Review of "Angel Falls"

published 03/02/2010 | atticusuk
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Excellent
Pro The whole trip is an experience
Cons A numb bum
very helpful
Value for Money
Sightseeing
Shopping
Nightlife
Ease of getting around

"Spam Fritters with an Angel"

Angel Falls from the campsite after rainfall

Angel Falls from the campsite after rainfall

Angel Falls gets its name from the American pilot Jimmie Angel who sort of discovered it for the rest of the world by crashing his plane into it, before then only the local Indian tribes knew about it, the reason that it has now become such a popular tourist attraction in Venezuela is the fact that at a height of 979m and a continuous drop of 807m it is the world’s highest falls. It is certainly an impressive place to visit however it is not really the sight of the Falls that has me waxing lyrical about its charms because the actual Falls itself are not the most impressive part of the whole visit in my opinion, to be honest on the first day we arrived they sort of lacked any real wow factor and I felt the falls we saw in Canaima were more spectacular, no for me it is the whole experience of getting there in the first place that holds the attraction, you have to view the trip in its entirety rather than the actual sight of the falls.

Having said that an early evening and night enduring a tropical rain storm did make the falls a far more amazing sight on the second morning of our visit and so timing your visit and the method you use are very important. Angel Falls are located about 50km from the nearest population centre which is Canaima however really your trip starts from Cuidad Bolivar as that is where you catch the flights in small six seater planes for the two hour flight across some spectacular scenery to land at the small airstrip at Canaima. The flight itself is pretty spectacular, our pilot did not seem too concerned about the recent fatalities incurred on the journey as either his altitude meter was busted or he ignored the recommended ceiling on the dial to fly rather high for the plane we were in, thankfully I was the only one who noticed this and I did not have to deal with four nervous teenagers.

Now you can see the falls from the air if you want to as the pilots will detour over the Falls for an additional fee however to be honest I see little benefit in doing this as like I said the Falls themselves are impressive but only part of the experience, also if you encounter low cloud or there is a heavy mist your flight will have been in vain, even by land the top of the falls can be obscured and I would not want to risk my money to stare at a cloud and little else. That is also why you have to time your visit right as well, you really want to see the falls in the rainy season which stretches from June to December with the best two months being July and August, (we were there in July) however by plane the dry season is better although you may be looking at a fall that turns to mist by the time the water reaches the bottom.

There are a number of ways to access a trip to the falls, I was travelling as part of a large group of students on World Challenge and on our trip out of Canaima we were joined by five other travellers. Ours was a two day trip in total to see the falls and we also had two additional nights in Canaima as there are things to see there as well. This review centres on the trip to the falls as I will review Canaima separately.

We set off in the early morning for a five hour motorized boat ride up the Rio Carrao which is a high speed roller coaster ride of a trip, expect to get a little wet and certainly choosing the best seat will have an impact on your trip, the back seats where you can lean against the assorted bags and supplies is the most comfortable and conducive to sleep, however you are lower in the water and more likely to get wet, up front and my preferred location is dryer, has a great view however is less comfortable, do not expect to really be comfortable at all, the wooden benches are hard and two abreast you will be cosy and I was grateful that I had liberated Iberia of their in-flight pillow which I water proofed in a plastic bin liner and it eased the potential numbness in my bum. You also need to make sure you are covered up from the sun as with the spray and wind you do not notice that you are burning so slip, slap, slop is the order of the day.

On the plus side you do get some truly spectacular views both of the jungle environment and the truly awesome table top peaks that are dotted around throughout the region. I thought I would be really bored and I must say at times it was comatose inducing however the mountains are a lasting memory for me and looking at them you can understand how some of them can hold religious meaning for the locals. On the plus side the journey back is down river and as such a lot faster. There are a few rapids to navigate however with the exception of one set of rapids the skilled boat handlers are able to transport everyone, only at one point in both directions are they too dangerous and you have a 20 minute walk across land to meet up with the boats, this was where we stopped to eat our lunch, we were on a self catering basis however the other people were on a catered trip where the guides and boat handlers cooked for them.

Sore but exhilarated we arrived at the falls, there are a number of camp sites and ours was across the river with a great view of the falls, upon arrival the view was a little disappointing as the water fall was not that heavy, however we dumped off our gear and headed off to cross the river and climb up to the viewing points. For this you will need walking boots as it is a steep climb, not exactly arduous for us as we had just finished five days in the Andes however there are a couple of points where you will scramble up and it is a sweat inducing forty minute climb through mossie infested jungle so take some Deet and water to drink. However getting to the observation points (these are just clearings and nothing structured) is really worth the effort as you get a true sense of appreciation of the height of the falls and there are some great photo opportunities.

It was hard to drag yourself away from the sight as it was breath taking and we were all scrambling across wet and slippy rocks to get different views. However the darkness was drawing in and also the weather looked like it would live up to the seasons name and sure enough half way down the rainy season came good and we had a tropical storm which made it a pretty treacherous descent. I gave up worrying about staying dry and avoiding the puddles as my walking boots had water in them which actually began to warm up and kept my feet warm however these boots then took four days before they dried out.

The campsite was basic with a large covered area that has a roof only and then wooden beams from which the guides had set up our hammocks and mosquito nets (if you read my World Challenge review you will know I do not sleep in such things due to claustrophobia) and so I set up my box style mossie net to enable me to sleep on the ground. It is a cosy sleeping arrangement with everyone in together and running the length of one side of the structure is a long table and benches for people to eat at as we were not the only tour group staying there. The cooking facilities were more than adequate as we were cooking for 19, the boat handlers had already cooked for the paying guests and the food looked pretty good, chicken with rice and salad and those who had it said the food was very good as was their breakfast. Certainly looked better than my own preparation which gave the students a choice of either vegetarian Bolognese, tuna or spam fritters with either pasta or rice although we certainly had the biggest quantity and I was surprised when the boat handlers accepted food from us rather than the chicken.

The facilities in the camp were basic but good with a shower and toilet block so no need to dig a poo trench, the water was not warm and the generator for the lights was a little haphazard but we were largely dry from the rain and that was all that really mattered plus the next morning the flow over the falls was a lot more impressive and also the trip back down the river was a lot faster.

I was really impressed with our trip to Angel Falls, the guides were friendly and on the way back we stopped to swim in the river by some very small falls and that was a fun experience that broke up the journey even if the water was rather cold. It is a spectacular site and something to be really appreciated, the surrounding jungle is beautiful and I can never tire of staring at the majestic table mountains that abound in the area.

We paid a group rate of $180 for our trip however that did not include the cost of the flight to Canaima which was pre booked, expect to pay between $80 and a $100 for that however these prices really do depend on what rate you get on the currency black market while in Venezuela as we originally were told it would be $250 so the $180 price represented a nice saving. Angel Falls really is a must see destination while in Venezuela, it is a tourist attraction but because it is no Niagara Falls where you drive up, take a picture and then head off, instead it is a pretty challenging three day trip to a remote area. This means it is not over crowded and you can get a bit of peace and quiet to reflect on how wonderful Mother Nature is.

Thanks for reading and rating my review.


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Comments on this review

  • hiker published 13/02/2010
    Wow! Lx
  • paulpry118 published 06/02/2010
    I remember our trip to here very well. Our pilot thought he was flying in WW2 with some of his manouvers for us to see the falls from the air, on the way back we had to fly through a storm, the pilot strapped himself in with about 50 seat belts and I looked at our guide and he was sitting their praying making the sign of the cross, bloody frightening indeed! P.S. did the fish nibble your toes when you went swimming?
  • brereton66 published 06/02/2010
    Great review
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Listed on Ciao since: 07/02/2004