Traveling to Angel Falls in Venezuela
How to visit Angel falls
Venezuela is a tricky country for Americans these days. When I was there in 2005 Chaves was going through a no confidence/re-election political snafu and there were protests and demonstration marches all over the place. These problems were happening in large population areas but fortunately when making your way to Angel Falls you are leaving the high population centers behind.
Angel Falls is the tallest water fall in the world. That is it falls the farthest from top to bottom, it does not have the most volume per minute. The water actually falls 2,648 ft before coalescing and tumbling down a slope to create a head pool that is a chilling and very refreshing swim.
Assuming you already have your passport you get yourself a plane ticket to Caracas which is the capital of Venezuela. Unless the city is on your to do list you can avoid the city altogether. The Airport is quite a ways north of the city proper and you can arrange for your next flight easily from the airport when you arrive. If your only reason for going to Venezuela is to see the water fall you might look into a direct flight to Ciudad Bolivar but it’s usually cheaper to break the flight up. There are plenty of nice beach front hotels a short cab ride from the Caracas airport for a weekend stay before the next leg of your trip. You can tell the cab drivers to take you to a hotel within your budget and you should do quite nicely. Make sure that you only pay for the ride to the hotel as they will try to tell you that paying for the next ride back to the airport in advance is the way things are done. In all my travels this was the first time I was hit up for a future ride cost. The cab driver will act incensed and angry but it is a scam, he will get over it. A note about the food, the bamboo shoot salads are wonderful. The hotels that serve it use some kind of oil based dressing on the freshest bamboo you have ever tasted. Be sure to treat yourself.
From Caracas you want to book a flight to Ciudad Bolivar which is south and east of Caracas. You could book from the Caracas airport straight to Canaima but you would be missing out on some fun stuff and you will likely be stopping in Ciudad Bolivar anyway. The city itself has the usual amenities and minor attractions including a small but very efficient hospital. However don’t miss out on the chance to walk through the river district and see the Orinoco River in all its majestic muddy glory. Something you will notice that surprised me was how many American muscle cars there are. Camaros, GTOs and Impalas are everywhere. This is because in the seventies many of these cars were made in Venezuelan factories and imported to the US and sold as American made cars. Many were sold locally as well.
I stayed at a large hotel right across the street from the airfield and it was great. Here is a funny story: When I checked into the hotel the Clerk told me not to miss the cage full of Scarlet McCaw’s in the courtyard, apparently they talk. So after dinner I went out to the cages and spent twenty minute saying “Hello” and “Polly wanna cracker” to these birds that just looked at me like I was a nut. I turned and walked away thinking they must be broken when one of the birds cocked his head quizzically and said “Hola?” I felt like an idiot. Of course they speak Spanish.
When you arrive at the airfield in Ciudad Bolivar and go in to the terminal building you will find several different companies that offer the Angle Falls tourist travel package. They are all more or less the same. I suggest just booking a flight to Canaima, which is the launching pad for the sightseeing trip, without booking the whole hotel stay package. There are no roads to Canaima and you will likely end up flying on a very small plane like a single prop sesna. Take Dramamine, I mean it. The countryside is beautiful and daunting at the same time. You will land on the small run way and wait in the snack bar for the rest of your group.
Canaima is an incredible little place. Most of the population consists of Pemoan Indians. The town is centered on a lagoon feed by seven waterfalls and the tannic river water has stained the beaches pink. One of the secrets of the place is that it is technically a government funded park so they can’t and won’t charge you to stay there. The hotels charge you to use the rooms but you can throw up a hammock anywhere you like. There many places to string hammocks up, most notable the guide camps and as long as you eat there and pay for your food they are happy to have you. I spent three weeks at one doing my graduate research on a group of primates that fit my study parameters. The tour groups hustle you in to the boats and out on to the river on your way to the water fall but your stay can be extended which I highly recommend.
The trip to the falls is as fun as the falls themselves. It consists of two nights and three days round trip on the river. You start out in a van driving around the lagoon and above the small waterfalls to the river where you get in a boat and start upriver from Canaima. Then you spend the night in an oversized thatch hut in your hammock. The next morning you head up river again. As it begins to narrow your boat driver will hit a sandbar or two just to keep you on your toes. When you get out of the boat you can see Angel falls but you have a forty five minute forest walk ahead of you. The forest is full of Morpho Butterfies that electric blue and everywhere. The terrain starts to get rough but that’s how you know you’re close. You spend the whole afternoon swimming in the pool and basking in the spray of the tallest waterfall in the world.
After your stay at the falls it’s back on the boat and back to camp. Then there’s another long day on the river and back to the lagoon with the pink beaches. This is when most visitors make their way back to the airfield on to the plane and out of Canaima. This is the mistake I hope you will avoid. Stay for a few days, lounge on the beach, swim in the lagoon and enjoy the serenity that this little paradise has to offer. Places like that are few and far between. Don’t forget to pay the Macunaima gift shop a visit and say “Hi” to the monkeys for me.
For more about Canaima and the monkeys see my article:
For more about my travels see my blog: onthemove819.blogspot.com/