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Tugela Falls
   Kwazulu Natal, South Africa

This waterfall has been confirmed by the World Waterfall Database, has been mapped and its height has been approximated but exact measurements have not yet been confirmed.
The infant Tugela River makes a series of 5 consecutive leaps down the amphitheater wall in the high Drakensberg Mountains. The initial horsetail is on the order of 597 feet (182m), followed shortly afterward by a leap of 1350 feet (411m). The three subsequent falls, which over the years haven't consistently been included in the overall height given for the falls, occur in rapid succession and comprise the balance of the 3,110 feet (948m) of elevation loss.
Seasonal Discharge
This waterfall occurs along a stream that is known to vary greatly in volume and as a result may not flow consistently year round or may dry out completely during certain periods.


  • Also Known as: Thukela Falls
  • Tugela Falls is the Official name of this waterfall

Tugela is a phonetic spelling of the word "Thukela", meaning "sudden" or "startling". Indeed, this gentle stream makes a very abrupt leap off of a massive escarpment.

Our thoughts

We've seen Tugela Falls variously listed between 1,800 feet (549m) and 3,110 feet (948m) depending on the source. Other height claims are 2,014 feet (614m), and 2,853 feet (870m). It is our theory that the two lower figures only refer to the first two drops. Photographs clearly show that the 3rd tier follows the 2nd tier just as closely as the 2nd tier follows the 1st tier. The three tiers together most likely account for the 2853 feet (870m) height figure. Since the 4th and 5th tiers are still more or less continuous, with no lengthy interstitial stretch of river between, we feel that the height figure of 3110' (948m) is wholly credible. At any height, this is a very tall waterfall.

The only drawback to Tugela Falls is the flow. Most of the water that collects on the relatively flat surface of Mont Aux Sources flows either west or north. There is a rather small portion that slopes east, and this accounts for several very tall, but meager waterfalls, Tugela being the largest in terms of flow. It really only flows well after periods of rain. When it flows however, it is most impressive.

Location and directions

There are two trails to the falls. The trail to the top of Mont Aux Sources leaves the parking area for "The Sentinel". The trail is about 4 miles (6.4km) to Tugela Falls, gaining perhaps 1,700 feet (518m) in elevation. A cursory glance might suggest that isn't TOO hard, but the elevation at the parking area is about 8,300 feet, and the lip of Tugela Falls is close to 10000' (3048m) above sea level. The air is a bit more thin here.

The second means of access follows the Tugela River upstream through the Tugela Gorge. This trail is 4.3 miles (7km) in length, but the gradient is much more level, gaining perhaps a thousand feet in elevation. The trailhead is roughly 5,200 feet (1585m) above sea level.

Tugela Falls is shown in the center. Additional nearby waterfalls (if any) can be found in the list below.

Photography tips

Be in good shape. The view from the top is a strenuous hike that is not for the faint of heart. If you try to lug a 50 lb camera pack up here, you can't be out of shape. There's really only one composition from the top namely the view from the edge of the amphitheater to the south of the falls. There are several good views from below, which is a less strenuous (still between moderate and difficult) hike than the climb to the top.

Links to Additional Pictures


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