Canaima National Park, deep in Venezuela's southeast Gran Sabana region, protects a vast wilderness of virgin rainforest, savannah, rivers, waterfalls, and towering table mountains known as tepuis. Canaima is larger than the state of Maryland, and encompasses the headwaters of the Caroni River. More than 550 bird species, including at least 30 endemics, have been identified within the park. Giant otters, margays, and giant anteaters are also found here. UNESCO declared Canaima a World Heritage site in 1994.
Only a few scattered towns and villages, concentrated on rivers and tributaries, are found within the park. The primary residents are members of the Pemon indigenous group, whose ancestors first inhabited these lands more than 9,000 years ago. The Pemon feel a mystical relationship with the tepuis, which they hold as the sacred homes of the mawari spirits.
Canaima's most famous attraction is Angel Falls, known to the Pemon as Kerepacupay Merü. According to the National Geographic Society, this is the tallest waterfall on earth; its total height is 3,212 feet. Of the 47 drops that comprise the falls, the largest plunge measures 2,648 feet. The cascade descends from a sheer-faced tepui known as Auyantepui. The descent is so large that much of the water blows away as mist before it hits the ground.
The English name for the falls refers to an American aviator, Jimmie Angel, who located the cascade while searching for ore in 1933. On his second trip to the site in 1937, he made a difficult landing on top of Auyantepui. When the aircraft's wheels sank into the marshy ground, he and his companions hiked eleven days to the nearest Pemon village. His Flamingo monoplane remained on top of the tepui for the next 33 years. (Now restored, Angel's aircraft is mounted in front of the Cuidad Bolivar airport.)
Reaching the falls is still an adventure. The trip begins with a one-hour flight from either Puerto Ordaz or Cuidad Bolivar on the Orinoco River. During the June to December wet season, direct flights from Caracas are usually available. In the wet season, Carrao River trips from Canaima (in motorized canoes known ascuriaras) take three hours. Disembarking at Isla Ratoncito, an uphill hike of one hour leads to the Laime viewpoint in front of the falls. Most wet season trips include an overnight camp in this area. Visitors should dress for rain and mist.
During the January to May dry season, the falls are more easily viewed by charter plane overflights. These flights depart from Canaima airfield and usually last 45 minutes, passing over Auyantepui, the Carrao and Churun Rivers, and Angel Falls.
Mosaico Travel Services arranges guided tours of Canaima and Angel Falls. Multi-day extensions (three to six days) allow visitors to enjoy the nearby Kamarata Valley's numerous other falls, villages and forests. Extensions to the Gran Sabana and Roraima are also possible.
In fact, Mosaico Travel Services arranges personalized travel throughout Venezuela and across South America. We organize luxury accommodation, private transportation, and tours with expert guides. Speak with a Mosaico travel planner today at 801.582.2100. We’ll take care of the details.
"Once you have passed the Great Cataracts, you feel you are in a new world; that you have stepped over the barriers that nature seems to have raised between the civilized coasts and the wild, unknown interior."