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Dec2015
Kaieteur Falls

#202 Kaieteur Falls National Park, Guyana

The whole experience of visiting and shooting this amazing waterfall is unmatched. It is in a wilderness setting, far from civilization. Though it can be reached by boat at certain times of the year, arriving and departing by small plane is usually the best idea. Except for a few large mining areas, the Guyana jungle appears little changed from the way it must have appeared when first encountered by Europeans, and it has the distinction of being one of the largest wild jungle areas in the Western Hemisphere. Formerly British Guiana, the country is easily reached in a fairly short flight from Miami or New York to the capital of Georgetown. Though English is spoken in this country, booking a guided trip is highly recommended. I felt fairly safe in Georgetown, and I even wandered over on my own to photograph the Anglican Church at dawn, supposedly the World’s largest wooden structure. Also, I stayed at a nice hotel with good food and security. I heard some horror stories about the planes coming and going and being unable to land at the falls due to weather. I visited in September when the waterfall had good flow and the rains were beginning to lessen due to the oncoming drier season, so I had no trouble. Visiting when the Falls are at their maximum might be an unforgettable experience, but I was told the spray drenched the surrounding area making photography very difficult.

The lodging at the Falls is primitive at best, but it is just a short walk to the rim of the powerful drop. At 741 feet, the waterfall is supposedly the highest in the world when considered as a single drop, but what makes it really special is the large flow. No other waterfall has the combination of such a huge drop and so much water. Standing at its rim is an inspiring and other-worldly experience. Access is only to the western side of the falls, so it is somewhat backlit in the morning and has direct light in the afternoon. Early in the day, the cooler temperatures give rise to mists that come and go and create great moody images. Avoiding the heat and humidity of midday is recommended, but later in the day, rainbows, and “glories” (I got a triple one) happen every sunny day. Beware the ants here, who secrete an acid when they bite and cause excruciating pain. Also fer de lance snakes, which are extremely deadly, could be in the area of the falls. I saw no mosquitoes due to the tannic acid in the water which was a big relief considering dengue, zika, etc.

A number of different views can be had from the rough trail along the west rim, with a wide lens angle, it’s possible to shoot the falls as its river disappears into the endless jungle to the north. After sunset, it’s a short walk to the “hotel” where I was the only guest. This trip, though it went smoothly for me, is to a very isolated place in a backward country, so that should always be kept in mind. I recommend it for the adventurous and the goal is definitely worth the risk

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