ANGEL FALLS - MT. RORAIMA
AND GRAN SABANA SAFARI
RUTAHSA ADVENTURES has organized and will lead a trip to Angel Falls and
across the Gran Sabana in late Sept. - early Oct. of 2003. This is a good time
to visit Venezuela, as the rainy season is ending, but waterflow in the rivers
and over the spectacular waterfalls is still good. A trek up the great
tepui Mt. Roraima will be part of the overall trip, but participation in
this rigorous hike is optional. A relaxing post-trip extension to the sunny
beaches of Margarita Island is another option.
We are still ironing out a few minor details of the trip, but the following
itinerary should be very close to the final plan. Starting date will be
Saturday, Sept. 27.
Travelers who like to hike and wish to experience the beautifully exotic world
of the tepuis up close and personal can sign on for the Roraima trek,
which begins a week before the main Gran Sabana - Angel Falls trip. Travelers
who do not wish to hike, or whose time is limited, can skip Roraima and opt for
the Caracas - Gran Sabana - Angel Falls program. Both hikers and non-hikers
can choose to end their Venezuelan odyssey with a restful stay on the beautiful
beaches of Isla Margarita.
THE EXCURSION ITINERARY
DAY 1, Sat. Sept. 27: Travelers who wish to participate in the Roraima trek
will fly from the U.S. to Caracas. You will be met at the international
airport by an English-speaking guide and taken 20 km into the capital city of
Caracas to our hotel, the Anauco Hilton.
DAY 2, Sun. Sept. 28: AM: We will enjoy a half-day tour of the bustling
capital city, including a visit to the world-famous botanical gardens, along
with other sites. Late PM: We'll go to the national airport and get our 6 PM
flight to Ciudad Bolivar, on the banks of the broad Orinoco River. Here we'll
overnight at the Hotel Laja Real, just across the street from the airport.
DAY 3, Mon. Sept. 29: Our flight to Santa Elena in very southern Venezuela
leaves at 7 AM, but we'll still take time to admire Jimmie Angel's plane, a
Ryan Flamingo named the "Río Caroní", which has been retrieved from the site
of its 1937 crash landing atop Auyantepui, restored, and placed on display at
the Ciudad Bolivar aerodrome.
Our flight to Santa Elena in light planes (Cessna 206 or similar, each carrying
five passengers) is about two and one half hours long, and should offer some
great scenic vistas of the Gran Sabana region.
Shortly after our arrival we will get under way toward Mt. Roraima in a
"rustic vehicle" for the first leg of the journey to Roraima, as far as
Paraitepui, at an elevation of 1600 m (5250 ft). Here we begin our next week's
exercise with a 4-hour hike across mainly open savannah, gradually gaining
elevation, with Kukenán and Roraima on the skyline luring us on. As we make our way across the savannah our focus
grows on Roraima gradually looming larger.
We reach the Río Kukenán to make our first camp at an elevation
of about 1800 m (5900 ft). Lunch and supper included.
DAY 4, Tues., Sept. 30: From Kukenán Camp in the early morning we can
see the tepuis of Warao-Tepui, Kukenán, and mighty Roraima, at
2810 m (9219 ft) the highest tepui of all. Streams originating high on
Roraima pour into three countries, eventually joining the Orinoco in Venezuela,
the Amazon in Brasil, and the Kukó in Guyana, giving rise to Roraima's
nickname "Mother of All Waters". However, according to the
Pemón-Taurepán Indians, the proper name is "Roroima", meaning
"big bluish-green" mountain.
These massive, flat-topped, sheer-walled mountains are erosional remnants of
ancient rock strata that once overlay this entire region. Today they stand
separated like islands, and, in terms of biologic evolution are indeed islands
upon which speciation has occurred in truly splendid isolation. Each
tepui is home to endemic species, many restricted to an individual
tepui. So great was the 19th-century fascination with the idea that
strange life might exist (and past life *persist*!) in these remote mountain
fastnesses that Roraima was the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912
adventure tale "The Lost World". For fun reading in camp at night, get a
paper copy of this novel and bring it along!
Today we continue the trek with a 5-hour hike still through mainly open savannah, and still gradually ascending,
headed toward the base of Roraima. Eventually we
reach camp no. 2 at an elevation of around 2100 m (6890 ft), near the base of
the mighty tepui, towering overhead. Breakfast, lunch, and supper
DAY 5, Weds., Oct. 1: Another 5-hour hike is in store today, but this time
headed up, and up and up, until we reach the top of the great, plateau-like
tepui at about 2600 meters (8500 ft)! The trail may be muddy in places,
and in other places zig-zags up and over bouldery talus. Our route follows that pioneered in 1884 by two
English explorers, Everard Im Thurn and Harry I. Perkins, the first Europeans
to scale Roraima. En route we will pass by several miradores or
lookout points from which we should be treated to splendid views of the Gran
Sabana below and to the north the tepui known as Kukenán with a
610 m free-fall waterfall (the second highest in Venezuela, and the fourth
highest in the world). The trail creeps up, sub-paralleling a towering cliff
known simply as The Wall. Eventually our
route snuggles up close to The Wall to make the final ascent, permitting us to clamber up onto Roraima's mysterious
summit, the "Lost World".
After reaching Roraima's plateau-like yet rugged
topside, we will have an opportunity to visit the highest point on the
mountain, located at a strange rock formation called "The Ford Maverick". Our
overnight camp will be at one of several rock-shelters along a cliff known as
"El Hotel". B, L, S included.
DAY 6, Thurs., Oct. 2: All day today, 7 or 8 hours, exploring the bizarre
scenery on top of Roraima-- the "Lost World". We will visit famous sites such
as the "Valley of Crystals", where sparkling pools of clear water are littered
with thousands upon thousands of white quartz
crystals. This abundance of crystals has led some people to suggest that
Roraima may be the Crystal Mountain described by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1596 in
his publication "The Discoverie of the Large and Rich Territorie of Guiana",
though it seems rather improbable that he could have known what was on top of
Roraima. As we hike we will enjoy observing and photographing strange rock
formations in the mists and equally strange
clumps of plants growing in pools.
Beautiful plant varieties include orchids large and small, lush mosses,
colorful lichens, and bromeliads galore. There
are also carnivorous plants, including pitcher plants, sundews, and
carnivorous bromeliads found only on the
tepuis. Some species here are found nowhere else on earth but atop
Roraima; in fact it is estimated that perhaps as many as half the species are
Besides exotic plants, you can expect to see jewel-like hummingbirds and other
avians, and likely will see toads. But other, larger, animals require a bit of
luck to see. We had a nocturnal visit by a hungry opossum at our camp on
Auyantepui in 1997, and we had the singular good fortune to see a strikingly
marked young boa on our hike up Auyan and a
beautiful, tiny black and yellow striped frog, too. With a bit of luck Roraima
may treat us to some unusual animal sightings.
In addition to hiking and photographing, perhaps we'll have an opportunity to
swim (chilly!) in one of the numerous streams. Plenty of marvels to enjoy
during the day. Second night at "El Hotel"; B, L, S included.
DAY 7 for TREKKERS, Fri., Oct. 3: Today we begin our return to civilization,
descending Roraima and continuing on until we reach the Río
Kukenán camp, a hike of 7 or 8 hours all in all-- Nice that it's
downhill! B, L, S included.
DAY 1 for NON-TREKKERS, Fri. Oct. 3: Travelers who wish to visit the Gran
Sabana and Angel Falls, but who prefer to enjoy the majesty of the
tepuis from afar rather than laboring up one, will fly into Caracas
today, be met at the airport and taken to overnight at the same hotel in
Caracas as used by the Roraima trekkers, the Anauco Hilton.
DAY 8T, 2NT, Sat., Oct. 4: After breakfast the trekkers will hike another 4
hours to reach Paraitepui where we will be picked up and driven back into
Santa Elena. Here we might just want to take it easy for a while. We will
overnight at Campamento Yakoo. B, L, S included.
Today the non-trekkers will enjoy the same half-day city tour of Caracas that
the trekking group enjoyed, including the botanical gardens, and then fly
to Ciudad Bolivar in the late afternoon, to overnight at the Hotel Laja Real.
DAY 9T, 3NT, Sun., Oct. 5: Today is the day the trekkers and non-trekkers link
up to travel together across the Gran Sabana. The non-trekking group will
take the 7 AM flight from Ciudad Bolivar to Santa Elena, arriving around 9:30
AM. After introductions all around, our now complete group of travelers will
head out in 4WD vehicles to the border with Brasil, to visit the Brasilian
frontier town of Villa Pacaraima. You might pick up an extra stamp in your
passport here! After lunch we will visit the beautiful Quebrada de Jaspe,
where there is a waterfall tumbling over a streambed of flaming red jasper. We
return to Sta. Elena to overnight at Campamento Yakoo for one final time.
Breakfast included for trekkers; lunch and supper for the whole group.
Note: In the Gran Sabana the term "campamento" doesn't necessarily mean you're
going to camp out. It is a traditional term stemming from the days of primitive
gold camps, but today includes some very nice lodges.
DAY 10T, 4NT, Mon., Oct. 6: We all head north, across the Gran Sabana today,
toward Puerto Ordaz and the mighty Orinoco River. The name "Gran Sabana"
applies to a broad region of grassy savannahs studded with palms, alternating
with densely forested areas, and with tepuis rising dramatically above
the savannahs. The transition from grasslands to forest is often quite abrupt,
as can be seen in this view from the air. The
origin of the grassy open lands is debated by scientists: natural or man-made?
It seems that deliberate burning by indigenous people has at least played a
role in maintaining the open areas. Scattered across the Gran Sabana are the
tepuis, towering above the grasslands like great crenulated fortresses.
Today's program includes Quebrada Pacheco, the indigenous community of
Riworiwo, and a walk to the Salto Chinak-Meru, at 106 m (348 ft) the highest waterfall in the Gran Sabana-- quite
impressive! Later we'll go by boat (did you see the dugout in the photo?)
along the Río Aponwao and hike to the base of the falls. Picnic lunch.
In the afternoon we continue on to Campamento Chivaton for supper and
DAY 11T, 5NT, Tues., Oct. 7: Today we have some options. If the primitive dirt
road conditions are good enough, we can drive 35 km to the mission village of
Kavanayén to visit this old and remote mission to the local indigenous
people. If the mission road proves unadvisable, we will continue north across
the Gran Sabana visiting scenic balnearios (swimming holes) and
waterfalls including Salto Kawi. We will also pass by the Piedra de la
Virgen, or "Rock of the Virgin", a natural rock formation in which some
profess to see an image of the Virgin Mary. Whichever option we select, we
will end the day at Campamento Anaconda for supper and lodging. Breakfast,
lunch and supper included.
DAY 12T, 6NT, Weds., Oct. 8: After breakfast, we continue north to the village
of Cintillo where we will visit a fabrica de queso y casaba to see how
cheese and casava bread (the "typical" bread of this region) are made. Next
come the gold mines in the mining town of Callao, which should be something
very new and different for all of us-- expect a rough and tumble type of town.
After lunch we continue on to Ciudad Bolivar, stopping en route at the city of
Puerto Ordaz to visit the Cachamay Park. At Cd. Bolivar we will overnight
again at our familiar and comfortable Hotel Laja Real, closing the Gran Sabana
circuit. Breakfast and lunch included.
DAY 13T, 7NT, Thurs., Oct. 9: On to Canaima National Park and Angel Falls!
After breakfast we will depart around 8 AM in Cessna 206s over more sabana,
perhaps getting an aerial view of a giant open-pit iron mine operation at
Cerro Bolívar, on over the big hydroelectric project, past
island-like tepuis to arrive at
Canaima National Park.
If the weather conditions are propitious, we will do an overflight of Angel
Falls en route to Canaima. The world's highest waterfall, with a drop of well
over a half-mile, was named for American bush-pilot Jimmie Angel, who first
spotted the falls in 1935. Your first view of Angel Falls from the air will be as unforgettable as Jimmie's.
However, "overflight" isn't quite the right description, for our little
Cessna-206s will fly down inside Devil's Canyon, circling
up close and personal with the stupendous
cascade as it tumbles down from above and falls on far below. This is truly
Three notes: 1) Most of the Angel Falls photos on this webpage were taken in
December, during the dry season, when water flow was low; our trip is
scheduled earlier, and a greater volume of water, similar to that in the "first
view" photo above, is expected. 2) For a cinematic preview of an Angel Falls
close fly-by, watch the movie "At Play in the Fields of the Lord"--but don't
get any wrong ideas from the movie-- our pilots won't be suicidal! 3) If the
weather happens not to be good for the Angel Falls overflight today, we have a
second opportunity later.
After arriving in Canaima we will be taken to our lodgings at Campamento
Wakulodge. Later, once we're settled in at Waku, we'll go for a boat ride in
Canaima Lagoon to view and photograph its numerous beautiful waterfalls formed
where the Río Carrao breaks up on a massive rocky ledge to plunge into
the broad lagoon below. Lunch and supper
DAY 14T, 8NT, Fri., Oct. 10: The morning is free time to swim in Canaima
Lagoon, visit the indigenous crafts shop, stroll and photograph, or just relax.
(Also, if weather conditions yesterday did not allow an overflight of Angel
Falls, we will have a second chance today.) PM: Around 2 o'clock we'll set
out on a 20-minute walk to Puerto Ucaima where we will board a curiara,
i.e., a big dugout canoe with an outboard motor to power it
up through rapids. This will be our
transportation up the Río Carrao and its
tributary the Churun to Angel Falls. However, there could be spots where we
will have to lend a helping hand.
Our first stop this afternoon will be to visit Sapo Falls, which you can walk
behind along a narrow trail for wet thrills. Then upstream a ways we'll stop
again to swim in the Pozo de la Felicidad or "Well of Happiness", and
finally stop for the night at Ahonda Camp on Orchid Island. Breakfast, lunch
and supper are included today and supper will be cooked for us at the camp;
for sleeping, hammocks will be provided, under shelter. Restrooms are also
available here in the camp.
DAY 15T, 9NT, Sat., Oct. 11: Continuing upriver after breakfast, we reach
Isla Ratoncito, and Angel Falls can be seen in the distance from here. But
until a DC-3 full of sightseers lumbers by in front of the falls it's hard to really comprehend the astounding
height of the falls.
From Isla Ratoncito we hike for about an hour through deep shady jungle--
which can contain some beautiful surprises such as this scarlet
passion flower, and that wonderfully
iridescent blue will-o-the-wisp, the Morpho butterfly, is likely to be
seen flitting through the shadows and patches of sunlight. But the main goal
of this hike is a mirador not too far from the base of the falls, for an
awe-inspiring view of the falls. After gazing
and gaping, and taking pictures (while wishing for wider lenses) we can hike a
bit closer and go for a swim in a pool below the
falls-- but be forewarned, it's right chilly!
Later in the afternoon we return downstream for a second night at Ahonda Camp.
Breakfast, lunch and supper included. Sleep in hammocks again.
DAY 16T, 10NT, Sun., Oct. 12: Following breakfast in camp we continue on down
river back to Canaima, arriving around 10 AM. There may be some final free
time at Canaima before we need to proceed to the airport where we will board
our flights. And once again the group composition may change: those who need
to return to the U.S. will fly directly to Caracas, whereas those with a little
more time and desiring some sunny relaxation will fly to Isla Margarita.
Homeward-bound travelers will be met at the Caracas airport as before, and
taken to the Posada Il Prezzano, located conveniently near the international
airport, to overnight.
Travelers favoring surf and sand will fly into Porlamar airport and be taken
to the Hotel Le Flamboyant. This is a full-board accommodation, so supper at
the hotel is included; also: open bar for Venezuelan beer and spirits.
DAY 17T, 11NT, Mon., Oct. 13: Homeward-bound travelers will be picked up at
the Il Prezzano and taken to the international airport to get their U.S.
flights, carrying with them many memories of scenes and sounds and people of
Venezuela's magnificent Gran Sabana region. Who knows, some may have caught
"tepui-fever" and begin dreaming of a return trip...it happened to us!
The Margarita beach bums have all day today and tomorrow at liberty to sleep
in, swim and surf, lie in the sun, have a few drinks (gee, I wonder if they
serve margaritas here?), read, or whatever strikes our fancy. Pure leisure
time! Breakfast, lunch, supper included; open bar for national drinks.
For those who want more activity, we can also offer the following
extra cost options: 1) a "jeep safari" around the island, with lunch and open
bar; 2) an excursion by boat to Coche, with lunch and open bar. Each
excursion is $40 p/p.
DAY 18T, 12NT, Tues., Oct. 14: Same strenuous regimen for the Margarita crowd
today. Wouldn't surprise anyone if some member had found their favorite
nightclub by now. Breakfast, lunch and supper included; open bar for national
The same optional excursions are available today.
DAY 19T, 13NT, Weds., Oct. 15: After breakfast (included, of course) we fly
back to Caracas, and on out to the U.S. the same day on evening flights. (A
final night in Venezuela at the Posada Il Prezzano can be arranged for those
whose air schedules require it.) And so we close a truly memorable trip--
adventure by trekking, light plane and dugout canoe, fantastical scenery, the
world's highest waterfall, strange plants, new foods, sunny beaches, and more!
Venezuela will entrance you!
Tepuis, "Islands in Time", rise above the mists at dawn
COST OF THE TRIP:
Participants may choose from four trip options, to meet the varied needs of
Prices are based on double occupancy lodging. Trip fees include: all lodging,
all meals specified in the itinerary (all but a half dozen meals are included),
park entries, ground transportation, all internal flights (five flights including Isla Margarita, three flights for the
non-Margarita options), airport taxes for internal flights, and guide services.
Single room accommodation available at extra cost.
Not included: air fare to and from Venezuela, meals not specified in the
itinerary, Venezuela exit tax, tips and other personal expenses.
Note: Ten participants are needed to make this trip go. A maximum of 16
participants will be accepted.
- Option 1: TREKKING FULL TRIP (19 days): Caracas - Roraima trek - Gran
Sabana tour - Canaima/Angel Falls -Margarita Island - Caracas and out: $2415
- Option 2: NON - TREKKING FULL TRIP (13 days): Caracas - Gran Sabana tour -
Canaima/Angel Falls - Margarita Island - Caracas and out: $1962
- Option 3: TREKKING SHORT TRIP (17 days): Caracas - Roraima trek - Gran
Sabana tour - Canaima/Angel Falls - Caracas overnight and out: $2278
- Option 4: NON-TREKKING SHORT TRIP (11 days): Caracas - Gran Sabana tour -
Canaima/Angel Falls - Caracas overnight and out: $1828
If are interested in participating in this trip, you should request an
application blank and any further information you need as soon as possible, as
trip participation will be limited to 16. Send an e-mail requesting an
application blank for the Venezuela trip:
Mail us now!.
If you *think* you might be interested in the Roraima trek, but aren't sure,
take a look at the May 1989 issue of National Geographic to get a better idea
about Roraima and the dramatic, other-worldly scenery of the tepuis.
You should also visit our Angel Falls webpage to see the pictures! Angel Falls.
We are grateful to our friend and fellow traveler Wayne Daughtry for the use
of his photos of Roraima, Chinak-Meru, and the "first view" photo of Angel
Falls. All other photos on this website by Janie and Ric Finch, @copyrighted.