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Angel Falls

Angel Falls

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Angel Falls, the tallest waterfall in the world, drops nearly a kilometer (about 979m total drop with 807m freefall) from a table-top mountain (tepuy or tepui in the indigenous Pemón language).

The tepuy is known as Auyantepuy (or Auyantepui meaning "Mountain of the God of Evil" or "Devil's Mountain"). The waterfall's existence seems like a paradox as it's neither fed by conventional drainage sources such as snow/glacier melt, lakes, nor a major river system. Instead, the abundance of water responsible for the falls is practically all rainfall from equatorial tropical clouds condensing onto the cloud forest above plateau of Auyantepui. It's almost as if the clouds wring its water onto the tepui like a soaked rag.

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 has nothing to do with the connotation that water falls from the heavens. In fact, it just so happened to be the name of aviator Jimmy Angel who in 1937 landed his plane above Auyantepui near the falls in an effort to prove to the world of the existence of the falls (and to search for gold).

Jimmy Angel's restored plane resting at the airport in Ciudad BolívarGiven the soggy terrain atop the tepuy, he, 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, and eventually the falls were named after Jimmy Angel. His plane has since been moved, restored, and we saw it on display at the airport in Ciudad Bolívar.

We saw Angel Falls take on many forms from thick multi-segmented horsetail plumes to a thinner horsetail that disappeared into mist on its way down before reappearing as lower cascades for the remainder of its drop. Often the falls and the tepui were shrouded in swirling mist and clouds giving a mystical and mysterious (some say a Jurassic "Lost World") feel to the place. Regardless of how it has been romanticized, the place is indeed magical and unique, and quite different from say other wonders of the world like Iguazú Falls.

Sitting deep in the equatorial rainforest of Canaima National Park in Venezuela's southeast, Salto Ángel was definitely remote as far as we were concerned. Getting to the falls required for us a lengthy journey by air, river, and jungle so we definitely had to earn it. And I'd argue that with this attraction it was more about the journey than the destination.

Adding to the allure of this mystical waterfall was the fact that the we got to experience other waterfalls as part of this excursion. These waterfalls included Salto Ucaima, Salto Golondrina, Salto Wadaima, Salto Hacha, and Sapo Falls as well as a few others.


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