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Kaiteur Falls is an incredible, single-drop waterfall deep within the Amazonian rainforest of Guyana. It may not be the world’s largest or biggest (although, it IS the largest single-drop waterfall in the world…by volume), but it’s isolated location makes a visit here a unique and special experience. (Or so you’d expect for the price!) A Kaiteur Falls tour is on every list of things to do in Guyana, but I couldn’t help but wonder if it would actually be worth it.
Booking A Kaiteur Falls Tour
We only had one day in our itinerary available to visit the falls. This stressed me out a bit because the Kaiteur falls tours only actually go if there’s 12 people committed. This may not seem like much, but we hadn’t even seen 12 tourist total during our 10 days in Guayana, so I wasn’t sure if there were even enough tourist in the country to fill the plane.
First, I checked with Air Services Ltd, but a week out they didn’t have anyone else booked and suggested I try another company. Next, I looked at Evergreen Adventures because their website showed the number of tickets available for each day. But, on our date, there wasn’t a single ticket sold.
I finally decided to book with Wilderness Explorers because if they didn’t charter their own plane, they’d (hopefully) try to get us booked with another operator. This gave us the best chance of actually going on the tour. I told myself I’d be happy either way. If we got to go we’d experience the (hopefully worth it) amazingness of Kaiteur Falls Guyana, and if we didn’t get to go we’d save ourselves a LOT of money!
2 days before the tour I got an email confirming that they’d filled the tour and would process payment. I was pretty relieved!
Boarding A Cessna To Fly Over A Waterfall
The plane was supposed to leave at 1pm and we were told to check in at the Ogle airport at noon. We were basically right on time, and of course were the first people there! Luckily all waiting lounges were air conditioned, so we didn’t mind sitting around for a bit!
Once a few more people showed up we walked to the building next door to weigh-in. When we travel, we usually weigh ourselves on the baggage scales at the airport. This is always accompanied by anything from amusement to bewilderment from the check-in agent at the airline desk. In Guyana, the planes are so small that everyone HAS to get weighed prior to boarding the plane! We didn’t get any funny looks or eye rolls from the airline agent because it was perfectly normal.
After weigh-in our bags were briefly searched and someone ran a metal detector around each of us. It was a bit awkward, and I’m not exactly sure what they were looking for. But, we finally passed inspection and made our way into the air conditioned departure lounge. The bathrooms were clean, and there was a water cooler where we could fill up our insulated water bottles for the trip into the jungle. There was even wifi (although it was pretty slow!). Clean bathrooms, decent air-con and wifi pretty much made the departure lounge one of the best places we’d visited so far in Guyana!
Eventually, an agent came and announced that it was time for our trip to depart. Of course it wasn’t quite on time, but it was pretty close. She led us out of the building and across the airport to a small plane parked off to the side. As we ducked (even short little me had to duck!)to awkwardly walk/crawl/side-step into the plane we were told where to sit, presumably based on our weigh-in results? We must have passed that test with flying colours because we were seated right at the front!
As we flew out of Georgetown I could see dark clouds billowing to the south, the direction we were headed. Our pilot did a fantastic job avoiding the storm clouds and our flight was shockingly smooth. The views out the window were spectacular, and the plane ride alone was almost worth the cost (not really…but it was a pretty decent flight!).
We flew at a relatively low altitude and had a great view of the rainforest below us. In a few places gold-mines scarred the pristine forest, making me contemplate the cost of wealth and progress. I know the oil sands leave the same scars in Northern Alberta, far away from the eyes of the world, flying under the radar of the masses. It’s easy to be oblivious to this destruction until it’s staring you in the face.
40min into our flight the terrain changed. Jungle-clad mountains erupted out of the earth. The change of landscape was unexpected, although I should’ve assumed there’d be mountains if there’s a waterfall! Cliff faces interrupted the greenery as I craned my neck to follow the river for a glimpse of the falls.
Then, out of nowhere, I saw it.
A low murmur ran through the small plane as everyone pulled their cameras out for a picture.
The pilot flew straight over the falls, then did a large loop and flew in front of the falls so everyone on the left hand side had a great view. Finally he repeated it once more for the people on the right hand side of the plane. It’s a pretty spectacular sight even during dry season, flowing at 30% of its max!
The runway was short, and a tiny bit bumpy (it was built in the 70’s), but we were safely parked at the visitor center within no time. Our guide, Washington, met us at the plane and directed everyone to the washrooms.
With a cold water in hand (sadly out of a plastic bottle, the first and only plastic water bottle we used in Guyana) we headed out on a forest walk. The 1hr walk is on a well-trodden and well-maintained path. Washington pointed out one of the carnivorous plants that help keep the mosquitoes (and other bugs) away. And surprisingly there were almost no bugs!
A View Of The Falls And A Golden Frog
The first viewpoint was the furthest away but offered a complete view of the falls. No guardrails impede the view, but this also means there’s nothing to protect you from falling. I had a couple mild panics with the girls close to the edge, but we all survived!
One of the Giant Bromeliads perched off the side of the cliff was full of water. Washington looked inside and pointed out a small golden frog. These frogs are pretty incredible! They live their entire life within the micro-ecosystem of the Bromeliad. The girls named it ‘Banana’ and watched it swim around. I’m not sure if anyone else on the group even saw it, I think we were just in the right place at the right time.
*expert tip – If you want to see the golden frog let your guide know so he can point one out to you, they’re apparently found it many of the Bromeliads, you just have to look!
We stopped at 2 more viewpoints, each getting closer and closer to the falls. At the final one we could occasionally feel the spray misting over us. During rainy season, when the falls are at full capacity, you’d get drenched up there!
The falls themselves were so spectacular that I kept having to remind myself to look back down the valley. The views downstream were also stunning, and very different from everything else we’d experienced in the rainforest. It definitely made me want to come back in the future and do the 5-day trek/boat-ride in!
The Cock Of The Rock
(it’s a bird…not Randy!!)
As we left the final viewpoint I asked about the famous ‘Guianian Cock of the Rock’ bird. Washington explained that it wasn’t always possible to see them in dry season, but we’d go have a look. I guess we got lucky again, because there wasn’t just one, but three male birds perched in the trees. We watched them until it was time to go, then were led back to the visitor centre completely satisfied.
There was a snack (cheese sandwich, cake & cookies…carbs, carbs & more carbs) and a juice box waiting for us at the visitor Center. The girls bought belata animals at the gift shop (a typical souvenir from Guyana) and we boarded the plane for the ride home.
As we flew back the sun was low on the horizon behind us. It cast a golden glow over the forest, reflecting off the rivers below. It was the perfect ending to a spectacular day!
Was It Worth It?
It was definitely worth it! So much so that I’d consider coming back to Guyana just to spend more time around the Falls! They’re absolutely stunning, and I thought it was worth the price tag.
Know Before You Go On A Kaiteur Falls Tour
How To Book
There are multiple ways to go about booking a tour to Kaiteur Falls in Guyana. The three local airlines all offer tours to Kaiteur Falls, and tour companies will charter a flight if they have enough bookings.
Air Services Ltd – We flew with ASLG from Lethem to Georgetown and found them professional and easy to deal with. I booked the flight via email and paid (with a big stack of cash!) when we checked in for our flight in Lethem. I had initially inquired about doing our Kaiteur Falls tour with them, but when they didn’t have enough people signed up they suggested I contact a different company. I appreciated their honesty! Email (email@example.com) to inquire about booking and pricing. (Cost was $46,225 GYD/$230US in 2019).
Wilderness Explorers – We booked with Wilderness Explores and were very happy with our day. They had enough people to charter their own plane, and everything was very smooth. I booked via email (journeys@wilderness-explorers.
Evergreen Adventures – The company that owns Evergreen Adventures also owns Trans Guyana Airways, Baganara Island Resort & Correia mining company. Although I initially looked at Evergreen Adventures because I liked their (possibly) up-to-date tour availability, I didn’t like the fact that the company also owned a mining company.
What It Cost
We paid $215US/person (kids were full price, although kids under 2 are free because they don’t take up a seat on the plane). I saw it advertised everywhere from $215-290 per person. Some of the trips are combined with swimming in Orinduik Falls or visiting Baganara island. I think either of these would be a great add-on, but really, it’s all about Kaiteur!
*expert tip – A 4.5% surcharge was added for paying by credit card. This is a bit steep, so if you’re looking to save a few percent, I suggest converting US Cash. This was the cheapest way to get Guyanese dollars, provided you use a cambio and not a bank (exchange rate hovers around 200-220 GYD/US$). The next cheapest is to get cash from the Scotiabank ATM, it has the highest withdrawal limit ($75,000 GYD).
Tips For Visiting Kaiteur Falls With Kids
I think it’s very possible to visit Kaiteur Falls with kids. Our girls, at ages 7 & 9, REALLY enjoyed this trip and would highly recommend it. Before you go, make sure you read these tips to make the most of your visit.
- There are NO guardrails, so you need to be very aware of this if you’re bringing little kids. Toddlers would be best in a carrier (like this ERGOBaby Mesh Carrier), and I’d even go as far as to put a sturdy child-leash on slightly older kids (3-4).
- Again, because there’s no guardrail, I’d suggest a 1-to-1 adult to child ratio for any kids that are walking!
- Talk to your kids about the danger of the edge and ensure they know to stay calm and close at all times when the edge is in sight.
- Look for the Golden Frogs in the Bromeliad plants!
- Don’t worry about bringing bug spray! There are a few plants that naturally repel mosquitos and they’re essentially nowhere to be found around the top of the falls.
- DO bring a hat and sunscreen, it’s hot walking around and sun protection is SO important.
- Bring a small snack. We got water on arrival at the lodge, but didn’t get a snack until we were done our walk, by which point the kids were hungry!
- Talk to your kids ahead of time about being quiet when looking for wildlife. The Cock of the Rock birds seem to be fairly used to people, but they WILL fly off if there’s too much noise. Respect everyone else’s opportunity to see these incredible birds by ensuring your little ones know to be quiet.
If you’re thinking of heading to Kaiteur Falls, make sure you pin me for later!