Today we take a walk to Venezuela, where the largest waterfall in the world is located, Angel Falls (Kerepakupai Merú, which in Pemón means “Jump of the deepest place), with a height of 980 m (807 m of uninterrupted fall ), generated from the Auyantepuy (in pemón, “Mountain of evil spirits”). The Auyantepuy is one of the largest tepuis in the Guiana mountains, a giant among the large plateaus. It covers 650 square kilometers and has a peak almost 3,000 meters high. This plateau has an area of 700 km². The tepuis are those flat mountains so typical of this region that end with immense vertical walls.
This magical place is located in the territory protected by the Canaima National Park, and is located in the Gran Sabana region, in the Bolívar state, Venezuela. This natural reserve was established as a National Park on June 12, 1962 and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994. This Park covers an area of more than 30,000 km² (a territory larger than Belgium), up to the borders with Guyana and Brazil, and due to its size it is considered the largest in the world.
Angel Falls receives its name from the American aviator who made its existence known in 1937, Jimmy Angel. It is true that the authorship of the discovery of the famous waterfall is still a matter of discussion. Some people attribute it to Ernesto Sánchez, an explorer who in 1910 reported his discovery to the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons in Caracas. Others give this merit to the Spanish-born Venezuelan Navy captain Félix Cardona Puig, who spotted the great waterfall in 1927 together with Mundó Freixas, also of Spanish origin. In what does seem to be agreement is that Cardona’s maps and articles attracted the curiosity of Jimmy Angel, who contacted him to make several visits to the waterfall during 1937. In September of that same year Jimmy Angel insisted on landing on the top of Auyantepuy, which he practically achieved in the form of an accident. Since then the great waterfall has been known by his name. What does seem evident is that the Pemones, the natives of the place, knew this place which they baptized as Kerepakupai-merú.
The river that feeds the falls is the Gauja. It received this name from Aleksandrs Laime, the first known man to reach it. Laime named it after one of the most beautiful rivers in his home country, Latvia. The original name of the river in Pemón, according to the natives, is Kerep, a name that is still used regularly. Laime was also the first European to reach from the Churun River, where the waterfall empties, to the base of Angel Falls. Today, in his honor, the Laime Viewpoint is located on this path that he traveled, one of the places where today the waterfall is usually photographed. This road is used today by tourists who visit the jump from Isla Ratón.
In a common mistake, there are those who confuse Angel Falls with Churún Merú, a Pemón name that corresponds to another waterfall that is located on the same tepuy and that is about 400 meters high.
Angel Falls is one of the main tourist attractions in Venezuela, but due to its geographical location it is not so easy to access. It is isolated in the middle of the Venezuelan jungle and it is necessary to take a flight from Caracas or Ciudad Bolívar to get to Canaima, from where it departs towards the base river of the falls.
Excursions can be made by land, sea and air. From Canaima, Santa Elena de Uairén and Ciudad Bolívar there are tour operators to see the Auyantepuy and its many waterfalls. The excursions by land and water are carried out from the Canaima camp and last about 13 hours.
Trips to Angel Falls take place from June to December, when the rivers are deep enough for the wooden curiaras used by the Pemón Indians. During the dry season (December to March) there is less water than what is seen in some photos. Although the Falls cannot be seen on cloudy days, and visitors have no guarantee of seeing them.