Thursday 07 May 2015

Visiting the Tallest Waterfall in the World – Angel Falls 3 Day Trip Review Part 1 of 2: Ciudad Bolivar & Canaima National Park


I’m currently in Brazil for the 2nd half of my South American trip, and writing today about the last part of our Venezuelan leg of the trip – Canaima National Park and Angel Falls, the Tallest waterfall in the world!

1. Heading to South America for 1 Month – Details
2. Venezuela’s Black Market Money Exchange
3. Busses, Canyoning, & Paragliding in Venezuela – OH MY!
4. I LOVE WHITEWATER RAFTING! Review of My 18th Time in Venezuela Last Week

What can I say about Angel Falls? In Venezuela they refer to it as “Salto Angel”. Salto is one of a few Spanish words that translates to waterfall. One of the main reasons this whole trip was planned was to see Angel Falls. It’s been on my Travel Bucket List ever since I found out about it a few years ago. You may know Angel Falls as “Paradise Falls” from the cute animated movie “Up”. This is the same waterfall.

It’s found very deep in Canaima National Park on the eastern side of Venezuela, falling over 900 meters (about 3,000 feet) off the top of a tepui. A tepui is a flat top mountain, and the National Park is full of them. They are some of the most mysterious, and incredible mountains I’ve ever seen. Extremely unique, and very awe inspiring.

They always say that it’s not always the destination, but the getting there that makes something special. Angel Falls takes the “getting there” and the “destination” part to a whole other level!

We began our trip by getting off our all night bus in Ciudad Bolivar. The plan was to take a cab into town, check into a cheap posada (hostel), and catch a cab to the airport, where we read you can book cheap 3 day tours to the falls. You need to fly to the National Park in a small 4-6 seater plane.

As soon as we stepped off the bus, before we even got our bags, a nice man named Carlos came over to us asking if we spoke English. We said yes, and he said he had a tour agency office right behind us (which he did), and he had a 3 day trip leaving tomorrow and we should come talk to him. We talked to him and were sold in a matter of 2 minutes. The cost was $337 USD and it included staying at his posada in town for “as many nights as needed” before and after the trip until we left for the next city as well as all transportation to/from the airport. We had read that 3 day trips could be bought at the airport for $250-$300 each, so we figured the $337 was well worth it for the convenience of not having to worry about sketchy taxi drivers, and getting a posada.

We paid and his driver immediately took us to the Posada.
We had some minor thoughts that maybe we got ripped off, b/c after all, we were at a bus station in Venezuela and just handed over almost $700! Maybe this cab driver was taking us somewhere to rob us, or there wouldn’t be a tour tomorrow? We arrived at the posada in about 15 minutes of driving and were relieved to find that everything was fine, and it was a legitimate tour agency.

The city, Ciudad Bolivar wasn’t really much to write about. The posada was near an outdoor street market full of vendors selling in the center of the city. It seemed like a pretty poor area, and then there was the most random indoor shopping mall ever. It had an arcade, a few beauty salons, an american bar & grill, and an asian food restaurant! What in the world? So out of place.
The center of the town where we were staying shuts down completely at about 6pm, but the chinese place was open till 7, so needless to say we ate supper there the first night after realizing it was the only thing open within a mile. I wouldn’t recommend walking after dark in Ciudad Bolivar. Very dodgy, and the posada owners didn’t recommend it either. We stayed in after dinner.


What’s the smallest plane you’ve ever flown in? Before this flight, the smallest plane I had ever flown in was a 16 seater plane to Tikal National Park in Guatemala. That plane was cut into 3rds on this trip!

Let the party begin!

We waited at the airport for a couple hours for our flight. It was a tiny little airport, with mostly just small charter planes to small Venezuelan cities. The main market for the airport was to send people to/from Angel Falls. Literally, the gate was just a door to walk outside. After we went through security a plane pulled up and an airport employee walked in and waived 4 of us outside. i must tell you too that we didn’t have tickets or boarding passes either… The guy who drove us to the airport just took our passports for 10 minutes and came back and said it was all taken care of. Ok! Haha.

The plane held 6 people, including the pilot. 3 rows of 2.
Pilot and guy up front, Kate and I in the middle row, and 2 local ladies in the back. I wondered if it was their first flight ever, b/c for the hour and a half flight, they both hold onto the seats in front of them like their life depended on it. The flight was loud, but mostly pretty smooth, and the scenery was beautiful at times.

After 90 minutes in the air the Canaima Lagoon popped into view along with Tepui Mountains in the middle of the jungle, and then we saw a tiny air strip and a couple jungle lodges amidst a small village. We landed at the “airport” smoothly, grabbed our bags, and were greeted by “Tony”, our guide for the next 3 days while visiting the Canaima Lagoon waterfalls, and the glorious Angel Falls.

Here’s a picture of the lagoon and airstrip from overhead:

We walked to our lodge with Tony, and he pointed out a couple small shops in the village along the way that we could buy supplies or drinks at if we needed them. There were fresh mangos littered on the dirt road from the fruit trees hanging overhead. We ate a couple later that night!

The company we booked with at the Ciudad Bolivar bus station was Conexion Tours, and the lodge in Canaima was Tiuna Tours (sp?). We didn’t have any problems with Conexion Tours as they booked everything they said they would, but I can’t say too much about the quality of Tiuna Tours and their lodge. I’m not that picky of a traveler. I’ll sleep in hammocks, I’ll stay at hostels, and I like the outdoors, but it’s just my job to inform you guys. We were informed of all the types of sleeping arrangements through this company ahead of time and agreed.
The food at the Tiuna Tours lodge was not very good compared to our other trips in Venezuela & South America. Our guide was also pretty quiet for the entire trip. We didn’t really receive any information about the mountains, vegetation, animals, etc. and he was very short with his answers. He spoke English, but it wasn’t the best. The lodge was also still under mega construction and is pretty much the last one on the road in Canaima, so you walk the farthest to get to it. The other lodges looked a lot nicer. I imagine they cost a little more too, but it might be worth looking into if you’re staying longer, or just enjoy nicer places to stay and more thorough guides. We still saw Angel Falls which was all I wanted, so I am happy!

We checked into our room which was pretty  basic and without AC, met some other travelers who would travel with us,  had lunch, and then headed out for the day. We took a motorized canoe around the Canaima Lagoon where we boated by the 4 waterfalls, and docked on the other side. We hiked for about 45 minutes to a different lake and the Sapo Waterfall. The trail went behind the curtain of water, and we got to stand in the falls. We got wet, and it was awesome! Pictures:

Lagoon from the canoe

Hiking behind El Sapo waterfall!

I love going wild!

Then we hiked from there up and over the waterfall to the top of all the falls. From there we hiked over to the Canaima Lagoon, but had the view from the top. Then we took the trail down behind two of the waterfall streams. These falls were much heavier flows than the Sapo Falls. It was incredible! Rock wall on the left, and massive water flowing over the top of us on the right. Almost like walking in a cave with a massive waterfall flowing on the right. It was very loud, very pretty, and very powerful!  Pictures:

Wild landscape on top of the waterfalls


Bigger Falls!

more water!




So we had a great Day 1 in Canaima National Park as you can see! The next day we wake up early to take a canoe several hours up river to finally get to Angel Falls! It was quite the adventure, and in the next post I will tell you all about it and show you some of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken in my whole life! STAY TUNED!

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  1. Good stuff David! Looking forward to seeing your favorite pictures! You've taken some awesome photos at some amazing places. :)

  2. your costa frican friend says:

    Dude, that is amazing!!! So blessed. Cant wait to go on a trip with you!

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