Top 10 Astounding Tugela Falls Facts

Right near the border with the landlocked Kingdom of Lesotho in the heart of the Republic of South Africa, you can stand in awe for one of the most fascinating natural miracles in the world.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about Tugela Falls, a collection of fascinating waterfalls that presumably hold an astounding record.

1. It’s located in the magnificent Drakensberg escarpment of South Africa

Tugela Falls is a natural miracle located within another natural miracle called the Drakensberg escarpment, a mountain range also known as the “Dragon’s Mountains.” This is the eastern part of the Great Escarpment which encircles the South African Plateau.

This amazing region has a length of about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) and reaches a maximum elevation of 3,482 meters (11,424 feet) at Thabana Ntlenyana Peak.

The waterfalls are situated in a national park called the “Royal Natal National Park” in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. This is just north of the northeastern tip of the Kingdom of Lesotho.

Royal Natal National Park
Royal Natal National Park / Diriye Amey /

2. It’s located on the Tugela River

The waterfalls drop off the edge of a natural wonder called the Drakensberg Amphitheater, a rock wall with a length of 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) and a height of up to 1,200 meters (3,900 feet).

The reason why it got this name is that it’s pretty much shaped like an amphitheater, a pretty huge one that is.

The river on which the waterfalls are located is called the Tugela River and has its source in the highest peak in the region called the “Mont-Aux-Sources.” This peak reaches a height of 3,282 meters (10,768 feet) above sea level.

With a length of 502 kilometers (312 miles), it’s the longest river in the KwaZulu-Natal Province and one of the most important rivers in the country as well. It flows all the way to the Indian Ocean in the eastern part of South Africa.

3. The waterfall consists of 5 different drops

Tugela Falls is situated at an elevation of 2,972 meters (9,751 feet). This means that it’s not too far after the Tugela River emerges that it plunges one of the cliffs of the Dragonberg Amphitheater.

One of the most remarkable facts about Tugela Falls is that even though it drops a total of 948 meters (3,110 feet), it does so in 5 separate drops.

The longest drop is quite huge, though, as it drops a total of 411 meters (1,348 feet).

Tugela Falls 5 drops
View of the 5 drops / Juniper339 /

4. It’s presumably the tallest waterfall in the world

So which waterfall can call itself the tallest in the world?

Most sources state that Angel Falls in Venezuela is the tallest, even though this has been disputed in recent years.

As expected, the main argument is that the measurement of both falls is incorrect. Angel Falls is presumably 979 meters (3,212 feet) tall but this figure might not represent the actual drop but the height difference between the actual waterfall and an area about 1.6 kilometers (0.99 miles) away.

A new measurement of Tugela Falls conducted by a Czech scientific team in 2016 concluded that Tugela Falls is actually 989 meters (3,244 feet) tall.

This height makes Tugela Falls the tallest waterfall in the world, regardless of the erroneous measurement of its presumed taller counterpart in Venezuela.

5. The waterfalls can be admired from 2 different viewpoints

If you’re quite adventurous then there’s an option to hike all the way to the top of the Drakensberg Escarpment. A hiking trail leads you to the peak of Mont-Aux-Sources where the Tugela River emerges.

To reach it, however, you need to climb a chain ladder and the round trip from what is referred to as “The Sentinel” parking lot takes anywhere between 4 to 8 hours.

The second hiking trail starts at the Royal Natal National Park and leads up a small winding trail through the dense forests of the Tugela Gorge. This trail is about 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) long and allows you to get a clear view of the 5 drops of the waterfall.

Either way, the views you’ll get at the top are simply breathtaking!

Tugela Falls facts
Dropping down the cliff / Andynct /

More interesting facts about Tugela Falls

6. Both the river and the waterfall are named “Tugula,” a word that literally translates to “Sudden” in the Zulu language. This is a reference to the sudden drop of the Tugela river off the edge of the Drakensberg Escarpment.

7. Even though Angel Falls might not be considered the tallest waterfall in the world, it still features the tallest single drop of any waterfall in the world.

The longest drop plunges 738 meters (2,421 feet) down the edge of the cliff of the Auyan Tepui escarpment in Venezuela, quite a bit longer than the 411 meters (1,348 feet) drop of the waterfall in South Africa.

8. The survey that concluded that Angel Falls is the tallest waterfall in the world was conducted by American journalist Ruth Robertson in 1949. She determined that the falls had a height of 979 meters (3,212 feet).

Angel Falls Venezuela
Angel Falls in Venezuela / Mr. Angelfish /

A more recent survey concluded that this is the exact height difference from the top of the Auyan Tepui Escarpment and the confluence of the Rio Gauja and the Río Churún, about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away.

9. The flow of the waterfall isn’t always as strong as it is during the months in which the seasonal flow is the strongest. This is mostly the case in the early months of the year. This is also why it’s referred to as a “seasonal waterfall.”

10. You don’t have to be an excellent mountaineer to reach the top of the cliffs of the Drakensberg escarpment, but you do need to be somewhat of an adventurer.

This is especially emphasized by the final part of the hiking trail going all the way to the top, which requires climbing a small chain ladder that is attached to the edge of the cliff.

Tugela falls ladder
Ladder to climb up the cliff / Wiki Commons