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FLORES & KOMODO NATIONAL PARK - INDONESIA

This place is a dream come true! Literally ... it looks like paradise (beacuse it is), and I got to see Komodo Dragons in the wild!!!

sunny 40 °C

After a bunch of rainy days in Jakarta I flew all the way over to the island of Flores. I knew I would love this place even before the plane landed. The views from my tiny airplane window upon landing were spectacular!!! It flew over volcanoes and 100s of vibrant green islands surrounded by a ring of turqoise water!

The airport in Labuan Bajo is tiny. And by tiny, I mean they off-load your bags and leave them on the tarmac for you to pick up, lol! I didn't have any luggage to wait for, cuz I travel with only a carry-on size backpack, so I headed straight to where the taxis were waiting. The exit doors to get out of the airport were locked though ... but not to keep me in ... to keep all the taxi touts out! You should have seen them, it was hystercal! They were all pressed up against the windows, like children trying to peek into a toy store, lol! Their faces were smooshed up against the glass and everything. A guard unlocked the doors for me and I was instantly bombarded by every single taxi driver trying to get my business. You can definitely tell its low season and they are hard up for some business. I chose a driver and told him to take me to a beachfront resort. He took me to La Prima. One of the best parts about traveling in low season is the good deals. This fancy resort that was beachfront, had a big infinity pool with a swim up bar, massage parlor & spa, free breakfast & wifi, etc, was $120 a night in high season, but only $51 in low season :)

This was the fabulous view from my balcony!
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Turns out my taxi driver's brother runs houseboating tours to Komodo National Park, so as soon as I mentioned I was interested, he called up his brother who arrived in under 5min to give me his business shpiel before I even had a chance to bring my backpack up to my room! Once again I got a steal of a deal cuz of low season!! This has got to be the best deal of 'em all! I booked a 2 day/ 1 night houseboating tour to Rinca Island & Komodo Island for only $75!!! Regular $300 in high season (accordingly to my Lonely Planet guide)! I was smiling for the rest of the day :) After I gave him a deposit, I dropped my bag off in my room and headed to the pool/beach.
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So this next story I'm about to tell has never happened to me anywhere else in the world, but its happened over & over again every island I've visited in Indonesia ... random locals will approach me wanting their photo taken with me, or will be taking selfies but making sure that I'm in the background, or hide in a bush to take my photo! Some just walk right up to me while I'm tanning poolside and take my photo without asking! Its so annoying, I hate it! Has this happened to anyone else?! Do I look like someone famous (I dont think I do), or is just cuz I'm tall, white, and have blond hair??? Whatever the reason, it got real annoying, real quick. Now I 100% always ask a local if I can take their photo rather than trying to be sneaky about it, cuz now I know how it feels having someone invade your privacy. This is what African wildlife must feel like when a jeep full of tourists shows up and starts clicking away, lol!

My first amazing Indonesian sunset :D
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The next day I checked out of my hotel, but left the majority of my stuff there in storage (just took enough with me for my 2 day adventure), and promised I'd be back for it. My taxi driver's brother was supposed to pick me up at 6:30am to take me to the marina to join the other people on my houseboating tour. After 15min of waiting I was beginning to think I'd been scammed. But finally, around the 20min late mark, he showed up. I joined 5 other Canadians for the adventure of a lifetime :)

This was my home for 2 days & 1 night. The open part in the front was our sitting area by day with all our luggage piled in the middle, and our sleeping area by night. Thank goodness for perfect weather, cuz I wouldnt wanna sleep out in the open if it was raining! It was not the fancy yacht I was expecting, more of a beater putzing along, lol! But the scenery & company made up for it :) The captain & crew got bunkbeds; we slept in the open on the floor (more photos to come of our sleeping arrangements a little later). There was a toilet (squatty potty version), but no shower.
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Sailing away from Labuan Bajo.
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Our first stop was Rinca Island. It wasnt too far away, under 2hrs, but I cant remember exactly how long it took. I was too mezmorized by the scenery to pay attention to the time. Everything was so wonderfully green!
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Upon arriving at Rinca Island we were assigned a ranger / guide. This we found out, is not included in the price we already paid. Plus there was a fee to bring a camera. I cant remember how much the extras fees were since this trip took place 9mths ago, but it wasnt outageous or anything. Theres 4 people to a guide, so you split the cost between 4ppl, and you each pay your own camera fee.
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Right off the bat we spotted this Komodo Dragon snoozing in the shade near the ranger station!
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Before the 2hr hike began, we were given a quick safety briefing and a stick to ward off any dragons lurking in the tall grass. I'm pretty sure a twig isnt gonna save my life. We were told that twice in recent years Komodo Dragons had walked into the ranger station and cornered the ranger working in there! There is only one door, and so no way to escape. One bite from a Komodo will kill you! Not from venom, but from so much bacteria. Its a long, slow death. After being told that, me & my stick were on high alert!!

The first hour of the hike was more of a walk than an actual hike. We were taken to a Komodo nest to see where they lay their eggs in holes they have dug in the ground.

We spotted this baby Komodo peeking his head up above the grass, and another one lumbering down the very path we were walking on!
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The 2nd hour turned into an actual hike ... through a furnace! The first half was in the forest, which provided shade from the 45C heat (although its still about 37C in the shade)!! The second half was out in the open, no trees for any cover at all, and straight up a hill to a lookout point. It was honestly like being in a furnace. If you've been to Mexico or the Caribbean and think you know what hot weather is ... think again! Travel to the equator, and then you'll know what real heat is like! You know how during Canadian winters the cold & wind can freeze your skin in seconds ... thats how the heat is here! You burn in 2.0 seconds. And by burn I mean it feels like your skin is on fire! So wear a hat and preferable light linen pants/shirt unless you like sunburns :) And dont forget to pack sunscreen & water!

Hiking out in the open
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This was the lookout point we were rewarded with.
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Back at the dock we noticed 100s of teeny tiny Fiddler Crabs! The whole thing was no bigger than my thumbnail!!
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Back on board we were served a tastey lunch. The captain was also our chef, and if you could have seen the kitchen he was working in, you'd be amazed by the meals he put out!
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While we ate we sailed towards Pink Beach, which was our next stop for some snorkeling and relaxing on a beautiful beach.
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Pink Beach ... the sand has a slight pink hue to it due to the red coral offshore.
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Some locals chillin' on their boat anchored at Pink Beach
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One of said locals offered to lead me down a trail, and up a small hill to this lookout point over the beach.
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So guess what I did? I mooned the captain. By accident of course! After swimming we all needed to change into dry clothes. There's not alot of privacy on the boat, so everyone would try to find a corner and change with a sarong wrapped around themselves for privacy. So I did the same ... changed from wet bikini to dry underwear. Then I came out of my corner with my sarong still wrapped around me, to let someone else use that corner. As I was struggling to keep the sarong up, but pull on some shorts at the same time, I decided to just drop the sarong. Panties are no different than a bikini bottom ... unless your wearing a thong! OMG! I totally forgot what kind of underwear I had on, LOL! My back was to a wall, or so I thought, so no big deal, right? Wrong! The 'wall' had a window for the captain to look out while he drove the boat. And guess who happened to be looking out the window when I dropped my sarong? Yup, Mr Captain got a good view of me ars, lol!

After a few hours here, we sailed over to Flying Fox Bay where we anchored for the evening. We watched the sunset by climbing onto the roof of the captains bunk.
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We were told 100s of Flying Foxes (giant fruit bats) would fly across the bay at sunset ... there were 10. One at a time. Not the spectacle we were waiting for, lol! There were also a few of these birds fishing/diving into the water around our boat.
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Sunset from our boat
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So our sleeping arrangements ... not ideal. Near bed time we were told to drag all our luggage out on to the bow of the boat cuz we'd be sleeping on the floor! The captain dragged out 6 flat mattresses for us to sleep on. But only 2 sheets and 2 blankets (and 6 smelly pillows)!!! Luckily the 2 sheets were large enough to cover all 6 little mattresses. But the blankets were to fit 3 people per blanket! Um, what? I dont know any of these people, I dont want to snuggle with 2 strangers under my blanket! Thankfully it was 27C at night with no chilly wind, so I didnt even need the balnket. I just used my sarong to cover my legs a bit. Again, so thankful for perfect weather, lol! Here is a crappy iPhone photo of our 'spooning train'! Thats me on the end in the pink shirt.
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I actually slept really good considering. Sleeping under a clear sky speckled with stars in Indonesia ... awesome!! But bring earplugs, unless you enjoy listening to 5 other people breathing & snoring.

DAY 2
The next morning we were woken up by the rising sun, around 5:45am, grooooooan.
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We cleared out the mattresses & bedding, and brought our bags & benches back in while the captain made us banana pancakes for breakfast. Then we sailed to Komodo Island, only 10min away.
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Once again we were assigned a guide/ ranger, and had to pay extra fees for him (you cannot go hiking without a guide so you have no choice but to pay the fee) and for a camera. There were a few different hikes to choose from. We ended up splitting our group up into 2. Myself & the French couple did the easy 1.5hr hike, and the other 3 did the more strenuous 2hr hike.

My hike started along the beach where we waved hello to a few local ladies walking past from nearby Komodo Village.
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We saw 7 Komodos total today :) Two babies (which look alot like Monitor Lizards in Africa and are the same size too), 2 fully grown ones in the forest, and the rest were by the ranger station.
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In addition to the dragons, we also saw Roosa Deer (I'm sure I've spelt that wrong), and one cockatoo. This one was missing an antler??
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Costa apple growing on a tree
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After taking photos of the villagers, komodos by the ranger station, and deer, we headed into the forest. Our first stop was atop Fregata Hill for a great view over the area.
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I love the mountains here, they have a Jurassic feel to them ... quite fitting since the Komodos look like little dinosaurs :)
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After a short break at the lookout point, we headed back into the forest where we eventually came across 2 big Komodo Dragons! A little orange butterfly landed on the dragons nose!!! Brave!
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Anyone who was brave enough could stand behind a Komodo and the ranger would take your photo with it. Yes please! Thats me in the middle.
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All of the trails on Komodo Island were made entirely of broken coral & seashells!
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Guys working on the trails
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Filling bags with broken coral
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Our hike ended at the beach where we started. We had about 20min to wait for the other group to finish their hike. In the meantime I made friends with this little guy.
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The beach & pier in front of the ranger station
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Our next stop was Manta Point for some snorkeling with Manta Rays! (I didnt take any photos, no underwater camera). There were about 30 or so of them gliding effortlessly through the water.
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After about 40min here, we made one last stop at one of the many little islands for more snorkeling / swimming / tanning. This is my boat anchored at the beach.
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Paradise ...
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Two-tone blue water :)
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Thats it, thats all! By far my fave part of my whole month long trip, and definitely one of my Top 5 travel experiences ever!!! Then we sailed back to Labuan Bajo and said our goodbyes. I spent an additional 3 days back at La Prima Hotel relaxing poolside by day, and enjoying the incredible sunsets by night.
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One evening a storm rolled in. I watched it come for miles before it finally reached me. My balcony was covered so I was able to watch the storm and not get wet :)
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Well thats got to be my longest post ever! Hope you enjoyed all the photos & stories :)

Posted by ChantelleS 20:10 Archived in Indonesia Tagged landscapes beaches boats islands water boat ocean wildlife beach indonesia volcano cruise blue island sand coastline dock bay pool tropical lizard asia komodo Comments (0)

KUCHING, BORNEO - MALAYSIA

Kuching's waterfront, life along the Sarawak River, Semenggoh & Matang Wildlife Center

semi-overcast 37 °C

After a week of traveling all around Bali, Indonesia I flew to Borneo. Where the heck is Borneo you ask? Its right above Indonesia. Its that big island on the map. Its made up of 3 countries. Mostly Indonesia, part Malaysia, and a wee bit Brunei. I visited the Malaysian part. I flew into Kuching, in the northwest part of Borneo and stayed there for 5 days.
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I stayed at the Harbor View Hotel, I forgot to take a photo of it, but it was really nice, I promise, lol! This was the view from my room. It was $43 CAD a night. They served breakfast in the morning, but it was not included and cost about $10 CAD. They also offered my favorite amenity ... free wifi :)
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My hotel was across the street from Kuching's waterfront. Its a long boardwalk that runs the length of the Sarawak River.
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Main street along the river with many shops.
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I spent alot of time walking along the waterfront. The place really came alive at night with vendors selling all kinds of food & souvenirs, street preformers & musicians. There were also great views of the giant golden temple across the river ... which is actually not a temple, but the government buildings! Fancy!
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I also noticed many Chinese temples everywhere! One right in front of my hotel.
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Chinese gazebo & lanterns along the waterfront.
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One of my favorite things to do was to watch the boats on the Sarawak River. You could pay for a ride along the river, or for a ride across to the other side. I passed though. Its the same view from land looking across as it is from a boat.
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Walking through the city I came across my very first mosque :) They are beautiful!
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I booked roundtrip transportation & admission to Semenggoh through the front desk of my hotel for only 50 Ringgit ($17 CAD), which is a steal of a deal considering my Lonely Planet guide said it would be 45 Rinngit just for the transportation one way! So the very next day thats where I went!
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My main reason for traveling to Borneo was to see wild orangutans! They only live wild & free in 2 places left in this world which is quite sad ... Borneo, and in Sumatra, Indonesia. Upon arriving at Semenggoh there is a small visitor's center with info on the orangs, and washrooms, but no snacks. No food is allowed in the area. You are given a guide who leads you through the rainforest to 2 different viewing areas. Wooden platforms have been built in the rainforest, and ropes attached to the platforms for the orangs to play on. The platforms are then piled high with bananas, coconuts & pineapple. And then we wait. And wait & wait. And then wait some more. Just to clarify, the orangutans in the following photos are 100% WILD, so they dont care how far you've traveled, or how much $ you've paid, or how long you have to stand there waiting ... they are wild, and free to do what they want. So they only show up if they feel like it.

Although it took awhile, staring up at the treetops, looking for any tell-tale sign of an orangutan, was exhilarating! My first glimpse of ginger fur leaping treetop to treetop made my heart skip a beat! This is why I love to travel! THAT feeling! Some women say men make their heart skip a beat ... for me its big hairy ginger apes, LOL!!
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Look at hose muscles!
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I ended up visiting Semenggoh twice ... this day, and again on my last day. On my second visit NO orangutans showed up :( But on this day ... 4 showed up! I didnt realized in the moment how lucky I was to see that many, until I visited again and didnt see any, and also spoke to others who had gone 4 different times and hadnt gotten to see any at all!
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Only 1 male showed up at the first platform. We watched him for awhile, and then the guide led us farther into the forest where the 2nd viewing area was. There were 3 orangs at this one! A mom with a baby clinging to her (!!!!!!!!) and another youngster a little older :) AMAZING!!
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This young one was a show off, lol! He'd swing across the ropes and then just hang there upside-down eating a coconut, watching us. He even knew how to smack the coconut against a tree hard enough to crack it open and then drink the milk out! Clever little guy :)
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Stuffing his face fulls of bananas :)
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Also at Semenggoh I saw this blue eyed lizard just chillin' on a tree!
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There was this 'highway' of ants (or possibly termites ... I dont actually know what a termite looks like) making their way along the path and up a tree!
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After a few wonderful hours watching these beautiful creatures, they disappeared back into the rainforest to do whatever it is the wild orangutans do :)

I then headed over the Matang Wildlife Center. I had read that it was a rehabilitation center for wounded & orphaned animals, but it looked basically like a zoo. But there was a vet clinic area where gibbons & macaques were being tended to.
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Although most animals were in cages, there were a few in open-air 'pits' with platforms that humans could then look down into the pit at the animals. The orangutans could 100% get out if they tried! The walls of the pit were only about 12ft high or so. If an orang can leap vast distances between treetops, then they could definitely jump over this wall. Maybe they dont realize freedom is on the other side??
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This guy looks quite bored in his jungle gym.
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Matang is located literally in the middle of nowhere! The views of the rainforest on the drive out (I just took a taxi) were stunning! So that being said, while walking the trails around the center, I was still completely in the rainforest where any wild animals could attack!
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I was by myself, no other visitors were at the center while I was there ... so every little sound made me jumpy! A leaf fell & landed on my shoulder and I nearly screamed, lol! After seeing this sign below, I was even more nervous! There was also another sign (which I forgot to take a pic of) that showed photos of orangutan attack victims!! The inflicted wounds were quite gruesome!
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I kept looking over my shoulder every few minutes to be sure a Clouded Leopard wasnt hunting me, lol! In the end, the only wild animals I encountered were this lizard and dragonfly, lol!!
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There was also a pit with a Malayan Sun Bear.
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I didnt take photos of all the animals, because some of the cages had just way too many bars to get decent photos. But here are some that I was able to get nice pictures of.
Buffy Fish Owl
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I dont remember this bird's name, but he looked like a grumpy old man, lol!
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Crocodile
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False Gharial Crocodile ... they are known for their long, slender snouts and razor sharp teeth!
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Although most of the animals were in cages, it was still awesome to see so many Asian species I'd never seen before! We definitely dont have these animals in Canada! There was a Clouded Leopard, Gibbons (the call of a gibbon is the coolest sound in the world!), hornbills, bintorangs (aka Asian Bear Cat), and Sambar Deer.

Well thats it for Kuching. Stay tuned for upcoming posts on hiking in Bako National Park, and a day at Damai Beach :)

Posted by ChantelleS 12:24 Archived in Malaysia Tagged rainforest water boat wildlife temple monkey malaysia borneo crocodile tropical orangutan Comments (0)

CANAIMA NATIONAL PARK, VENEZUELA

Canaima & Angel Falls - Jan 15, 2013

sunny 35 °C

On our last day in Venezuela we flew from Margarita Island to Canaima National Park on the mainland. We took a 40-seater twin propeller plane. The flight itself was incredibly scenic! We got to see the islands/beaches, Andes Mountains, Amazon rainforest, and of course tepuys (the flat-topped sheer-sided mountains Venezuela is known for).
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The view approaching mainland Venezuela.
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The beginnings of the Andes Mountains.
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Rainforest and a couple tepuys.
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Canaima falls & lagoon as seen from our plane.
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Landing in Canaima National Park.
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The airport in Canaima has got to be the smallest airport I've ever been too ... just a grass hut with a gift shop in the middle of nowhere! After going through a quick security check, we were led on a short walk through the rainforest to a restaurant for refreshments. We could hear the waterfalls from the restaurant! Another short walk led us to a beach on Laguna Canaima where we got on a very loooooong traditional canoe and were paddled across the lagoon to the waterfalls.
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I'm not even sure how many waterfalls are actually here ... there were many!
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This is the 1 we got to walk behind!
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And here it is again up close! Beautiful!!
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Me behind the waterfall! It was SO loud we had to shout to be heard!
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After spending some time here, and taking a dip in the lagoon, we headed back to the beach we started at. We were led on a walking tour of the town, and then back to the airport for our flight back. But on the way the pilot took us past Angel Falls ... or at least he tried. It was quite cloudy, so I only got a quick glimpse of it. Heres a photo of the river leading to Canaima Lagoon on the way to Angel Falls.
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Angel Falls is the world's tallest waterfall at 3212ft high! Its literally above the cloud-line! We were flying around the tepuys looking for it, when all of a sudden BAM there is a waterfall up in the clouds with us! Unreal! However, since it was so cloudy I only saw it for a brief second before the clouds covered it again, but managed to take this crappy photo, lol! It doesnt really look like much from this photo, but it was an amazing experience to see something like that up in the clouds :)
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Posted by ChantelleS 21:16 Archived in Venezuela Tagged mountains rainforest water jungle south waterfall america lagoon venezuela canaima Comments (1)

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