As the tallest in the world, Angel Falls appears in countless travel lists around the internet. It’s the kind of place I got goosebumps from just by looking at pictures. Located in the Venezuela, it hasn’t received many international visitors because of the country’s worsening security reputation. My eagerness to see it (and Roraima) made me ignore the warnings. What I found is a relatively safe country in places to cater to tourists.
Angel Falls is pretty remote. To get there I first went Ciudad Bolivar (another option is Puerto Ordaz). The hotel I stayed in (Posada Don Carlos) helped me arrange the 3-day tour for 19,000 VEF, which at the $1 = 100 VEF black market exchange rate, comes down to about US$190. The tour’s price included the round trip flights, 2 canoe rides, a room for the first night, hammocks for the second night, and all meals. But, I had Brazilian Reales with me instead of US Dollars, and while I was able to get a decent exchange rate at the border, Ciudad Bolivar was much more inland so demand for the Brazilian currency was almost non-existent. After looking around for while, I was able to get someone who would exchange at 30 to 1, instead of the 36 to 1 I had gotten in Santa Elena.
From Ciudad Bolivar you board a small 6-person Cessna plane for the 1-hour 20-minute flight to the indigenous village of Canaima. Most tour companies have built bases there with rooms and restaurants.
In our group were two German guys, a girl from Poland, a guy from Hong Kong, two older Venezuelan ladies, and a large Venezuelan family. We spent the rest of the first day exploring the surroundings, particularly the nearby waterfalls of Salto Sapo.
After some swimming by the falls, we crossed the falls from underneath it. That was quite an experience since at some sections it was like being spayed with a fire hose. Suffice to say that I put my camera away and didn’t take any pictures. It did take pictures once we reached the other side of the falls, as the sun was going down.
After spending the night in Canaima, we had an early start for a long 4 to 5-hour canoe ride to a camp close to our final destination of Angel Falls. We were going upstream and we got sprayed with water a few times. There was a section were the river rapids were pretty violent so the boat dropped us off and we hiked inland for about 30 minutes, before boarding the canoe again. Towards the end of the ride we had our first glimpse of amazing Angel Falls.
We arrived to camp at around 2pm and immediately started our hike to the falls. Since there were a good number of slow hikers in the group, I took the opportunity to get ahead so I could be the first one to arrive at the falls’ viewpoint. The one-hour hike is through thick rainforest. As you get closer to the falls, you still can’t get a glimpse of it, but you can hear the water getting closer and closer. I almost run up the last few hundred meters, smiling and repeating to myself “You are at Angel Falls! You are at Angel Falls”.
And suddenly, there it was, in all of it’s glory. I had high expectations and it didn’t disappoint at all. Even though the viewing spot was pretty far from the base of the falls, you can still get sprayed by the water mist coming from it.
The two German guides soon arrived and we had the whole place for us for a good 10 minutes or so, before the rest of our group and 2 other large groups arrived. I’m really glad I had a few minutes of quiet alone time at this legendary place. The clouds started to move in, making the view even more dramatic.
We made our way back to camp and barely beat out the darkness that set in with the early sunset. It started to rain shortly after and we spent the night sleeping in hammocks.
It rained most of the night and heavy clouds made it impossible to see the falls from our camp the next morning. We went back to Canaima by boat, reversing the route we had done the previous day, including the 30-minute hike.
Once we got back to Canaima, the clouds had a cleared. I, along with 2 other people in the group had the idea of doing a overfly over Angel Falls. The price of 4,500 VEF (around US$45) seem reasonable for me for the 40-minute ride. I was already there and I definitely wanted to see the falls from a different vantage point.
When we first arrived at the falls, we had a clear view of it. The pilot flew by it two more times, but by then the clouds had moved in.
We made it back to Canaima just in time for me to board my plane back to Ciudad Bolivar.
Despite my super high expectations, I was very impressed with Angel Falls, and this is despite me being already familiar with the tepui landscapes in the area from my hike to Mount Roraima. The whole area has a magical feel to it, and I’m pretty sure I’ll return again one day, maybe to do the 2-week hike to the top of the falls.