Angel Falls waterfall in the Guiana Highlands in Bolívar state, southeastern Venezuela, on the Churún River, a tributary of the Caroní, 160 miles (260 km) southeast of Ciudad Bolívar. The falls, first sighted by outsiders in the 1930s, were named for James Angel, an American adventurer who crash-landed his plane on a nearby mesa in 1937.
The highest waterfall in the world, the cataract drops 3,212 feet (979 meters) and is 500 feet (150 meters) wide at the base. It leaps from a flat-topped plateau, Auyán-Tepuí (“Devils Mountain”), barely making contact with the sheer face.
The waterfall drops over the edge of the Auyantepui mountain in the Canaima National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Gran Sabana region of Bolívar State. According to accounts of Venezuelan explorer Ernesto Sánchez La Cruz, he spotted the falls in 1912, but he did not publicize his discovery.
Cruz possibly saw the Montoya Falls in the Sierra Pacaraima region, which are more than 500m tall. In 1933, air-borne American gold prospector James Crawford (‘Jimmie’) Angel discovered Angel Falls accidentally, flying over the mountain in his Flamingo monoplane while in search of a valuable ore bed.
The first recorded person of European descent to reach the base of the falls was Latvian explorer Aleksandrs Laime, also known as Alejandro Laime to the native Pemon tribe. He reached the falls alone in 1946.
He was the first to reach the upper side of falls in the late 1950s, by climbing on the back side where the slope is not vertical. He also reached Angel’s plane 18 years after the crash landing.
On 18 November 1955, Latvian Independence Day, he announced to Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional that this stream without any known local name should be called after a Latvian river, Gauja.
The same year, this name was registered in the National Cartographic Institution of Venezuela. There are no convincing proofs that indigenous Pemon people had named the local streams, as Auyán-tepui was considered to be a dangerous place and was not visited by the indigenous people.
Angel Falls is one of Venezuela’s top tourist attractions, though a trip to the falls is a complicated affair. The falls are located in an isolated jungle. A flight from Puerto Ordaz or Ciudad Bolívar is required to reach Canaima camp, the starting point for river trips to the base of the falls.
River trips generally take place from June to December, when the rivers are deep enough for the wooden curiaras used by the Pemon guides. A popular way to get to Angel Falls is by boat, though visitors can also fly from Canaima airstrip to Canaima lagoon.
Motorized canoes travel upstream between May and January. Journey times vary, though, on average, it takes about five hours to reach the falls from camp. Winding waterways, edged with dense forest, teem with exotic wildlife; canoes zoom over boulders through rapidly flowing sections of river and those on-board are liable to get wet. From the lagoon, visitors then trek through lush, Venezuelan jungle, to various viewing points.