, very close to Canaima village, where some other waterfalls are visited such as Salto Sapo. Some of them can be walked behind the water curtain.
- Just west of Canaima is a beautiful lagoon with water stained a tea colour by the vegetation in the area, and with a nice view of the waterfalls and tepuy mountain.
The trip towards the fall itself has many attractions. The boat rides and walks through the jungle offer a unique view of Venezuelan flora, fauna, and terrain. If the water flow is mild enough, you can swim in the small pool that forms below the falls.
Apart from trips to Angel Falls, the Canaima National Park offers some challenging trekking, including trips to the 700km² plateau of Auyan-tepui, which can be arranged in Ciudad Bolivar. The trek to the top from the tiny village of Uruyen takes three days on rough tracks, and the final climb up a cleft in the massive rock wall is a tough scramble, but the rewards are immense – the landscape is surreal, with clumps of insect-eating pitcher plants clinging to the bare rock, and unlike Mount Roraima, you’ll barely meet another soul. Trips typically spend a couple of days on the top, and take 2 days to return to either Uruyen or Kavac. The weather can be wet, and chilly on the tepui – bring a warm fleece and some waterproofs!
The tourist village of Kavac has a bar, a small shop selling crafts, and traditional huts with comfortable beds or hammocks. Stay for a morning before your flight out and someone will offer to show you to the “caves”, really a narrow canyon leading to a waterfall and a refreshing plunge pool.