Kaieteur Falls located in Guyana, is one of the most impressive jewels of nature, to be found in the Amazon. Although in total it comprises an impressive 822-foot high (251 meters) waterfall, it is also known to have the highest single drop in falls on the earth, at an incredible 741 feet. The journey to Kaieteur National Park in South America, is our 8th stop in the travel series A World Far and Away.
Kaieteur Falls is near five times higher than Niagara Falls, situated on the border between Canada and the United States in North America. It is about twice the height of Victoria Falls, that lies between Zambia and Zimbabwe in Africa. Globally, Kaieteur ranks 123 in height ranking.
There are varying accounts of how Kaieteur Falls was originally named. According to a Patamona Indian legend, Kaieteur Falls was named for Kai, a chief or Toshao who moved to save his people by paddling over the falls, in an act of self-sacrifice to the great spirit Makonaima.
Apparently this act of selflessness was made, to protect his tribe from a rival Carib people.
Another story told when the falls were first discovered by the British, in the later part of the 19th century, was a bitter old man had been placed in a boat and forced to go over the falls by his own relatives. Kaieteur in the local Amerindian dialect means old-man falls.
Kaieteur is among the most powerful waterfalls in the world, with an average flow of 23,400 cubic feet per second (663 cubic meters per second). The Falls are of the type known as Vertical Curtain.
The falls are set on the Potaro River, in the section of the Amazon rainforest included in the Potaro-Siparuni region of Guyana.
The park is situated on the Guiana Shield,a plateau known as possibly the earth’s oldest and most remote, geological formations. It is estimated to be some 2.99 billion years old.
The area has an astounding abundance and variety of both flora and fauna. Among the most popular is the golden frog, that can be seen in great numbers, nearby Kaieteur Falls. Another favorite is a type of plant, that attracts and digests insects.
There is also a multitude of broad leafed bromeliads. These are used by the local inhabitants, in a number of innovative ways.
One hears of reported sightings of jaguars and monkeys along with many other mammals, but these are not often seen by tourists.
Upriver from the Kaieteur Falls, the Potaro Plateau stretches out to the distant escarpment of the Pakaraima Mountains. The Potaro River leads into the Essequibo River. The latter is the longest river in Guyana and one of the lengthiest
and widest rivers, in all of South America.
Kaieteur Falls became known to the wider world in 1870. A group of explorers led to by Charles Barrington Brown and his fellow geologist James Sawkins, were hired as surveyors by the colony of British Guiana.
Brown and Sawkins had both arrived in Georgetown, the capital of British Guiana in 1867. Although they collaborated on a number of geological reports and mapping, some of the work was performed on separate expeditions, over a number of years. Sawkins was therefore not in the party that Brown was leading, when Kaieteur was first seen by a person of European ancestry.
Brown returned in 1871, to make a more comprehensive study of Kaieteur Falls, including measurements.
Brown would write two books about his experiences in this part of South America. Canoe and Camp Life in British Guiana would be published in 1876. Two years later came Fifteen Thousand Miles on the Amazon and its Tributaries.
Kaieteur Falls along with nearby Orinduik Falls, have become major tourist attractions in Guyana. They are both reached and often combined, with rather frequent flights from Ogle Airport and Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Georgetown.
Kaieteur National Park is served by Kaieteur International Airport, 0.62 miles west or less than 1 kilometer from the top of Kaieteur Falls. It is about a 15-minute walk for the average tourist.
For those more adventurous travelers, a week long trek through the Amazon, will also provide access to Kaieteur Falls.
By Presidential Order, Kaieteur National Park originally established in 1929, was expanded 70 years later, from 5 square miles (10 square kilometers) to 242 square miles.
In modern times as part of popular culture, Kaieteur Falls has been featured in a number of documentaries and television programs.
It was seen in episode 6 of David Attenborough’s series Life on Earth, dealing with native frogs which are quite prevalent in the vicinity, due to the abundant moisture and rainfall.
The documentary films The White Diamond by Werner Herzog and Animal Planet’s River Monsters with Jeremy Wade both highlighted Kaieteur Falls.
It was also exhibited in the 2013 Discovery Channel’s series Gold Rush, as well as episode 1 of of the series Deadly Adventures by Steve Backshall.
In addition, the falls were used in a science film animation television series G Gundam. The lead character trains under Kaieteur, before his final fight.
There are several points of interest that most tourists do observe. Boy Scout’s View avails visitors of their first frontal look, of the falls on land. The exact site was given this moniker, because local boy scouts became initiated into their troops, once they climbed from the bottom to this viewpoint, at the top of the gorge.
The next lookout is known as Rainbow View. As the name indicates, it allows travelers to see actual rainbows through the rising mist.
The next stop is right at the brink of Kaieteur Falls itself. From here one can experience, the true mass of power emanating from the Potaro River. The sheer volume of water provides a thunderous roar, as the water passes over the cliff and down the precipice.
Flights from the Georgetown airports to Kaieteur Falls are typically only 45 minutes to an hour. So even if you visit Orinduik Falls as well, the entire trip can easily be managed in a day. There are a number of companies, that specialize in trips to these two sites.
The flight from Kaieteur to Orinduik will take about 30 minutes. The return flight to Georgetown, will average about 90 minutes.
Keep in mind, visibility at the Falls will be effected by weather conditions, so check forecasts regularly. One also needs to know depending on the tour company and if it is a slower time of year, that excursions may be canceled, if a minimum amount of people have not paid for the trip.
Tour operators registered with Guyana’s tourism board, can be found at the website listed below.
A tour to Kaieteur Falls will cost from $150.00 to $200.00 USD (United States Dollar). In local currency that is about 30,000 GYD.
Days and Hours of Operations
Although Kaieteur Falls is open year round, the views will be more impressive during the rainy season, particularly as this portion of the year is winding down. This will be April through September, with the highest volumes of water, evident at the end of the summer monsoons. However, it will be hotter and more humid as well, at this time of the year.
If arriving by plane,one can expect to be at Kaieteur Falls for at least 90 minutes, up to 2 hours. Plan to spend at least an hour at Orinduik Falls, if that is going to be part of your day trip.
If you leave from Georgetown at 8:00 AM, you can expect to return between 5:00 PM and 6:00 PM that evening.
- Is available in Georgetown and in smaller communities, if you are going overland.
- A waterproof jacket, may be helpful during the rainy season.
- Proper footwear is important, as you are making your way around the area of the Falls.
- Bring bottled water,so you can stay hydrated during your visit.
- Wear clothes that will be comfortable, even when they become wet.