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Angel Falls and the Waterfalls of Venezuela

Although I am a person who loves spontaneity, there is something to be said about knowing that you are about to have a great adventure in life.  Such was the occasion when good friends Nels and Linda Hagenson, along with Paul Carrell (Village Cay Marina’s Dockmaster) and his wife Judy, flew down from the BVI to visit in Nel’s private Cessna 206 airplane.  It is always fun to be with close friends, but this particular visit was a fantastic expedition. 

Flying with Jaime Escribens, a Venezuelan tourist executive, friend, and interpreter, we entered into the canyons that house Angel Falls, the world’s tallest waterfall measuring some 3200 feet high, exploring the area from incredible angles. The canyons are steep in rock, wildlife and green foliage. By comparison, Niagara Falls has a drop of only 190 feet so Angel Falls is 15 times higher.

Fellow pilots at the nearby runway of Canaima National Park Airport, where we eventually landed, wanted to know what type of pattern Nels had flown as he did not seem to be following the usual route.  A commercial pilot in Canada for some 40+ years he told them, “I simply followed the river.”  It makes sense to me and certainly provided us with a terrific thrill.

Angel Falls is located in the southeast of Venezuela in Bolivar State along the border with Brazil. The nearest city is Ciudad Bolivar some 600 km to the north.  There are wonderful rapids running along the rivers that connect the falls that are located throughout this area – and there are a lot.  We visited at least six separate falls systems on foot and by canoe.

After such an experience one would think that landing in the Amazon Jungle to spend a few days would be anti-climatic, but this was definitely not the case this time.  After having a two hour air tour of the Guri Dam, and the resulting lake areas, we landed in Canaima National Park, where we settled. The Guri Dam, which provides most of Venezuela with electricity, is one of the largest in the world. It is located in Bolívar State on the Caroni River and is 1300 meters long and 162 meters high. Construction started in 1963, with the first part concluding in 1978, and the second in 1986.  Flying over it was absolutely spectacular; all I could think about was what an excellent spot it would be for chartering for international boaters in these huge lakes made by the dam itself.

The beauty of the Amazon is unbelievable; there are millions of shades of green with sounds that range from the softness of hummingbirds to the thunder of the many nearby waterfalls.  At a location just five degrees north of the equator and 350 miles inland, this paradise can be visited either by boat or plane – fortunately, we were able to do both.  Our adventure ended at Jungle Rudy’s, a wonderful posada that was beautifully and naturally landscaped, sleeping in screened cabins or outdoor hammocks. 

After touring in canoes with our Pemon Indian guide, Antonio, we hiked on jungle trails through wilderness, and also trekked behind furious waterfalls, an event that I shall cover in next month’s All At Sea.  I happily admit that I will remember this trip for the rest of my life; during it, I became convinced even more of the great beauty of our planet and the total necessity of preserving that which is still wondrous.

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