ANGEL FALLS: Having seen the falls from the air, you'll want to get up close and personal with it, traveling upriver in a dugout canoe, known locally as a curiara. The trip follows the Río Carrao from Canaima to approach Auyantepui, then turns up the Río Churún to head up Devil's Canyon into the heart of the great tepui. Depending on river levels and how much time you have, you may want to overnight en route at a hammock camp. Whether you opt for a one-day or a multi-day trip you eventually reach a point on the Churún where you get your first thrilling view of Salto Angel. And shortly afterwards you reach Ratoncito Camp, from which an hour's hike brings you to a viewpoint near the base of the towering cascade. The return trip downriver features equally impressive views of Auyantepui.
Most visitors make this river trip in the wet season; when the river levels are right, the trip can be made in a single day from Canaima. But regardless of the river level, at least one overnight stay on the river is recommended, to enhance the overall experience. And for a more challenging and exhiliarating trip, in which the excursionists must help the boatmen get the curiara through shallows and rapids, early in the dry season is the time to go. A trip in December, when the water is low can take 2-3 days, but in addition to being a lot of fun in the water, you can get lucky and have the falls all to yourselves. But, of course, the water flow over Angel Falls is not as impressive in the dry season.
CANAIMA: Originally a gold-mining camp by Canaima Lagoon, Canaima is now the central point for most Angel Falls visits. Angel Falls fly-overs take off from Canaima, and trips upriver to the falls start here. But Canaima has its own attractions, including the beautiful lagoon and the line of waterfalls plunging into it, swimming from a lovely beach, several short excursion possiblities, stores selling indigenous handicrafts, and a variety of hostelries to fit a variety of budgets. Our favorite hotel is Waku Lodge, located right on the edge of the lagoon and boasting lovely grounds with a plethora of tropical birds. Our favorite local excursion is the trip across Canaima Lagoon by curiara (dugout) followed by a short hike to Sapo Falls. What makes this so memorable is the trail passing behind the thundering falls. Wear your bathing suit for this one!
AUYANTEPUI: The largest of all the tepuis, the giant flat-topped mountain from which Angel Falls drops, looms behind Kavak Camp, the usual starting point for an Auyantepui trek. To reach the top, trekkers spend 2-3 days ascending through a series of three sets of tall cliffs, guided by Pemón Indians. The final ascent is through a great cleft, seen here from afar, which splits the 1000-foot-tall cliffs surrounding Auyantepui's rugged top. Inside the cleft, the trail passes through a riot of bromeliads and other exotic plants before finally clambering out on the tepui's mysterious and sometimes fog-shrouded top.
MT. RORAIMA: Even more famous and higher than Auyantepui is Roraima, this tepui was the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel "The Lost World". This trip has become a popular climb for adventurous trekkers because the scenery is indeed other-worldly, featuring waterfalls, weirdly eroded rocks and rifts, the Valley of the Crystals, the "Triple Point" (border of Venezuela with Brasil and Guiana), and many other wonders which can be enjoyed if you plan a several-day stay on top. A guide is required by the park service, and the local Pemón Indians act as porters. For a full description of the trek, visit our Roraima trek website.
GRAN SABANA: Roraima and Auyantepui are just two of many tepuis that rear dramatically and majestically from the grassy and forested plains of the Gran Sabana. Waterfalls by the dozens stream not just from the tepui walls, but thunder over cliffs breaking the sabana. More than one scenic waterfall drops over hard ledges of flaming red jasper. Swimming holes abound. Here's a little Gran Sabana photo album:
ORINOCO DELTA: At an Orinoco Delta camp you can see exotic birds, river dolphins and other rare creatures, and visit with indigenous people.
LOS LLANOS: Visit a working ranch-cum-wildlife preserve in Los Llanos. Great for birding and viewing other wildlife, plus getting a glimpse at a traditional way of life.
MÉRIDA: One of Venezuela's most popular destinations, Mérida is a colonial city located in an Andean valley. Things to do around Mérida include riding the world's highest cable car, visits to mountain villages, and hiking.
ISLA MARGARITA: White sand beaches, a wide variety of classes of lodging, several national parks, historic sites, and night life, all can be found on Margarita Island.
LOS ROQUES: A small cluster of islands with one tiny village, lots of beaches, swimming and snorkeling, and diving possibilities.
CARIPE and CUEVA DE LOS GUÁCHAROS NATIONAL PARK: Caripe is a quiet, small town nestled in a valley surrounded by moderate mountains. Its main attraction is the Cave of the Guácharos (oilbirds, Steatornis caripensis), large and very noisy birds that live in the cave, flying in darkness like bats by echo-location and sallying forth at night to eat fruit. A visit to the cave is made unforgettable by the screeches, barks, miaus, squawks, and clicks of the 16,000 resident birds! And Caripe is simply a pleasant place to hang out in for a couple of days, with hikes and visits to swimming holes on the side.
RUTAHSA ADVENTURES can arrange tepui treks, Gran Sabana tours and visits to Angel Falls for independent travelers. We can also arrange visits to the Orinoco Delta, Los Llanos, Isla Margarita, Los Roques, the Cave of the Guácharos, Mérida and more. We can set up the custom trip of your choosing using reliable independent Venezuelan operators. E-mail us at: Rutahsa Adventures
"We want to thank you for everything and let you know that it was all perfect. Everything went as scheduled and exceeded our expectations.... We were continually amazed by the culture and beauty of the country....we loved Venezuela and all the people we met." --Brooke Hutchens and Steve Bushey, who went on a Rutahsa-arranged Angel Falls trip, July 1999.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO NOTE: