February 27, 2024 | Allison Robertson

Angel Falls: The World's Tallest Waterfall


Angel Falls

Angel Falls is not just your average waterfall, it’s one of the most impressive natural attractions on Earth as it stands as the world’s tallest waterfall.

But unfortunately, Angel Falls has a side of danger to it. From unusual threats to tourists and fatal plane crashes, you’d be surprised what goes on deep in the Amazon rainforest.

Angel falls and worried woman split image

It’s the Tallest Waterfall in the World

As previously mentioned, Angel Falls is the world’s tallest uninterrupted waterfall. It has a remarkable height of 3,212 feet, and a plunge of 2,648 feet.

It’s height is intimidating, but that’s not exactly what makes it dangerous.

Angel Falls in Venezuela - 2020Mr.Angelfish, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Its Destination is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The waterfall is located in Canaima National Park in southeastern Venezuela. The national park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 in recognition of its outstanding natural value.

UNESCO World Heritage Site’s belong to all the peoples of the world, regardless of the territory they’re located in.

Canaima National Park, Gran Sabana, Bolívar, Venezuela - 2012Eduardo Fonseca Arraes, Flickr

Angel Falls is Home to an Isolated Tribe

The area surrounding the waterfall is home to the Pemon tribe. They have lived in the region for centuries and they consider the waterfall to be sacred.

Even though the indigenous tribe had lived there for hundreds of years, the waterfall was named after someone else.

Young man from Pemon tribe Venezuela - 2007HumbRios, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

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It Was Named After an Adventurer

Angel Falls was named after James Angel, an American adventurer and pilot who crashed his plane near the waterfall back in 1937. After crashing, he spent 11 days trekking across challenging terrain to survive.

Eventually, someone mentioned the Pemon tribe again.

Jimmie Angel's plane - 2005Yosemite, CC-BY-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Its Name Was Changed

72 years after the waterfall was named after an American who crashed into it, the Venezuelan President came to his senses and declared that Angel Falls should only be referred to as Kerepakupai Merú out of respect for the Pemon people.

Angel falls - VenezuelaMaira2691, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Its Alternate Names

Although the President declared a new name, the waterfall is still famously known as Angel Falls. However, it also now goes by Salto Ángel and Kerepakupai-merú.

Angel Falls, Venezuela, and the early morning - 2010ron brinkmann, Flickr

There is No Road Access to the Falls

There is no road access and it can take up to two days to get there by foot. Other transportation options include helicopter and boat.

Sailing Towards Angel Falls, Canaima National ParkDouglas Olivares, Shutterstock

The Most Popular Way to Visit

The most popular way to visit the falls is by plane. And the guided tours are something to consider if you’re craving adventure.

People hiking in a forestyossarian6, Adobe Stock

The Guided Tours Require You to Camp in the Wilderness

Guided tours are available for the adventure-seeking tourists.

The experience will include tough hikes through dense rainforests and rivers, and the crew will be required to camp in the wilderness during their trip.

People camping in the woods.cottonbro studio, Pexels

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It’s Only 101 Feet Taller than the 2nd Largest Waterfall

The total height of Angel Falls is 3,212 feet. That makes it just 101 feet taller than the second-tallest waterfall in the world—Tugela Falls in South Africa, which is 3,110 feet tall.

It’s also extremely old.

Tugela Falls, Amphitheater, Drakensberg, South Africa - 2014Rick McCharles, Flickr

Angel Falls Was Formed More Than 200 million Years Ago

Angel Falls was formed more than 200 million years ago, during the time of the supercontinent. Tectonic activity began to lift the area, which created the Guiana Shield.

The uplift caused large layers of rock to break and form canyons. One of these canyons was Angel Falls.

Angel Falls in Venezuela - 2005Luis Carillo, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

There Are Multiple Drops

Angel Falls consists of a series of cascades and drops, with the longest uninterrupted descent measuring about 2,648 feet.

Even with its high plunge, visitors can get fairly close to the waterfall.

Angel Falls / Salto Angel - 2007ENT108, Flickr

Visitors Can Get Up Close and Personal

Angel Falls has several wide lagoons and jacuzzi-like pools situated along the bottom of the waterfall. Visitors can cool off in these pools while feeling the misty spray from the waterfall on their faces.

The force of the waterfall is actually much less powerful than you may think.

Small cascade at the foot of Angel Falls (Salto Angel) - Venezuela, South AmericaVadim Petrakov, Shutterstock

The Average Flow is Not as Strong as You May Think

The average flow of the water that spills over the top of Angel Falls is just 3,750 gallons per second. That’s almost 100 times less than the 300,000 gallons of water that go over Victoria Falls every second.

The water’s volume changes based on season.

Salto Angel from above, Auyantepuy, Venezuela - 2009Rafael Estrella, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Angel Falls Has a Tropical Climate

Angel Falls has a tropical climate which brings frequent rainstorms.

The driest time of year is from December to April and the average temperature ranges from 64.76°F at night to 78.08°F during the day.

The dry season is when the water changes, though.

Lower section of Ángel Falls - 2004LBM1948, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

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Angel Falls Dry Season Decreases the Water Flow

During the dry season, the waterfall’s water volume decreases. In some cases, it may even become a mere trickle. Angel Fall’s peak water flow is between May and November.

This greatly affects what grows and lives in the area.

Canaima National Park, Bolívar State - 2014Alfredo Varela Guédez, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

The Flora and Fauna Are Stunning

Angel Falls surrounding land is home to some amazing wildlife that thrive in the dense rainforest.

Some of the flora and fauna species in the area surrounding Angel Falls includes bromeliads, orchids, giant armadillos, capuchin monkeys, and jaguars.

Capuchin monkey in nature.Mao Batista, Pexels

Angel Falls in the Amazon Rainforest

Angel Falls is located deep within the Amazon rainforest—which is why its remote location is challenging to get to.

It is also why the wildlife are like no other, and why visitors may spot various indigenous tribespeople during their travels.

Angel Falls Canaima national Park Bolivar state Venezuela - 2017Warairarepano&Guaicaipuro, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Over One Million People Visit Each Year

Each year, there are approximately one million people who visit Angel Falls—despite its remote location.

Some of those visitors are looking to do more than take photos though.

Young kids are walking on a trail in to the woods.Kai-Chieh Chan, Pexels

Angel Falls Attracts Daredevils

Given its impressive height, there are tons of people who go to Angel Falls to take part in extreme sports.

In 1990, Jean-Marc Boivin became the first man to BASE jump off the highest point of the falls. His celebrations were short lived, though—literally.

Kjerag (Norway) BASE jumping - 2008https://www.flickr.com/photos/hakonthingstad/, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Jean-Marc Boivin’s Second Attempt Was Fatal

Some people always want more. The very next day after Jean-Marc Boivin made a world record, he decided to try again, except this time a mistake was made.

French mountain climber, paraglider, extreme skier and BASE jumper Jean-Marc Boivin - 1989Rene Robert. Getty Images

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Jean-Marc Boivin Hit a Tree

During his second attempt, Jean-Marc Boivin hit a tree on his way down and sadly, succumbed to his injuries.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t the only person to fall to his demise over Angel Falls.

Ángel Falls on Auyan-tepuy cliff; Canaima National Park. Bolívar, Venezuela - 2004LBM1948, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Many People Have Lost Their Lives at Angel Falls

Nationwide, an estimated 21 people have died during so-called BASE jumps—the acronym for “buildings, antennae, spans and earth”—in the last 20 years.

Aside from jumping, people also like to climb the falls.

Self-portrait of the base jumper in flight from the cliff, base jumping, wingsuit.Michaelvbg, Shutterstock

People Have Climbed Angel Falls

In 2005, a team of British, Venezuelan and Russian climbers succeeded in free-climbing the 1000m Angel Falls wall.

They were the first to do so. It took them 20 days of extraneous climbing.

Man doing Free Climbing in Yosemite Valley - 2014tpuyol, CC BY 2.0 , Wikimedia Commons

Angel Falls Is Safe, But Venezuela is a Different Story

Angel Falls specifically is said to be a safe tourist attraction for most visitors, as long as people make smart choices.

However, the US State Department have issued a Travel Advisory for the surrounding area.

People taking pictures at Angel Falls - 2014jonathan de Almeida, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Trouble in Paradise

Venezuela is a stunning nation with immense natural beauty. But safety remains a constant concern, especially for tourists.

Travel warnings regarding muggings, carjackings, imprisonment, and petty theft are among the top concerns.

People in boat near Angel Falls - 2011Paulo Capiotti, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

The 2018 Incident Involving Major League Baseball Players

In 2018, a tragic incident occurred when a few major league baseball players returned to their native Venezuela and became victims of a very horrific crime strategy.

Man is seating next to other man and driving a car.Tobi, Pexels

The Perpetrators Put Boulders in the Road

A common practice for thieves is to put large boulders in the middle of dark, un-lit roads so they can rob unsuspecting motorists who have no choice but to come to a sudden stop in the middle of nowhere.

Unfortunately, this strategy resulted in something far worse than theft for the baseball players.

This national forest road is blocked by a land slide of rock and debris.Joshua Rainey Photography, Shutterstock

Their Vehicle Crashed

Sadly, the baseball players vehicle crashed into the boulders resulting in their demise.

That is only one specific incident, among many. Unfortunately, Venezuela has a bad reputation when it comes to public safety.

Aside from tourist safety, another notable accident occurred over the Falls.

Rocks on road road car accident.Schuyler Erle, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

A Fatal Plane Crash

A young family from England were on holiday in Venezuela. They boarded a single-engined Cessna 208 for an internal flight as part of a two-day trip, which included vising Angel Falls.

At the end of the trip, tragedy struck.

Light aircraft on runway.Kevin B, Pexels

The Plane Struggled to Take Off

After viewing the falls, the family made their way back to the small airport and boarded their little plane.

Their 6-year-old son, Tom, had been flying in planes his whole life, and had made a shocking discovery shortly before take-off.

Light plane on a runway.Emmanuel Molina, Pexels

Safety Was Lacking

The child had apparently told his mother, “Mummy, there is no safety card” as they the plane was getting ready for take-off.

The mother had then noticed that there were several safety concerns, and that the crew did not speak English.

Woman and kid in plane.Rahul Singh, Pexels

The Weather Was Bad

Already nervous, the rainfall had suddenly taken a turn and they found themselves in an intense rain storm.

The mother recalls, “As we went down the runway, the plane was swerving from side to side, which made us very uneasy.”

Cessna plane under the rain.Spotting973, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

The Pilot Struggled to Gain Control

While her husband was reassuring her son, the mother said the plane “seemed to drop down and we thought the pilot had changed his mind about taking off”.

But then suddenly a surge of power took the plane.

Pilots in a plane, flying over a river.Rhys Abel, Pexels

The Plane Went Down

The woman tearfully remembers the event, saying “suddenly there was a surge of power and we took off steeply and it was like being on a white-knuckle ride.”

Instantly after a loud warning signal went off, the plane “dipped to the left and dove into the ground.”

Small plane flying on the sky.Alan Wilson, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

The Plane Crashed

As the 6-year-old boy “flailed forward” during the crash, he hit his head.

The mother recalled the accident, saying “I could smell aviation fuel and there was our child, grey, lifeless and bleeding. My husband said Tom was badly injured and we had to get him out.”

Cessna 208 crashTransportation Safety Board, Flickr

A Life Was Lost

The little boy was pulled from the wreckage and taken to a nearby medical center. Sadly, the young boy didn’t make it.

He was the only passenger to lose his life that day.

Kid in hospital bedwavebreakmedia, Freepik

The Dangers of Venezuela

Unfortunately, Venezuela poses huge threats to tourists. Aside from the dangerous people who depend on theft and corruption to survive, the elements also post significant risks to touring companies. 

There have been many reported incidents where tourists have come face-to-face with trouble during their excursions to Angel Falls. Travel advisories remain in effect. 

Angel Falls in the morning light - 2014Jeanpaul Razzouk, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Final Thoughts

Although there is risk involved when traveling to places like Venezuela, there are remarkable natural attractions that some consider are worth the risk—Angel Falls being one of them.

Known for its impressive height, and stunning surroundings, Angel Falls continues to be one those natural world wonders that should top your bucket list.

Angel Falls Venezuela Salto Angel Parque Nacional Canaima.Luisdfoto, Shutterstock

Sources: 1, 2, 3


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