Kaieteur Falls

Kaieteur National Park / Potaro River, Potaro-Siparuni Region, Guyana

About Kaieteur Falls


Hiking Distance: tour
Suggested Time:

Date first visited: 2008-08-31
Date last visited: 2008-08-31

Waterfall Latitude: 5.17542
Waterfall Longitude: -59.48063

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Kaieteur Falls was one of those waterfalls that we bent over backwards to see – and we were sure glad that we did!

In our minds, it was perhaps the greatest scenic wonder in Guyana as it was where the Potaro River dropped some 221m with a width of nearly 100m (though rainy-season dimensions of 741ft high and 370ft wide were also widely quoted).

Kaieteur_060_08312008 - Kaieteur Falls
Kaieteur Falls

Indeed, this waterfall sported world class dimensions, but perhaps even more impressive was the fact that the waterfall was in an area that was probably as undeveloped and as pristine as we could recall.

A World Class Waterfall

In terms of academics, there were claims that this waterfall was the tallest permanent single-drop waterfall in the world.

That technicality of it being both permanent and single-drop was important, but then again, I swore that Norway had Vettisfossen, which was also a permanent single-drop waterfall taller than Kaieteur Falls.

Nevertheless, trivial technicalities aside, they couldn’t deny the grandeur and awesome beauty of this waterfall.

I tend to think of Kaieteur Falls as that “in between” waterfall that didn’t quite have the width and power of the Big 3 (Iguazu Falls, Victoria Falls, and Niagara Falls) nor did it have the height of the tallest waterfalls in the world (e.g. Angel Falls or Yosemite Falls).

Kaieteur_038_08312008 - Aerial view of Kaieteur Falls revealing its entire context
Aerial view of Kaieteur Falls revealing its entire context

Still, Kaieteur Falls was easily taller, wider, and more powerful than most of the world’s other waterfalls.

Therefore, it definitely deserved greater attention and praise than it currently gets.

In fact, we certainly thought high enough of this falls that we made a place for it on our World’s Top 10 Best Waterfalls list.

Experiencing Kaieteur Falls

So what was it like to visit Kaieteur Falls?

Well, on the day tour that we took (see directions below for details on the logistics), we did a short hike with many stops from the remote airstrip to the brink of Kaieteur Falls and back.

Kaieteur_063_08312008 - One of the overlooks of Kaieteur Falls
One of the overlooks of Kaieteur Falls

I recalled there were at least three or four stops with views of the impressive Kaieteur Falls during this hike.

Therefore, the overall time we spent on this excursion was about 90 minutes.

The first major stop along the way was at the so-called Boy Scout’s View.

From here, we were able to get our first frontal look at the falls on land.

The overlook got its name because local boy scout troops were initiated only after hiking from the bottom to this viewpoint at the top of the gorge.

Given the height of the ledge we were on, this hike must’ve been a pretty big deal.

Kaieteur_080_08312008 - The tour group walking in the rainforest around Kaieteur Falls
The tour group walking in the rainforest around Kaieteur Falls

The next lookout was called Rainbow View.

True to its name, we were able to see rainbows in its wafting mist (see photo above).

Since we were closer to the top of the waterfall, the viewing angle from here was a little more severe and less direct.

We were also very careful about getting too close to the edge of the ledge for that unblocked view without the ledge showing up on the bottom of our photos.

Finally, we stopped right at the brink of Kaieteur Falls, where we experienced the power of the Potaro River as well as the thunderous sounds from the falls itself.

Kaieteur_134_08312008 - A protruding ledge providing us crazy pho Kaieteur Falls
A protruding ledge providing us crazy pho Kaieteur Falls

We also managed to get on our bellies to peer over the overhanging cliff ledges for that sense of vertigo given the sheer drops.

The Guyana Shield

The nearly pristine rainforest that the falls resided within was also part of ancient geologic history.

Indeed, the plateau that allowed this waterfall to possess its mammoth drop was known as the Guyana Shield.

What we learned that was so special about this geological quirk was that it was said to be the oldest layer of rock on the earth’s surface at 2.99 billion years!

We got to witness some rare wildlife such as the dimunitive golden frog and a type of plant that attracts and digests insects.

Kaieteur_071_08312008 - The rare golden frog
The rare golden frog

In fact, when we expected lots of mosquitoes or other biting insects, we were amazed that the immediate area seemed to be devoid of such insects.

Therefore, we wondered if these plants had something to do with that!

Our guide showed us other plant species that seemed to be specialized to this area such as a multitude of broad-leafed bromeliads, which apparently had some uses for the local inhabitants here.

Although we didn’t witness them on our visit here, our guide also mentioned there were resident big cats like the jaguar as well as other mammals like monkeys.

The Human Heritage Around Kaieteur Falls

Speaking of ancient and pristine rainforest surroundings, we indeed didn’t see any signs of civilization (including roads) around the waterfall itself except for a few buildings and a tiny airstrip nearby its top.

Kaieteur_168_08312008 - Context of Kaieteur Falls from the air revealing some of the sparse buildings near the waterfall's brink
Context of Kaieteur Falls from the air revealing some of the sparse buildings near the waterfall’s brink

Given the relative lack of civilization, this had to have been the closest thing to seeing a reasonably accessible waterfall in its most natural settings that we think would be possible in modern times like today.

So that remoteness and pristine quality was yet another thing about Kaieteur Falls that really stood out to us.

In terms of the human heritage of this area, it was said to still be inhabited by native Amerindians.

In fact, Kaieteur Falls was said to be named after an Amerindian chief by the name of “Kai” who gave his life by canoeing over the falls.

Apparently he did this in order to protect his tribe from a rival Carib tribe by means of divine intervention (i.e. I guess the Great Spirit would intervene if Chief Kai sacrificed himself).

Kaieteur_165_08312008 - This was the view of the base of Kaieteur Falls after peering over a protruding cliff ledge
This was the view of the base of Kaieteur Falls after peering over a protruding cliff ledge

The word “teur” meant falls in the native Amerindian language so technically it would be redundant to include the word “Falls” in Kaieteur.

Authorities

Kaieteur Falls resides in the Kaieteur National Park reached by air from Georgetown, Guyana. It is administered by Kaieteur National Park Commision. For more information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting their website.

Kaieteur_002_08312008 - Leaving the airport at Georgetown as we headed to Kaieteur
Kaieteur_017_08312008 - Looking down at the roadless rainforest wilderness
Kaieteur_028_08312008 - Some waterfall we noticed during the flight between Georgetown and the Kaieteur Falls
Kaieteur_032_08312008 - Frontal view of Kaieteur Falls as we were about to land
Kaieteur_042_08312008 - Looking back over the brink of the Kaieteur Falls just before landing
Kaieteur_043_08312008 - Signs and some basic infrastructure near the remote airstrip by the Kaieteur Falls
Kaieteur_051_08312008 - The airstrip atop Kaieteur Falls
Kaieteur_052_08312008 - After landing at the air strip, we then walked across it
Kaieteur_053_08312008 - Walking towards the end of the runway where the short walk to Kaieteur Falls begins
Kaieteur_054_08312008 - Our local Amerindian tour guide showing us some of the features of the forest around the Kaieteur Falls
Kaieteur_055_08312008 - Approaching Boy Scout's View as we walked to the various viewpoints of Kaieteur Falls
Kaieteur_058_08312008 - Partial view of Kaieteur Falls as we were near the Boy Scout's View
Kaieteur_065_08312008 - Looking downstream from Boy Scout's View towards the pristine forest carved out by the Potaro River
Kaieteur_066_08312008 - Contextual view of the entirety of Kaieteur Falls from another one of the overlooks
Kaieteur_083_08312008 - The group gathers near another overlook that was closer to the brink of Kaieteur Falls
Kaieteur_089_08312008 - Looking directly downstream from near the brink of Kaieteur Falls
Kaieteur_105_08312008 - One of the more satisfying views that we got of Kaieteur Falls as we looked right at the waterfall from one of the closer lookouts to its brink
Kaieteur_114_08312008 - An overhanging rock near the brink of Kaieteur Falls
Kaieteur_122_08312008 - Julie and a guy named Robert overlooking the ledge on that precarious table rock
Kaieteur_125_08312008 - Another look at Julie carefully peering over the edge with Kaieteur Falls in the background
Kaieteur_142_08312008 - Context of Julie lying on her belly to get a vertigo-inducing view of the base of Kaieteur Falls
Kaieteur_021_jx_08312008 - Looking over the very edge of the protruding cliff ledge where we got some of our most dramatic shots of Kaieteur Falls
Kaieteur_023_jx_08312008 - Peering right down at the misty base of Kaieteur Falls
Kaieteur_146_08312008 - Context of our last stop, which was near the brink of Kaieteur Falls
Kaieteur_027_jx_08312008 - Looking back at the context of the protruding cliff ledge and the surrounding cliffs near the brink of Kaieteur Falls
Kaieteur_147_08312008 - Our guide standing right at the brink of Kaieteur Falls
Kaieteur_030_jx_08312008 - After visiting the Kaieteur Falls, we passed by a handful of basic buildings on the way back to the airstrip
Kaieteur_031_jx_08312008 - One of the buildings that we paused at for a lunch
Kaieteur_048_08312008 - This was the kind of twin propeller plane we flew in to access Kaieteur Falls

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So you may ask how do you go about seeing this world wonder?

Unfortunately, with all things that are worthwhile in life, you’ll have to earn it.

To make a long story short, we had to fly from Georgetown to the airstrip by Kaieteur Falls (so it wasn’t exactly an eco-friendly way to tour a place that was about as eco as it gets).

When all was said and done, we then flew to another waterfall before flying back to Georgetown.

I’ve put up a pair of supplemental pages to provide further details on how we had to handle the logistics of visiting the falls…

I’m sure there are other ways to visit the falls, but the way we did it respected the limited amount of time available to us (especially since we were only here for the long Labor Day Weekend).

I’m sure with a few days (and nights) more, we could have done more exploration and better appreciate the subtleties of this ancient land.

We probably could’ve also seen other major waterfalls in the country.

View of the falls from its top to its misty bottom from Rainbow View


Sweep from bottom to top as Julie precariously peers over the edge of an overhanging ledge


Sweep from top to bottom of Kaieteur Falls with a glimpse of the overhanging ledge as the camera points at the base of the waterfall

Tagged with: potaro, siparuni, guyana, shield, rainforest, georgetown, orinduik, day tour, waterfall, flight, pristine



Visitor Comments:

Port Sunlight (Kaieteur) February 14, 2014 2:23 am by Kelvin - I was working about 3 miles up the river (Potaro) for diamonds and some gold in the mid 80's to the early 90's. We named that spot 'Port Sunlight' I wrote my name on the part called 'The Look Out'. A few miles up the river there is a rapid called GRASS FALL, and a… ...Read More
Kaieteur Falls, A Past Life Experience July 16, 2010 9:39 pm by Nicola - I had a vision of a past life experience involving a waterfall ... thanks to your amazing site i have identified it as Kaieteur. Your photos show it just as it appeared to me. Thank you so much :) ...Read More

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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