If a massive waterfall sits remotely in the rainforest and there’s no one to hear it, does it still make a sound? Yes, a massive one. Case in point: Kaieteur Falls, the world’s largest single-drop waterfall. It’s buried among the savannah in an Amazonian jungle and receives less than 6,000 visitors each year.
Kaieteur Falls is located east of Venezuela, west of Suriname and north of Brazil in the country of Guyana. The north border of the country, along with its capital city Georgetown, meets into the Atlantic Ocean. However, the falls are in the middle of the country, making them difficult to access.
Anyone who’s made the journey can attest it’s worth the effort to see, and hear, the massive sheet of water cascading down into the gorge below. The size of the waterfall ebbs and flows throughout the seasons, but is widely acknowledged as the largest single-drop waterfall on the planet, plummeting from a height of more than 700 feet and spreading out around 350 feet in width to create an intense water volume. For reference, that’s around four times the height of Niagara Falls.
As history records it, the falls were “discovered” by British geologist and explorer C. Barrington Brown. Initially traveling to the area in 1867, he was likely shown the waterfall by members of the Patamona, an Amerindian Indigenous people who had long lived on the land, and still does in small numbers today. Brown returned the following year and reported his findings in two of his books.
Such a landmark comes with a blend of folklore, culture and historical relevance. Several stories swirl around the falls. One story claims a chief named Kai volunteered himself to paddle a canoe over the falls as an offering to the great spirit Makonaima in order to save his people from a neighboring tribe. Another legend claims an old man’s family was forced into a boat and sent over the crashing water. Either way, the name Kaieteur stems from words in the Patamona language, where Kayik Tuwuk means Old Man’s, and teur means falls. Hence, Kaieteur Falls translates to Old Man’s Falls.
Kaieteur Falls is situated in the Potaro-Siparuni area, in the Guyana Shield, as part of the Potaro River. In 1929, the British government, who ruled the region at the time, designated it a national park to protect the area. The landmark decision was the first act of conservation in the Caribbean or South America. Even today, the number of visitors is highly regulated in order to keep the area pristine.
However, the falls aren’t the only reason to add Kaieteur National Park to your bucket list. As a combination of savannah and rainforest, the region hosts tropical animals and abundant plant life. On a visit, one might see one of the endangered and highly poisonous species of frogs that call the base of the waterfall home. Bird watchers will often be rewarded with views of the very tropical-looking cock-of-the-rock. Botanists and plants enthusiasts can celebrate odd findings like a mosquito-eating carnivorous plant called sundew. Similarly impressive, the capadulla water vine can provide a drink in nature when the resource is otherwise lacking.
How and when to visit Kaieteur Falls
The rainy season lasts until the end of August, making the following few months a great time to enjoy the heavy water flow without the mud and flooding. Plan your trip for September through November.
There are two primary ways to book a trip to Kaieteur Falls. The first, and most common, is a day trip. Tours leave from Georgetown on a flight. Small planes shuttle visitors to Kaieteur International Airport, which is a small landing strip about 15 walking minutes from the falls.
Guides meet you on the ground and point out highlights while leading you to one of the lookouts in the area. Planes are allowed to remain for a two-hour window, which means you’ll have around one and a half hours to enjoy the falls and the surrounding flora and fauna. With flight times ranging from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours, the tour is an easy day trip. However, most airlines will cancel the trip if they don’t reach their minimum booking number. It might be as few as four or as high as 12, so know the cancellation policy when you book and plan to visit early in your stay in case you need to reschedule.
The second way to see the Kaieteur Falls is to travel overland as part of a multi-day adventure tour. Remember you’ll be hiking through and sleeping in an Amazon rainforest. You’ll get to contend with mosquitos, intense heat and all the other joys of South America. Tours rely on buses, boats and boots on the ground, so you’ll see the sites along the way. It’s probably the most rewarding way to reach the destination. After your visit to the falls, tours fly you back to the starting point, making it a one-way overland journey.
Via The Travel
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