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May 22nd, 2015

Kaieteur Falls: The world's most beautiful waterfall

Russ Malkin shares why Kaieteur Falls is his favourite waterfall in the world.

If there’s one place that everyone should find their way to, this is it! I’ve been to Niagara, I’ve been to Victoria Falls, I’ve seen the Trümmelbacj Falls in Switzerland and the Devil’s Punch Bowl in New Zealand – but without question this is the best waterfall in the world.

Kaieteur Falls is on the Potaro River in central Guyana and, with a clear drop of 226 meters, then a further drop that takes the total to 251 meters, is five times taller than Niagara Falls and double the height of Victoria Falls. There are higher falls (Angel Falls in Venezuela is the world’s tallest with a total drop of 979 meters) and there are bigger falls in terms of volume of water passing per second, but some argue that Kaieteur’s combination of water volume and height earn it the distinction of being the ‘largest single-drop waterfall in the world’. There’s no official system for ranking waterfalls, and others complain this is a misleading title, but really such statistical hair-splitting completely misses the point – Kaieteur is the most beautiful waterfall in the world.

To get there from Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, you can either take an eight-hour bus trip to the town of Mahdi then trek for three or four days through the jungle, or you can fly to the tiny airstrip about two miles away.

Approaching the area by plane, you pass mile after mile of pristine tropical rainforest, then you see this immense brown river, the mist rising, then the breathtaking waterfall itself. Walking from the airstrip towards the fall only heightens the anticipation. The closer you get, the louder the thundering of the water until you can start to feel the energy through your feet. You can walk right up to the edge of it and out on a rocky promontory. From there you can look back straight into the falling water and down into the vast plunge pool, where a constant rainbow hangs amid the mist and spray.

In a way, the most surprising thing about Kaieteur is the total lack of any commercialization. There are no signs, no walkways, no guardrails – nothing. Just wilderness and, most importantly, no other people at all. Apart from the three of us, we didn’t see another soul.
I was hot and dripping with sweat from the walk, and suddenly I felt compelled to get into the river. Jumping into a river just before it turns into one of the world’s most powerful waterfalls is, in the cold hard light of day, a very stupid thing to do, but at the time it seemed like a terrific thrill. I just lay there, hanging on to a rock, watching the water cascade past and over the lip. Unforgettable.

Discover more incredible adventures in Big Earth: 101 Amazing Adventures by Russ Malkin

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