Angel Falls Trip
Dean in Southern Delaware
Angels Fall Report: The trip to Angels Falls is sponsored by WJ. The list to sign up is at the activities desk from the first day of the cruise, and it fills up fast. If you are interested, I suggest you sign-up soon after boarding. Only 18 can go on the trip, and many people later regretted not going. I suspect there are weeks that more than one plane could go.
The cost of the trip is $210 per person, and this may be charged to your cabin just like other WJ items and tours. The package is all inclusive, including a lunch, but doesn't include: $1 US departure tax, any gifts at the gift shop, or tips.
The Angel Falls trip is either on Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on whether you started in Grenada or Margarita. We were awakened about 6 am, left the ship by 7:30 in the morning, and went to the airport in a tour bus, a 35 minute ride. We got to the airport, and were asked to wait in the lobby while the tickets and passports were processed, and the guide got ready. After boarding the AeroTuy plane, (a twin turboprop 18-passenger plane) we flew south for an hour, and stopped at Ciudad Bolivar, on the banks of the Oranoco River to refuel. At this point you began to realize that you are really on the interior of South America. All you have to do is count the number of operating and broken DC 3's around. While refueling, we had to go into the terminal which was similar to all others but just different enough to add an interesting atmosphere. The only outofplace thing was a Budget Rent aCar booth. After resuming the flight, 15 minutes later, we flew for another hour, to Angel Falls. During this leg, the guide gave a nice overview and history of the area, including showing us a copy of the May, 1989 National Geographic.
We flew by the falls twice, and got wonderful pictures, one of which I'll blow up and frame. The plane went up and back, so everyone got a good view, and the guide was very good about giving up enough warning to get ready. It is very cloudy up in the forest, especially during the rainy season, so they say that 60% of the trips see the falls, and there is a risk you won't. If you can't see the falls in the morning, then they try again in the afternoon. (As we left in the afternoon, it looked very cloudy in the direction of the falls.)
We then went back to the Canaima National Park airport, on the Carro River. (The only way to get to Angel Fall's on the ground is a 3-day canoe trek, sleeping on hammocks in the jungle. AreoTuy and others run this, staging out of Canaima Park, and the associated hotel). We landed at the "airport" a runway that is long enough for 727's, but the "terminal" has a thatched roof. After changing clothes, and storing our extra gear, we rode canoes across Canaima lagoon,Which has several massive waterfalls coming into it, and landed on the opposite shore. These are in themselves worth a roll of film! Two local native guides joined our party at this point, bringing the guide staff to three. During a 1-mile walk though the jungle, the guide stopped occasionally to point out interesting sights. The trail wasn't difficult, but was in places occasionally muddy, steep and or narrow. Bugs bothered a couple of people, but for most weren't noticed.
Finally, we came to SAPO Falls, a MASSIVE waterfall, maybe 100 meters wide. We paused, giving us a chance back out or to remove any last clothing, like hats, and to hand our cameras to the guide, who put them in a large plastic bag. He took them through first, and checked the path. Walking behind SAPO is a test for anyone. The trail is narrow, and the tons of water cascading by you a couple of feet away would scare anyone. The guided were marvelous, though. There is a rope, but I found it hard to use. We wear contacts, and at times, the wind and water made even breathing a challenge, and I feared losing my contacts. A pair of swimming goggles might have been a help. At one of the worst spots, there is a 3foot step down, but the guides were right there, so it worked out. We emerged on the other side, with a great sense of relief. We paused for a while on the other side for pictures in the pools and for recovery, then back through again! This time we knew what to expect, and it was much quicker and easier. The sense of accomplishment called for champagne, but alas, we had none. We walked back to the canoe, and rode back to the other side through the chop. There is a small open restaurant on the picturesque banks of Canaima Lagoon, we had a nice chicken lunch before we began out trek home. After the gift shop stop, we were taken back to the airport, and were aware of what seemed to be unusual activity. Finally, we found out that a small plane had crashed an hour before, and we were going to look for it on the way back! Indeed, 20 minutes later, we came across the scene. A military helicopter was on the ground lending assistance. Our pilot was a friend of the victims, and we circled the crash. We were told the passenger plane had crashed after stalling after takeoff from a jungle airstrip. Only the pilot and copilot were aboard the "too heavy" plane, and that they would survive. Even when we landed in Cuidad Bolivar to refuel, people on the ground were still concerned. After leaving Bolivar, the rest of the trip back was uneventful, except for heavy clouds along the coast. We landed back in Margarita just after sunset, at 6:15 pm. We were met by the tour bus and were back at the dock .
The Angel's Falls trip is something that I'll remember for a long time. For me, it was well worth the cost. The Sapo Fall walk was not really explained as well as it might have been and some people had second thoughts later. However, the entire trip is so far beyond normal experience, that I am not sure what more can be said. If you ever have the chance, do it!