First seen by a European in 1870, the Kaieteur Falls occur at the spot where the Potaro River, a tributary of the Essequibo, flows over the edge of a sandstone and conglomerate tableland into a deep gorge.
The falls support a unique micro-environment with tank bromeliads, the largest in the world, in which the tiny golden frog, which is endemic to the region, spends its entire life. There are good opportunities to see the rarely observed Guianan cock-of-the-rock, which nests close by. If lucky, you may see the Kaieteur swifts, or so-called Makonaima birds, which nest under the vast shelf of rock that has been carved out by centuries of erosion, hidden behind the curtain of falling water.
After falling sheer for 226 metres (i.e. around five times the height of Niagara Falls and twice that of Victoria Falls), it flows over a series of steep cascades that, if included, bring the total drop to 251 metres. No other falls in the world have such a long sheer drop and while others may have a longer total drop, few combine such height with such volume of water, making Kaieteur one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world with an average flow rate of 663 cubic metres per second.
Upstream, the Potaro Plateau stretches as far as the distant escarpment of the Pakaraima Mountains, while downstream the Potaro empties into the Essequibo, one of South America’s biggest rivers.
The falls were discovered in 1870 by Charles Barrington Brown, one of two British geologists working as government surveyors in the former colony of British Guiana. Brown was unable to investigate the falls more closely at the time, and had to return there the following year with instruments to measure it.
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