Canaima National Park and Angel Falls

Angel Falls (Spanish: Salto Ángel) is the world's highest uninterrupted waterfall, with a height of 979 m (3,212 ft) and a plunge of 807 m (2,648 ft). The waterfall drops over the edge of the Auyantepui mountain in the Canaima National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Gran Sabana region of Bolívar State. The height figure 979 m (3,212 ft) mostly consists of the main plunge but also includes about 400 m (0.25 mi) of sloped cascades and rapids below the drop and a 30-metre (98 ft) high plunge downstream of the talus rapids.

They were not known to the outside world until American aviator Jimmie Angel flew over them on 16 November 1933 on a flight while he was searching for a valuable ore bed.

From Ciudad Bolivar in Eastern Venezuela, Angel began a series of exploratory flights southward in his single engine aircraft. On one of these flights he abruptly came upon the amazing Auyantepui that rises thousands of feet above the savanna. A circular tabletop mountain, it is practically unscalable. Angel began to fly around the giant mesa when he found the falls. Because his fuel supply was low and because clouds made flying hazardous, he was forced to return promptly to his base. But the discovery of: the cataract left him dazzled. He returned to Caracas to tell of his find. "But no one would believe me," he wrote. "They thought it impossible that there could be a fall one kilometre in length".

Nevertheless Angel returned to fly over the falls again. Then in 1937 with, his wife he embarked on yet another flight to the falls. Angel decided to risk a landing on Auyantepui near the falls. The plane touched earth in a swampy area and became mired. Attempts to level the craft, and to fly off the mountain failed. Angel had to walk out of the jungle, a hard task, but one he and his wife managed in 12 days. 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.

Nobody said that it would be easy to get to the Angel Falls, and indeed it proved to be a long, arduous, but worthwhile. journey. A flight from Caracas to Puerto Ordaz, then a small 19 seater turbo-prop to Canaima. And from Canaima, a 5 hour journey up river by canoe to the hammock base camp for Angel Falls: then an hour and a half difficult walk through the rain forest to the base of the falls. Then the same to return.

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Eurobuilding Express Caracas Airport Hotel.

I agree with the reviewer who said "The service is really bad and the shuttle service is poorly scheduled. Nevertheless... is a very good option to wait your next flight... " It is convenient at 5 minutes from the airport, the bedrooms are fairly standard 4 star, and everything works including the hot water. The check-in was truly appalling, it took ages and the staff really did not seem to care. Same on check-out.

Similarly with food, the waitress was really bad tempered, but we got the order in the end, and it was perfectly acceptable. Much on the menu was "off", but that is par for the course in Venezuela today. We stayed here en-route to Angel Falls and again on return as we had to overnight at the airport both times. The first night was in a back ground floor room in the satellite building - I would not recommend this as it was dark, and looked out onto a earth bank a few metres from the window. The reception area in this building was dark too. And you had to go to the other building to use the pool and eat in the restaurant or get a drink

On our return we requested a room in the main building (ie the one with the pool and restaurant). We had a room on the 3rd floor facing the airport, and that was much better. It certainly is not a hotel you could rave about, but it may be better than the alternatives. Certainly it was safe, and one could easily idle away the day around the pool sipping cocktails.

In the grounds of Waku Lodge

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An early flight from Caracas got us in to Puerto Ordaz at 9 am, where they held the 19 seater that was to take us on to Canaima. We never got to see Puerto Ordaz, but it is a planned city which, together with the older settlement of San Félix, forms Ciudad Guayana. Puerto Ordaz is located at the confluence of the Caroní and Orinoco Rivers and is the site of the Llovizna Falls. There are bridges across the Caroni and a new bridge across the Orinoco (Second Orinoco crossing). It is one of Venezuela's largest cities and is the base for large iron and steelworks and aluminium industries. The city has a large hydroelectric power plant, Macagua Dam. Due to its planned nature, the city has a drastically different feel to it than many other South American cities.

We were picked up at Canaima airport by the hotel, and taken the 5 minutes by truck to Waku

Waku Lodge We were here for three nights, and it is a very nice, classic small hotel with 20 rooms. Our enjoyment was marred by the fact that we were the only couple, the rest being in groups from 10 to 20. Such that one night the 20 room hotel accommodated 60 guests. The hotel is on the water, overlooking local falls, The photos of the hotel show you what to expect. The grounds are well maintained, and there are plenty of places to sit and relax, though your options are curtailed when the groups move in.

Again in the dining room we had a problem as we were only 2, we were shoe-horned into a distant corner of the dining room, hemmed in by the large, noisy, groups. We solved this problem by eating outside in the grounds, where they will lay up a table for you.

We were scheduled to take an overnight trip to the Angel Falls, but on arrival at the base camp for the falls, realised that the hammock camp there was no fun and had no view of anything other than encroaching jungle (other companies have better hammock camps for views). Once there we were also informed that a group of 24 would be joining us in the late afternoon, 24+2 for dinner and then in hammocks!!So we took the walk of an hour and a half each way to the falls, and returned to Waku that night. My advice is to only do the Angel Falls as a day trip, it is perfectly doable, and indeed is what most people take. Wifi exists at Waku, but be warned that it is slow, and only available near reception. And when there are others- groups! - using the bandwidth at the same time, then speeds slows to just about zero. My view of the Waku is coloured by the very rude Peruvian hotel manager, and the situation with us was only ameliorated by the PR lady, Jenny, who smoothed over our difficulties.and sent us on ourway happy, in the end.

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Our first afternoon had a trip by canoe to get behind the falls fronting the Waku Lodge. Not realising how bad the water force was, I rather stupidly took the manager's suggestion to wrap my camera in a plastic bag , and take it with me to get the "iconic shot" behind the waterfall. Turned out the shot was not worth getting, and my camera got wet - I thought at the time irreparably, but in the event it did dry out, and I was able to download the last three weeks photos. Chris eschewed, wisely, the walk behind the two falls - there was no actual path, and one waded knee deep in potholes in the water. My misery was compounded in that we were part of a group of 10 on the excursion - the other 8 were all Chinese, and were a very juvenile bunch who whooped and shouted, and stopped everywhere for numerous photos of themselves, taken holding heroic poses against the backdrop of whatever was around. Not a good afternoon. Happily I managed to rescue the photos when I got home, so the memory is more irritation against the Chinese, rather than grief at losing all my holiday photos. But it did mean that I did not take what I thought was a non functioning camera on our trip to the Falls!

The walks behind the falls were actually quite dramatic - the second being safe enough for Chris to venture some of the way in order to get the flavour of the walking behind waterfalls.

Next morning we left Waku Lodge at 5am and arrived at the Hammock Base Camp at 10am. The canoe journey was a real highlight. There was a short hike as the canoe was taken without us past some rapids. And there was later a short pause on land along the way for a really revolting packed breakfast supplied by the hotel. But with the help of a very good boat driver, we swooped and fought our way upstream.

Our first glimpse of the Angel Falls

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Eventually we came round a bend in the river, and were looking straight at the Angel Falls. In many ways just what we had imagined, but they were breathtaking. Some time afterwards we landed for the hammock camp, which turned out to be hidden in the jungle, with no views of the falls or anything else. Other companies owned better positioned hammock camps. In addition, we were told that they expected a group of 24 Venezuelans that night, with the hammocks being only inches apart.

After a short discussion, Chris & I decided that we would opt to walk to the base of the falls straight away, then return by canoe to Waku that afternoon. This was only accepted by the hotel with very bad grace. Anyway the walk to see the base of the falls was an hour and a half each way, through difficult terrain. Difficult as the path was over surface roots the whole way, and over an uphill route. The sun had gone from the falls, so the photos are not as good as the earlier ones from the canoe. Chris was just about all in by the time we finished the walk.

Back at the hammock camp, we did not want lunch, but the guide did. We were treated to chicken off paper plates and plastic cutlery. Back in the canoe, it was only 3 hours back to Waku, as we were with the current. One dicey moment on the way, where we thought that the canoe might tip in a rapid when it hit a submerged rock. We reached Waku just as it was getting dark. The hotel manager was very rude about our change of plan. He said our itinerary was nothing to do with the hotel, and that our travel agent must have made up the substantial errors in it. Eventually we came across a PR lady, Jenny, who did wonders to smooth over the problems. She read our itinerary, and accepted that it was not our fault - and we never did actually find out whose fault it was!.

I really don't know how she did it!

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As a sweetener, Jenny threw in a free trip the next day down the river the other way. Setting out in a small jeep to bypass rapids, we picked up a canoe, and went down river for about an hour. Landed, walked to a waterfall, then over a plank bridge to get back to the river and admire the rapids. The same journey back, made a very enjoyable afternoon.

From Waku the next morning is was the two small aircraft back to Caracas, over night at Eurobuildings Express , before a Business Class flight back to Madrid and Alicante.

Colombia - Venezuela Holiday