Tugela Falls

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Tugela Falls
Tugela falls.jpg
Tugela Falls
Tugela Falls is located in South Africa
Tugela Falls
Location in South Africa
LocationRoyal Natal National Park, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Coordinates28°45′08″S 28°53′39″E / 28.7522°S 28.8941°E / -28.7522; 28.8941Coordinates: 28°45′08″S 28°53′39″E / 28.7522°S 28.8941°E / -28.7522; 28.8941
Elevation2,972 m (9,751 ft)
Total height983 m (3,225 ft)
Number of drops5
Longest drop411 m (1,348 ft)
WatercourseTugela River
World height ranking1

Tugela Falls is a complex of seasonal waterfalls located in the Drakensberg (Dragon's Mountains) of Royal Natal National Park in KwaZulu-Natal Province, Republic of South Africa. According to some measurements, it is the world's tallest waterfall. A revisited validation of waterfall measurements is not available, and there's still uncertainty whether Tugela or Venezuela's Angel Falls is the tallest (both measurements were taken at considerable distance from the two waterfalls).[1]

The combined total drop of its five distinct free-leaping falls is officially 948 m (3,110 ft). In 2016, however, a Czech scientific expedition took new measurements, making the falls 983 m (3,225 ft) tall. The data were sent to the World Waterfall Database for confirmation.[2][3] The source of the Tugela River (Zulu for 'sudden') is the Mont-Aux-Sources plateau which extends several kilometers beyond The Amphitheatre escarpment from which the falls drop.[1]

Height controversy[edit]

Tugela falls as it flows off the escarpment showing the first drop and cascade

There is an argument that Tugela Falls is the tallest waterfall in the world, rather than the more commonly cited Angel Falls.[4] This argument is based on two likely inaccuracies regarding the presumed heights of the respective falls.[4][5]

Firstly, many now believe that Angel Falls is not as tall as it was initially surveyed by American journalist Ruth Robertson in 1949. The quoted figure of 979 m (3,212 ft) corresponds almost precisely with the difference in altitude between the top of the falls and the confluence of the Rio Gauja and the Río Churún, which is roughly 2 km (1.2 mi) away from the base of the Auyan Tepui escarpment and 1.6 km (0.99 mi) downstream from the last segment of the Rio Gauja that could possibly be considered a ‘waterfall’.[4]

The starting altitude of Angel Falls is often given as 1,500 m (4,900 ft), from which the falls plunge a vertical 807 m (2,648 ft), then proceed to cascade for approximately 0.4 km (0.25 mi) with relatively little altitude loss, before a final drop of 30 m (98 ft) below the Talus Rapids, near the famous viewpoint known as Mirador Laime. After this the Rio Gauja flows with very little altitude loss, with nothing approaching a waterfall or even cascade before it empties into the Río Churún. However, the altitude of Mirador Laime is usually given as approximately 700 m (2,300 ft), which would suggest that Angel Falls is only about 800 m (2,600 ft) in total height (roughly the height of the first drop).[6][7]

Angel Falls, however, is almost universally regarded as having the tallest single uninterrupted drop of any waterfall in the world (the total height of Tugela Falls, even though possibly the tallest on Earth, is divided into five smaller tiers, and its tallest individual tier is 411 m (1,348 ft)).[8] Even this measurement invites some debate, however, as some botanical sources list the height of Angel Falls' tallest drop as 738 m (2,421 ft), rather than the usually cited 807 m (2,648 ft).[4]


At the right time of year, the falls are easily visible from the main road into the park, especially after a heavy rain. There is an undeveloped camp site and mountain hut immediately above the falls.

There are two trails to Tugela Falls. The most spectacular trail is to the top of Mont-Aux-Sources, which starts at "The Sentinel" car park (through Phuthaditjhaba on the R57, approximately two hours drive from Royal Natal National Park via the R74, 90 minutes from Harrismith via the R712, or 80 minutes from Golden Gate Highlands National Park). From here it is a relatively easy climb to the top of the Amphitheatre, however it does take about 4.5 to 8 hours round-trip depending on fitness level. Access to the summit is via two chain ladders. This is the only day hiking trail which leads to the top of the Drakensberg escarpment. Another trail to the foot of the Tugela Falls starts at Royal Natal National Park. The easy 7 km (4.3 mi) gradient up the Tugela Gorge winds through indigenous forests. The last part of the hike to Tugela Falls is a boulder hop. A little chain ladder leads over the final stretch for a view of the falls rushing down the amphitheater in a series of five cascades.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "World's tallest waterfalls by total overall height". World Waterfall Database. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
  2. ^ http://www.praguemonitor.com/2016/12/13/czech-surveyors-tugela-not-angel-worlds-tallest-waterfall[dead link]
  3. ^ "K novému nejvyššímu vodopádu na světě se šplhá a brodí. Přeměřili ho Češi, atrakcí se nestane | Aktuálně.cz". 28 December 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-12-13. Retrieved 2013-07-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "Kerepakupai Merú". World Waterfall Database. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  6. ^ "Sailing – as It Should be (Nov 30/09)".
  7. ^ "The Road Less Travelled (Oct. 14/09)".
  8. ^ http://www.worldwaterfalldatabase.com/
  9. ^ Tugela Falls, Drakensberg Tourism. Archived.

External links[edit]