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Angel Falls and Canaima National Park

Spectacular scenery and the highest waterfall in the world

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Savanna and tepui Canaima National Park

Savanna and tepui Canaima National Park

Peter & Jackie Main

Parque Nacional Canaima, Venezuela's second largest national park, sprawls over three million hectares in south-eastern Venezuela along the border between Guyana and Brazil. Here, rolling savannas, moriche palm groves, montane forests, and dense river woodlands join sheer cliffs, astounding steep flat-topped table mountains called tepuis, from which fall spectacular cascades of water. Here is Angel Falls, Salto Angel, the highest uninterrupted waterfall in the world. See this interactive map from Expedia.

"Canaima was established as a national park on 12 June 1962 by Executive Decree No. 770, and management is regulated under the Forest Law of Lands and Waters, 1966. Its size was doubled to the present area under Executive Decree No. 1.137 of 1 October 1975. National park objectives are stated in the 1983 Organic Law of Territorial Planning as natural areas unaffected by human disturbance where recreation, educational activities and research are encouraged. Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1994." UNESCO

In addition to safeguarding the environment, the park, through its river system feeding Guri Dam via the river Caroni, supplies most of Venezuela's power. The area was the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel, "The Lost World" in which he set his characters in a world of prehistoric plants and dinosaurs.

The name of the park comes from the Pemón people who inhabit the area, and means spirit of evil. In spite of the off-putting name, tourism is encouraged, but limited to designated areas in the western region around Laguna de Canaima, accessible only by air. There are "camps" or lodges around the lagoon that provide lodgings, meals, recreational activities and tour guides. There in one road in the park, linking Ciudad Bolivar in the southeast corner of the park, to other areas.

The most famous feature of the park is Salto Angel, or Angel Falls, which drop from the Auyantepui, or Devil's Mountain, into the Cañon del Diablo, Devil's Canyon. The falls are named for an American flyer, Jimmy Angel, who was searching for gold and insteand "discovered" the falls. Read his story, written by his niece, in The House of the Devil: Angel Falls & Jimmie Angel.

Getting There:
Air:
As stated, access to Canaima National Park is by air to the village of Canaima, about 50 km away from the falls. From there, you take either a smaller plane and fly to an airstrip at Canaima Lagoon, or travel by river to the lagoon. From the lagoon, you hike to a view point of the falls.

There are also daily flights via Puerto Ordaz connecting Canaima airstrip with the major cities of Venezuela. The airstrip is a short jeep-train ride from nearby Lodges. Check flights from your area to Caracas or other Venezuelan cities with connections to Ciudad Bolicar and Canaima. From this page, you can also browse hotels, rental cars, and special deals.

Water:
From Canaima, when the water is neither too high or too low, you can travel by motorized canoe, called curiara up the Carrao River, then the Churun river to an point where you can then hike through the jungle to the falls. The river portion takes about four hours, and you should allow an hour or more for the hike. Canoe access to Angel Falls is restricted to the rainy season, June to November.

When to Go:
Any time of year. However, the falls depend on rainfall, so in dry season, between December and April, the falls are less spectacular. During the rest of the year, with greater rainfall, the falls are heavier, but clouds often obscure the top of the Auyantepui.

The climate of the great savanna plateau is temperate with a mean annual temperature of 24.5° C with the temperatures on tepui summits as low as 0° C during the night.

Practical Tips:
What to bring:

  • A copy of your passport, shorts, comfortable walking shoes, light shirt, a hat, sunglasses, sun-block cream, swim suit, towel.
  • If you are going to stay for more than a day, and don't want to rely on the restaurants in the park, which can be expensive, take some foodstuffs with you. The local shops are expensive, too.
  • If you are going to be climbing or trekking, you will need the appropriate gear.
  • Plan on more than a day at the falls. There may be clouds preventing photos and a clear view, plus there are additional things to see and do in the park.
  • Camera(s) and lots of film!

    Lodging:

  • Waku Lodge faces Canaima lagoon and the waterfalls
  • Campamento Ucaima founded by Rudolf Truffino (Jungle Rudy) is on the Carrao river, just before the falls
  • Campamento Parakaupa[, between the airstrip and the lagoon, is a less expensive alternative to Campamento Ucaima
  • Kavac, a small Indian village at the base of the Auyan tepui, has access only by plane to Kamarata

    Next page: more information about Angel Falls, climbing Roraima, and additional things to do and see.

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