About Angel Falls
Angel Falls (known as Kerepakupai-merú in the indigenous Pemón language) was the consensus tallest waterfall in the world dropping nearly a kilometer (about 979m total drop with 807m freefall).
Of all the famous waterfalls that Julie and I have been to, this one seemed to invoke a sense of mystery and adventure.
This was probably due to the fact that its remote location meant we needed to endure long transits followed by a pretty strenuous and muggy hike to the overlook near the foot of the waterfall.
On top of that, the elusive falls was frequently shrouded in clouds so it remained a mysterious presence.
Indeed, only Mother Nature revealed this gem on her terms, and we were relegated to hope she would be kind to us to reveal it during the limited amount of time we were there.
That uncertainty of whether a visit would yield a satisfactory sighting despite the effort to get there was what made Angel Falls quite the adventure.
While visitors like us would regard this place with mystery and adventure, for centuries, the indigenous Pemón people knew of its existence.
They believed that Kerepakupai-merú came from a “Mountain of the God of Evil” (or “Devil’s Mountain”, if you will).
After all, that was what the translation of the name Auyantepuy (or Auyantepui), which was the tabletop mountain (tepuy or tepui) from which Angel Falls made its plunge.
The waterfall’s existence seemed to us like a paradox as it didn’t appear to be fed by conventional drainage sources such as large snow field, glacier melt, lakes, nor a major river system.
Instead, the abundance of water responsible for the falls was practically all rainfall from equatorial tropical clouds condensing onto the cloud forest atop the tepuy’s plateau.
It was almost as if the clouds wrung its water onto the tepuy like a soaked rag.
Nomenclature and Recent History
Angel Falls is also called Salto Ángel or indigenously Kerepakupai-merú.
The indigenous name derived from the Pemón natives means “falls from the deepest place”.
Ironically, the more famous name of the falls had nothing to do with the connotation that its water fell from the heavens.
On the contrary, it just so happened to be the name of aviator Jimmy Angel who in 1937 landed his plane above Auyantepui near the falls.
He did it during an effort to prove to the world of the existence of the waterfall (and apparently to search for gold).
According to the literature that we’ve been exposed to, given the soggy terrain atop the tepuy, Angel, his wife, and two friends landed the plane but couldn’t take off again.
They had no choice but to make the difficult trek down from the vertical cliffs of the tepui towards civilization (taking around 11 days).
Only after successfully performing that feat did the falls become known to the rest of the world.
As a result, the falls were eventually named after Jimmy Angel himself (though more recently, the late Hugo Chavez made the official name to be Kerepakupai-merú).
His plane has since been moved, restored, and we saw it (or at least a replica of it) on display at the airport in Ciudad Bolívar.
Experiencing Angel Falls
To give you an idea of what it took for us to see Angel Falls, we first had to endure sore bums riding a small motorized boat for four hours against the current of two different rivers (El Rio Carrao and the almost blood-colored Rio Churun).
Once the boat ride was done, we then had to cross a stream (the same one responsible for the falls) before embarking on a steep and uphill 90-minute hike.
I recalled we brought Keens to handle both the water and the hiking.
The uphill hike involved stepping onto exposed roots (i.e. it can be slippery) plus the constant humidity meant the trail was typically muddy where there was dirt.
Anyways, once we were at the mirador (overlook), there was limited space so at first there was a crowd.
However, it did eventually lighten up as we lingered there waiting for the clouds to part and reveal the Angel Falls itself.
Our arrival was pretty late in the day so we didn’t continue hiking towards the pool by the base of the cascades below the base of the main falls.
When the day was done, we slept on hammocks with mosquito nets in an open-air camp covered with a corrugated tin roof.
Given the adventure it took to get here, you could argue that this type of excursion was more about the journey than the destination.
Yet it was probably because of the uncertainties surrounding our excursion that the reward and exhilaration factor was amplified when the falls was finally revealed to us.
That allowed us to experience the grandeur of the falls from an aerial perspective.
As if Angel Falls itself wasn’t enough, we also got to experience other waterfalls as part of this excursion.
These waterfalls included Salto Ucaima, Salto Golondrina, Salto Wadaima, Salto Hacha, and Sapo Falls around the Canaima Lagoon by our camp.
We also witnessed many other lesser known or unnamed waterfalls plunging straight off the tepuys from our boat rides as well as from our return flight from Canaima to Ciudad Bolivar.
Different States of Angel Falls
During the short time we were able to witness Angel Falls, we saw it take on many forms.
In addition to seeing it as a thick multi-segmented horsetail plumes, we also saw it as a thinner horsetail that disappeared into mist on its way down before reappearing as lower cascades for the remainder of its drop.
We tried to time our trip to ensure the highest likelihood of seeing the falls flow while trading that with the likelihood of clouds obscuring our view of the falls (as well as trying to take advantage of holidays).
For more details about our thought process and how we made our decision to time a visit to Angel Falls, we did a more detailed write-up about it.
I could probably keep going on about our experience here, but I’ll let the pictures and videos do the rest of the talking.
So check out the rest of this page below to learn more about the graceful Angel Falls…
Angel Falls resides in Canaima National Park near Canaima Village in the Bolivar state, Venezuela. To my knowledge, there doesn’t appear to be an official governmental authority directly managing Canaima National Park. For information or inquiries about the general area as well as current conditions, the closest authoritative source of information that I could find was the UNESCO World Heritage Centre website.
As mentioned earlier, we had to earn our access to Angel Falls with a bit of an adventure as it sat in a remote area deep in the equatorial rainforest of Canaima National Park in Venezuela’s southeast.
Given that this was an international attraction that required a good deal of logistics and preparation, we can’t treat this section like a driving directions how-to like we would normally do on all our other write-ups.
Instead, we discussed the logistics of how we managed to enable ourselves to access the falls in a separate write-up.
We also did a writeup about some of the less glamorous things we did to realize this trip.
Such things included the paperwork required for us to enter the country, our experience with the local currency, and some of the hazards we had to be cognizant of.
For geographical context, Canaima (the base of our camp and starting/end of our tour) was roughly a 75- to 90-minute flight from Ciudad Bolívar or Puerto Ordaz. Both of these intermediate cities are roughly 2 hours flight from Caracas.