Angel Falls (in Spanish, “Salto Ángel”) is the world's highest waterfall, of 979 m (3,212 ft). It falls over the edge of the Auyan-tepui table mountain (“Devil’s Mountain”, in the Pemon language) in the Canaima National Park, situated in the Gran Sabana region of Bolívar State.
Tours to Angel Falls leave from Canaima Lagoon in the mornings, with a 4-5 hour, motorised Indian long-canoe trip along the Churun river. The time depends on how high the river water level is, and so how often the canoe must be carried. After entering the Devil’s Canyon, you arrive at the base camp on Isla de Ratoncito. From this camp there is a 90-minute hike through tropical rainforest until you arrive at the viewing point at the foot of the Falls. It is not a difficult walk, but it can be rocky and slippery and you will need good boots or shoes.
The view really is spectacular. The water here is like a fine mist spraying over your face, and during the rainy season, it forms a natural pool where you should be able to swim. Another hike back from the Falls and an evening meal is waiting for you at Ratoncito camp, where you spend the night in a hammock with a mosquito net. Conditions are fairly basic at the camp, but there is running water, toilets and electricity. After breakfast the following morning, you make the canoe ride back to Canaima Lagoon, where you should have a little time to swim and relax on the beach before getting the plane back to Ciudad Bolívar or Isla Margarita.
The indigenous Pemon people of this region call the waterfall Kerepakupai Merú, meaning “waterfall of the deepest place”. Evidence shows that the existence of the Falls was already known in Venezuelan beyond the Pemon people before the arrival in 1933 of North American adventurer, Jimmy Angel. According to his flight log, in 1933 Angel first mentions seeing the ‘mile-high’ waterfall, falling from the same table mountain – the Auyan-tepui – where he claimed he had first seen a ‘river of gold’ in 1921. Back in Caracas, it seems that few people believed him about its existence. However, 4 years later he found support to finance a return expedition to Gran Sabana, this time accompanied by his wife Marie along with 3 Venezuelans. Setting up camp at Guayaraca at the south side of the base of the Auyan-tepui, Angel made a number of over-flights of the mountain searching for a landing site. On October 9th, 1937, with Marie and two others on board and well-supplied with food and water, a tent and climbing ropes, Angel attempted to land the all-metal, 8-seat Flamingo plane, El Rio Coroni, on top of the crevasse-crossed, swampy mountain-top.
After making a successful 3-point touchdown, the aircraft wheels dug deep ruts into the soft, damp, swampy topsoil and lurched forward, causing damage to the engine, and losing radio contact with base. Angel spent the following 3 days unsuccessfully searching for gold nuggets on the mountaintop before finally being persuaded to abandon his dream. Bad weather prevented a rescue mission, and it was not until 14 days later that Angel and his dirty and exhausted companions returned to base camp. From there the story crossed the world, and Jimmy Angel briefly became a global celebrity. He continued flying, chasing adventures and searching for gold until his death as a result of an airplane accident in 1956 at the age of 60 years old. He was cremated and eventually his ashes were spread from the air over Gran Sabana. Jimmy Angel's plane remained on top of the tepui for 33 years before being dismantled and lifted out by a Venezuelan Air Force helicopter. It was restored at the Aviation Museum in Maracay and now sits in front of Ciudad Bolívar airport.