Friday, January 18, 2008


Angel Falls (indigenous name: Parekupa-meru) is the world's highest free-falling, freshwater waterfall at 979 m (3,212 ft), with a clear drop of 807 m (2,648 ft). It is located in the Canaima National Park, in the Gran Sabana region of Bolivar State, Venezuela at 5°58′03″N, 62°32′08″W Coordinates: 5°58′03″N, 62°32′08″W. The height of the falls is so great that before getting anywhere near the ground, the water is buffeted by the strong winds and turned into mist.

The base of the falls feeds into the Churun River, a tributary of the Carrao River. In the indigenous Pemon language Angel Falls is called Parekupa-meru meaning "waterfall of the deepest place". The falls are sometimes referred to as Churun-meru, an error, since that name corresponds to another waterfall in the Canaima National Park. Churun in the Pemon language means "thunder".

For the Pemon Indians, the flat-topped tepuy mountain on which the falls are located is called "Auyan-tepui" or "Aiyan-tepui". which literally means "House of the Devil" in Pemon but is more usually translated as "Devil's Mountain".

Sir Walter Raleigh is sometimes said to have discovered Angel Falls, but these claims are considered "far-fetched". They were sighted in 1910 by the Venezuelan explorer Ernesto Sanchez La Cruz, but he did not publicise his discovery. They were not known to the outside world until the American aviator James "Jimmie" Crawford Angel flew over them on 16 November 1933 on a flight while he was searching for a valuable ore bed.

Returning on 9 October 1937, Angel tried to land his Flamingo monoplane "El Rio Caroni" atop Auyan-tepui but the plane was damaged when the wheels sunk into the marshy ground and he and his three companions, including his wife Marie, were forced to descend the tepuy on foot. It took them 11 days to make their way back to civilization but news of their adventure spread and the waterfall was named "Angel Falls" in his honour.

Angel's plane remained on top of the tepuy for 33 years before being lifted out by helicopter. It was restored at the Aviation Museum in Maracay and now sits outdoors on the green in front of the airport at Ciudad Bolivar exposed to the elements. It is the original. The one visible on the top of the tepui is a replica.

The official height of the falls was determined by a National Geographic Society survey carried out by American journalist Ruth Robertson in 1949.

A book by Luke Dickinson, Angels Four, chronicles the first successful climb up the face of Auyantepui to the top of the falls.

Angel Falls is one of Venezuela's top tourist attractions but even today a trip to the falls is not a simple affair.

The falls are located in an isolated jungle region of Venezuela and a flight from Caracas or Ciudad Bolivar is required to reach Canaima camp, the starting point for river trips to the base of the falls.

It is also possible to purchase a package that includes an aerial flyby of the falls. The falls cannot be seen on cloudy days, and there is no guarantee visitors will see them.

River trips generally take place from June to December when the rivers are deep enough for the wooden curiaras used by the Pemon Indian guides. During the dry season (December to March) there is less water than is seen in some photos, but it is also more likely that the top will not be clouded.