Shortly after 3 am in the morning the first participants were already arriving at the landing stage of the camp. Four speed boats were waiting for us and our luggage. If you were hungry there were bananas, pieces of melon and boiled eggs with pitta bread. Sorting the luggage was more important. This had to be repacked in 2 cases and taken to the right boats. Our luggage for the next three days was not to exceed 13 kg, or the small Cessnas for 5 people plus pilot probably wouldn’t leave the runway. The remaining luggage was transported separately to the harbour by boat, to be stored at the local agent’s. We would collect it on the way back. It wasn’t the best solution, but we had no other choice. While we were still eating the bananas, someone screamed loudly. What had happened? A banana spider (Phoneutria spp.) had visited us with the fresh fruit. A nightmare for many, but a dream for photographers. Quick, quick! – camera out and shoot. What a great model. And then it was time to go.
After a boat trip lasting about 50 minutes we arrived at a small harbour and changed into three minibuses (with our light luggage). From there we drove three and a half hours to Ciudad Bolívar. On the large main streets we regularly passed security checkpoints, probably each time we moved into a new district. Armed members of the national police carefully inspected the luggage in the bus ahead of us, and our European expedition team. But they were always friendly and just asked some questions about our origin and our intended t travel destination. They were more interested in our project and surprised at our interest in their country and nature.
After we arrived at the airport in Ciudad Bolívar we were waved through directly to the small Cessnas and allowed to pass the security check within minutes.
The mini aeroplane was just big enough to take 5 people and 5 pieces of luggage. The seats were smaller than collapsible ones in a football stadium, but they were still in good condition for “oldies” from the 1970s. And the view during the flight was absolutely beautiful. We flew like birds in the sky for 60 minutes until we arrived at the Canaima National Park.
The people in the indigenous village with about 3000 inhabitants, live isolated and can only be reached by water and airway. Totally cut off from the outside world they try to preserve their traditions.
In the camp they were waiting excitedly for us and they greeted us with a warm meal. The three guides talked English and could communicate with us well. After we had settled in our four-bed-rooms we set out for the lagoon in Canaima with its breath-taking waterfall. The water was much clearer than in the Orinoco camp. Even though it was blackwater (like a too thinly brewed coffee), the visibility at the surface and directly above the riverbed was good enough for some photographs.
Straightaway we saw a lot of fish. Without having analysed our video recordings, the following species spring to mind at once: red eye tetra (Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae), flag cichlid (Mesonauta festivus), X-ray fish (Pristella maxillaris), dwarf pike cichlid (Crenicichla regani) - a pair with their young, an eartheater (Satanoperca spec.), a knifefish (Adontosternarchus spec.) and on night dives longarm shrimps (Macrobrachium spec.).
After a short boat trip we followed a short, but very dangerous foot path, to view the waterfall head on, to discover the plant world behind the waterfall and to stand on the wet and slippery rocks in the haze of the waterfall. Some of us slipped and got some bruises and scratches.
Our curiosity aroused, we took the opportunity of following a path that led around the waterfall to discover a hidden world. Here the landscape resembled a steppe which ended in an oasis. Part of the famous film Jurassic Park was made here, at this untouched piece of nature. We enjoyed the unique view with the Salto Angel in the background and a lake in the middle of a dry waterfall.
In the evening we returned to the village, sat at the side of the road and observed the hustle and bustle of the street. This was our opportunity to exchange our impressions so far in peace and and to find out more about each other’s particular interests.