Continuing on with our series looking at the Real Africa’s team’s favourite places this week we were all voting on our favourite waterfalls! It sounds a bit obscure at first but actually a stunning waterfall can be an amazing attraction for a country and an unmissable stop on an itinerary. Just think Niagara Falls in the USA, Iguassu Falls in Brazil and Angel Falls in Venezuela. They tend to go hand in hand with stunning scenery and are jaw dropping in either their power or their size.
Of course first up, the most famous waterfall in Africa and perhaps the world, its Victoria Falls also known as Mosi-oa-Tunya or the Cloud that Thunders. Victoria Falls were created where the River Zambezi drops from the flat plains into a narrow rocky chasm carved out over thousands of years by the river. This chasm or gorge is so narrow that the river is truly squeezed into a tiny space as it pours in, creating the famous river rapids so beloved of white-water rafters. The mighty river cascades over the rocky edge of the plain and falls 355 feet in depth at its mid point and over 5,604 feet in width. It is regarded as the largest waterfall in the world despite it being neither the tallest or widest but a combination of the two. The Victoria Falls are so special they have UNESCO World Heritage Status. The two main flows of water over the Falls are split by two islands; Cataract Island and Livingstone Island. During the dry season when the water level falls more, islands appear and divide the river into parallel streams all of which have their own names: Devil’s Cataract, Main Falls, Rainbow Falls and the Eastern Cataract.
The highest water levels are between February and May with the peak usually in April when the Falls are at their most powerful. The spray from the Falls rises up to 1,300 feet in the air which can then be seen from up to 30 miles away. In fact the mist cloud is so overwhelming it isn’t possible to see the foot of the waterfall or the gorge
David Livingstone the famous Victorian explorer was the first European to see the Falls although there have been many Stone Age discoveries in the area indicating it was a popular spot even 50,000 years ago. It was Livingstone who renamed them Victoria Falls after the reining monarch. He was so enamoured of their beauty he wrote, “No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”
Murchison Falls (Uganda)
Another one of David Livingstone’s discoveries is the truly stunning Murchison Falls in the Murchison National Park in Uganda. This is the White Nile river and all its power comes roaring through a tiny gap in the rocks just 23 feet wide. It then plunges 141 feet to a swirling pool below known as the Devil’s Cauldron. This huge river is squeezed through such a tiny hole that the water comes out with tremendous force making it truly spectacular despite not being massively tall or wide. The Falls are also called Kabarega Falls in their native language are between Lake Victoria and Lake Albert named after the British monarchy by Livingstone again. The outlet from Lake Victoria is about 11,000 cubic feet a second which is then squeezed through this tiny gap before bursting through the Falls with such immense power it’s mind boggling. You travel to the Falls by boat from nearby safari lodges and you can also climb up alongside the falls for a closer view.
Thomson’s Falls (Kenya)
Thomson’s Falls is a beautiful waterfalls on the Ewaso Ng’iro river in Kenya. It drains the water which falls on the Aberdare Mountain Range at an elevation of 7,750 ft. The waterfall itself drops by 243 feet. Yet again it was another Scottish geologist and explorer, Joseph Thomson, who discovered them in the 1880s. At least he named them after his father rather than the monarchy again! The heavy mist and water vapour from the waterfall helps keep the cloud-forest below dense and lush making it an excellent spot for wildlife and there are also hippos further up river. Visitors can walk a trail along the ravine at the bottom or view the Falls from the top from another marked trail and viewpoint. Visitors can view the falls from above, or there’s also a trail down to the bottom of the ravine.
Kalambo Falls (Tanzania)
The Kalambo Falls are on the border between Zambia and Tanzania at the south-eastern end of Lake Tanganyika. The single drop fall of 772ft is one of the tallest uninterrupted falls in the whole of Africa. Downstream from the waterfall the Kalambo River cuts through the Kalambo Gorge winds its way through the Rift Valley for about 3 miles before opening out into the lake.
Interestingly this spot in the Great Rift Valley which spans East Africa is also historically very important. It would appear the Kalambo Falls have been attracting visitors for a very, very long time and it is one of the most important archaeological sites in the whole of Africa. In the 1950s archaeologists digging in the area discovered traces of human activity dating back to more than two hundred and fifty thousand years ago.
Tugela Falls ( South Africa)
Mpumalanga in South Africa is home to many, many fantastic waterfalls due to its stunningly beautiful mountain range, the Drakensberg Mountains. Tugela Falls is the world’s second highest waterfall after Angel Falls in Venezuela. In fact the name Tugela means sudden in Zulu the native language. And sudden they certainly are. The total drop in five fabulous falls is an impressive 3,110 feet! The Falls are in the protected area of the Royal Natal National Park in KwaZulu-Natal Province and they have been made accessible to visitors whilst protecting the scenery and wildlife in the area. You can even see them from the main road in the park if you are lucky enough to be there after a heavy rainfall. The source of the Tugela River is the Mont-Aux-Sources mountain plateau which then cuts down through the spectacular cliff called the Amphitheatre and it is from there that the waterfall makes its spectacular drop
Visitors can hike two trails to see the Falls. The most dramatic trail is to the top of Mount-Aux-Sources, where you can climb to the top of the Amphitheatre. However it is only for the fit as it can take all day and there are several vertical chain ladders to tackle. It is much easier to view the Falls from below from the National Park along a 4 mile hike up the Tugela Gorge. You do still have to climb rocks and a short chain ladder to access the falls at the end. However the hike and the climb are most definitely worth it as the view of these staggeringly high falls is jaw dropping!
Posted by Ruth Bolton