Gran Sabana : Canaima National Park
Canaima National Park
Canaima National Park is the gateway to Angel Falls. Although other waterfalls and lagoons can be visited from Canaima camp, the main reason tourists fly here is for the three-day, two-night trips to the base of Angel Falls.
Flat, grassy savannahs with dramatic tepuis (table-top mountains), waterfalls and moriche palms. Angel Falls is located on the side of the largest of the Venezuela's tepuis known as Auyan-tepui.
Flora and fauna
There is an incredible variety of tropical wildlife in the area, including monkeys, poison arrow frogs and hundreds of species of orchids. Mammals in the area are generally difficult to spot but include giant anteaters, armadillos, porcupines, three-toed sloths, otters, jaguars, pumas, tapirs and capybaras.Some of the birds that you can see are king vulture, paradise tanager, white bellbird, cock of the rock, musician wren, great kiskadee, bananaquit, velvet browned brillant, capunchinbird, sooty-capped hermit, blue-cheeked parrot and others.
Tropical, with frequent rainstorms. The driest time of year - when the Falls may be just a trickle - is from December to April.
Access to the Sector Occidental is by air into villages like Canaima. However, the Sector Oriental (eastern sector) has road access via the Troncal 10. The new El Dorado-Luepa road to Santa Elena de Uairen connects the east of the park with the Brazilian frontier and a branch of it reaches the small village of Kanavayen, which is close to the spectacular Aponwao Falls.
For a trip to the Falls, it is possible to charter a plane to Canaima from Caracas, Margarita Island, or Ciudad Bolivar airports, and then organize a tour of the falls on your own. In practice, the simplest thing to do is sign up for a tour that takes care of the details. If you book a tour from your home country, it will be more expensive and even booking a tour from Caracas will cost more. It is cheapest to book a tour from the airport in Ciudad Bolivar. Nearly all the Angel Falls tours operate out of this city, and their prices include the cost of a plane that flies from Ciudad Bolivar to Canaima. Expect to pay between Bs. 500,000 and 600,000 (approximately US$ 250) for a three-day, two-night tour that brings you to the falls. Most tours booked on your own from Ciudad Bolivar airport will include a fly-by of the falls on the way to Canaima camp.
At arrival at the Canaima airport a Bs. 8000 (around 4 US$) entrance fee is collected. Visitors flying out to Canaima National Park must also prove they have received a yellow fever vaccination. Those who cannot prove this will be given the vaccination in the airport at Ciudad Bolivar.
The small settlement of Canaima is negotiable by foot. Trips up to the Falls, however, will be in a dugout canoe, or curiara. The 30-minute or so walk from the closest point on the river to the base of the Falls is not easy going because of large tree roots on the path and visitors are advised to take sports shoes or suchlike for this hike.
Angel Falls or Salto Ángel is the world's highest waterfall, dropping a total of 978m from the summit of the Auyan Tepuy, and with an 807m uninterrupted drop.
It is known as Parekupa-meru by the local Pemon indians but gained the Angel name after US pilot Jimmy Angel crash-landed on the Auyan Tepuy while searching the area for gold in 1937. Instead, he found the spectacular waterfall. After 11 days' trekking he reached Kamarata and made his find public. His plane was later recovered and can be seen in front of the airport at Ciudad Bolivar.
The falls are located about 5 hours' ride in a dugout canoe upstream from Canaima village. Most of the Park's attractions can only be visited with a guided tour from Canaima. These can be booked from outside Venezuela, from Caracas, or from Ciudad Bolivar but prices are much more competitive in Ciudad Bolivar. Most tours that take you to the foot of the falls are two nights (one in Canaima, one at the falls) and three days, and combine all of the three elements below (and also include food and transport). Alternatively you can hire shorter tours just to go up to Angel Falls and back again. A typical tour will include the flight to Canaima, and then three days of meals and (very basic) accommodation at the various campsites along the river towards the falls. The trip involves several hours in a dugout canoe and a few hours hiking through gallery forest to the main viewpoint below the falls. Most tour guides speak spanish with limited English.
- Two day tours run to the foot of the Angel falls by motorized dugout canoe (curiara). The first day a five or six hour boat ride will lead you to the base camp. From there it's a one hour walk to the foot of waterfall. Here you can take pictures and swim. The night will be spent in hammocks and the next day another a five hours will bring you back to Canaima.
- A half day tour brings you to Isla Anatoly, very close to Canaima village, where some other waterfalls are visited such as Salto Sapo. Some of them can be walked behind the water curtain.
- Just west of Canaima is a beautiful lagoon with water stained a tea colour by the vegetation in the area, and with a nice view of the waterfalls and tepuy mountain.
The trip towards the fall itself has many attractions. The boat rides and walks through the jungle offer a unique view of Venezuelan flora, fauna, and terrain. If the water flow is mild enough, you can swim in the small pool that forms below the falls.
Apart from trips to Angel Falls, the Canaima National Park offers some challenging trekking, including trips to the 700 square-km plateau of Auyan-tepui, which can be arranged in Ciudad Bolivar. The trek to the top from the tiny village of Uruyen takes three days on rough tracks, and the final climb up a cleft in the massive rock wall is a tough scramble, but the rewards are immense - the landscape is surreal, with clumps of insect-eating pitcher plants clinging to the bare rock, and unlike Mount Roraima, you'll barely meet another soul. Trips typically spend a couple of days on the top, and take 2 days to return to either Uruyen or Kavac. The weather can be wet, and chilly on the tepui - bring a warm fleece and some waterproofs!
The tourist village of Kavac has a bar, a small shop selling crafts, and traditional huts with comfortable beds or hammocks. Stay for a morning before your flight out and someone will offer to show you to the "caves", really a narrow canyon leading to a waterfall and a refreshing plunge pool.
- Moriche palm fruits. Miniature pineapples. Red and scaly.
Camping is not allowed and is this is strictly enforced in the region around Angel Falls.
This page was last edited at 03:18, on 21 November 2008 by Peter Fitzgerald. Based on work by Richard Guy, Geraldo Rivera and Ryan Holliday, Wikitravel user(s) Ixer, Kebes, Nzpcmad and Ronald and Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel.