A trip to Guyana is not complete without a visit to Kaieteur Falls. This is, quite simply, one of the most incredible natural wonders of South America, if not the world, and one of its best kept secrets. Part of Kaieteur National Park, this is the world’s widest single drop waterfall; a fabulous combination of height and volume of water that make it a top attraction of Guyana.
To read more about Guyana, check out my post “13 Absolutely Amazing Things To Do In Guyana.”
I have seen many beautiful waterfalls in the world – Iguazu Falls, between Argentina and Brazil; and Victoria Falls between Zambia and Zimbabwe, among them – but there is something truly spectacular about Kaieteur Falls. And to make the overall experience of visiting even more incredible, people who venture to this remote part of Guyana usually have the entire place to themselves, as this really is off the beaten path.
Let me say it clearly: you should really go as soon as possible, before the world discovers this place!
This post explains everything you need to know before visiting Kaieteur Falls, and shares a few tips on how to organize a trip there. But before getting to the organizational bits, I will give some background information on this marvelous place.
Some Background Information On Kaieteur Falls
How Kaieteur Falls got its name
Kaieteur Falls were “officially” discovered by English explorer C. Barrington Brown in 1870, though the Patamona, an Amerindian indigenous people, had lived here long before he arrived and likely showed him the way to get there.
The name “Kaieteur” derives from the Patamona language, where “Kayik Tuwuk” means Old Man’s, and “teur” means falls – hence Kaieteur Falls means Old Man’s Falls. According to legend, the name is a tribute to a Patamona chief named Kai, who paddled a canoe over the falls and sacrificed himself to the Great Spirit Makonaima to save his people from the Carib tribe. As his people were finally safe, they named the waterfall after him.
This is only one of the many Amerindian legends that can be heard in Guyana. Many more are still passed orally by the indigenous groups that live in the country, in an effort to preserve their culture.
To read more about the impressive effort of the Amerindians peoples to preserve the indigenous culture of Guyana, read this post.
Kaieteur Falls and Kaieteur National Park
Kaieteur Falls is located in the Potaro-Siparuni region of Guyana, in the Guyana Shield – a massive geoformation covered in rainforest and savanna. The area is characterized by an impressive biodiversity, and it’s been the subject of mining interests. However, in 1929 the British government (who at the time was still ruling Guyana), realizing the outstanding natural value of the area, turned it into a national park. This was one of the first conservationist acts in the region of South America and the Caribbean.
Kaieteur Natural Park now counts almost 63000 hectars, and it is heavily protected because of its incredible tourism potential – which itself depends on the place remaining intact.
And intact it is, indeed. Nestled as it is in the Amazon rainforest, nature is pure here, especially when compared to other more famous waterfalls.
At Kaieteur Falls, the Potaro river plummets down a cliff of 250 meters, into Kaieteur National Park. Depending on the season, the falls are between 76 and 122 meters wide.
The National Park is home to various wildlife species, so a visit to Kaieteur Falls is also an excellent occasion for wildlife spotting. Along the trail that approaches the waterfalls it’s possible to see the beautiful scarlet cock-of-the-rock bird. There are also various minuscule golden (highly endangered and just as highly poisonous) frogs that live at the base of the waterfalls. The best time to spot wildlife is actually the early morning, right around sunrise (so it’s an option for those staying there overnight).
It really seems that Kaieteur Falls is birdwatchers and wildlife lovers heaven.
Find out more about the incredible animals that live in Guyana on my post “The Most Amazing Wildlife In Guyana.”
Among the flora in the area of Kaieteur Falls there is the sundew, a natural insecticide plant that apparently eats mosquitoes (so hopefully they don’t eat visitors!); the coula, a rubber plant that can hold 2 times its weight; the capadulla, which is a water vine (a life saver if you get dehydrated in the rainforest!); and the giant tongue bromiliad, which is part of the pineapple family and has huge leaves that can grow to over 2 meters tall.
Kaieteur Falls and the National Park are blissfully isolated. Home to a tiny population of Patamonia Amerindians, it’s a hard to reach destination. This, and the fact that the number of tourists allowed to visit is limited (no more than 6000 visited last year; on the day I visited there was only my group, of a total of 7!) make it completely pristine. It just is a show of nature at its best – one that I hope you get to enjoy.
Moving on, I am going to share some practical tips on how to organize a trip to Kaieur Falls, Guyana, and how to make the most of it.
Everything You Need To Know To Plan Your Visit To Kaieteur Falls
When to visit Kaieteur Falls
I visited Kaieteur Falls in September, after the rainy season had ended. The vegetation was incredibly lush thanks to the recent rain, but the walkway was dry and mosquito free, and the weather as hot as in the rest of Guyana, though there was a pleasant breeze right at the waterfalls.
Prince Henry visited Kaieteur Falls in December 2016, even more into the dry season, and according to media reports there wasn’t that much water then.
Apparently, depending on the time of year you visit, the paths are flooded with water and can be very slippery.
TIP: Regardless of the time you plan to visit Kaieteur Falls, make sure to wear a pair of good hiking boots and to pack a rain jacket – it can rain any time of year, really (and though it didn’t in the two hours I was there, the clouds promised a lot of rain for the afternoon).
How to get to Kaieteur Falls
The are two ways to get to Kaieteur Falls: on a small charter flight for an easy day trip from Georgetown (or other locations in Guyana), or on an overland journey that can last up to five days and that is way more adventurous but significantly less comfortable. In both cases, it’s better to look into Kaieteur Falls tours for organizational purposes.
By the way, I have written a post about Georgetown, which you can read here.
By plane or on an organized tour
Most people reach Kaieteur Falls for a day trip, by flying to Kaieteur International Airport. This really is nothing more than an airstrip which is a mere 15-minutes walk from the waterfalls and which is beautifully located – the views approaching it are simply breathtaking.
Flying to Kaieteur Falls is not only a comfortable, hassle free way to get there, but it also affords fantastic views of the rainforest and of the actual waterfalls from above.
TIP: Make sure to sit on the right hand side of the plane on the way back, as this gives you one last view of the waterfalls from above.
Flights to Kaieteur Falls leave from both Georgetown’s airport – Cheddi Jagan International Airport and Ogle Airport, which is actually much closer to the city. It takes around 45 minutes to get there.
Although there are many companies that fly to Kaieteur Falls (among them Trans Guyana Airways, Air Services Limited and Air Guyana), it’s important to keep in mind that the aircrafts generally require a minimum number of passengers to operate the flight (it could be anything between 4 and 12). In other words, flights don’t depart if there aren’t enough reservations, or if the weather conditions are not good.
TIP: Make sure to be a bit flexible and prepared for a change of plans, so schedule a few days in Georgetown just to make sure that you do get to Kaieteur Falls (there is plenty to do there: stay tuned as I will be writing more about it!). Or else, be ready to charter an entire plane!
There are also flights departing from other locations in Guyana. I traveled from Rock View Lodge, in Annai, which has its own airstrip. The flight took around 90 minutes.
The best way to book the trip is via a local agent in Georgetown. It costs between $120 USD and $220 per person. There also are organized tours that include extra stops at other sites and other amenities such as a nice packed lunch. The prices vary between $300 and $500.
Various companies organize Kaieteur Falls tours, including the operators of Guyana’s Tourism Authority. Otherwise, you may want to opt for a full tour of Guyana that includes a stop at the falls.
These are some good tours of Guyana that all stop at Kaieteur Falls:
Exploring the grounds
Kaieteur Falls day tours are pretty much all organized the same way, as the National Park only has one airstrip and each flight is allowed to two hours on the ground inside the park. It may sound like it is not enough time to explore, but since chances are that the only visitors to the park will be those on the flight (so really, there are no more than 12 people at the site at the same time!), this means that you won’t have to dodge any crowd, making it way easier to explore (and immensely more enjoyable).
Furthermore, a guide meets visitors and takes them around the park, so there is no such thing as getting lost or wasting time finding the way to the viewpoints.
There are 5 viewpoints overlooking Kaieteur Falls, though two have been closed as they are too close to the waterfalls. I really enjoyed the views from Boy Scout View (named after the boy scouts who arrived there and camped at the exact spot after a strenuous overland trip) and from Rainbow View (from where it’s possible to see the rainbow inside the waterfalls).
The view changes ever so slightly from each lookout point, but it’s always impressive.
TIP: Make sure to take in the view of Kaieteur Falls, and then turn around. The view of the valley below, with the Potaro River making its way through it, is simply impressive!
SAFETY TIP: There are no guardrails to stop falling off the cliffs, so make sure to stay safe and don’t get too close to the edges!
The guided visit also includes a walk in the forest, to spot the famous cock-of-the-rock (I got to see four!) and go in search of other wildlife, and to get to know the local flora too.
On an organized overland expedition
The overland expedition to Kaieteur Falls is meant for hard core adventurers, and involves a boat ride upstream, tough hikes and overnight camping in the jungle.
It takes around 5 days to get to Kaieteur Falls from Georgetown, where the trip start with an 8 hours (but it could be more, depending on the road conditions) bus ride via Linden to reach Mahdia, a mining township, and then onto the Pamela Landing on the Potaro River.
On the second day, the boat departs to travel upstream towards Amatuk Falls and then Waratuk Falls, famous for the beautiful natural pools. Then, it will be a couple of days hike to get to the base of Kaieteur Mountain, and a final three to four hour hike to get to the final ascent leading to Kaieteur Falls. The return journey to Georgetown is by charter flight.
This is probably a more rewarding way of getting to Kaieteur Falls, and the adventurer in me says I would enjoy it, but after having been on 3 short hikes (you can read about them here) and having literally melted in the heat of Guyana, I’d have to think about this challenge quite carefully before embarking on it.
Various adventure tour operators organize overland trips to Kaieteur Falls. Among them, Wilderness Explorers and Dragon Tours.
Whichever way you pick to visit Kaieteur Falls, make sure that you are covered by the yellow fever vaccination (it is required to enter the country, anyways), that you apply sunblock and mosquito repellent, and that you have a good travel insurance cover. I recommend Allianz Travel Insurance. You can check out deal, packages and prices here.
Visiting Kaieteur Falls is a once in a life time experience: the sheer beauty of the site, the fact that it’s such a private experience, the fact that it is so unspoiled make it special!
Have you ever been to Guyana and visited Kaieteur Falls? What did you enjoy the most about it?
Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Tourism Board of Guyana during my visit, and wish to thank them for the wonderful welcome and the incredible experiences. The views expressed in this post remain my own.
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