From the world’s longest river to the world’s second-largest desert, Africa is home to a plethora of natural beauties. Africa’s waterfalls are similarly stunning, ranging from the Tugela Falls, which some claim to be the world’s tallest, to the colossal Victoria Falls, which has the world’s greatest sheet of cascading water. Here are some of the best waterfalls in Africa to add to your bucket list.
1. Victoria Falls, Zambia, and Zimbabwe
Victoria Falls is Africa’s most famous waterfall, located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It’s the world’s largest sheet of falling water, measuring 5,604 feet wide and 354 feet tall. The spray thrown up by the Zambezi River’s plummeting waves may be seen from 30 miles away, earning it the moniker Mosi-oa-Tunya (The Smoke That Thunders). During the flood season (February to May), when more than 500 million liters of water pour over the falls’ lip every minute, Victoria Falls is at its most spectacular.
This magnificent sight may be seen from vantage points at Victoria Falls National Park in Zimbabwe and Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park in Zambia. Two-thirds of the falls are visible from Zimbabwe, and Zambia offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to swim in Devil’s Pool, a natural pool on the edge of the falls.
2. Lumangwe Falls, Zambia
Lumangwe Falls, another typical block-type cascade, is so similar to Victoria Falls that it is frequently confused with the world-famous falls. With a height of 115 feet and a width of 328 feet, it is the tallest waterfall entirely in Zambia. The Kalungwishi River forms a wide veil here, creating a spray that rises 328 feet into the air and supports a small rainforest on the river’s banks. The waterfall is named after Lumangwe, the Great Snake Spirit, who, according to mythology, stretches between the Lumangwe and Kabweluma falls and is at its most powerful during the rainy season in April and May. Take the indicated diversion off the main road from Kawambwa to Mporokoso to reach the falls. There are overlooks at the summit and on the other side, as well as a campground for people who want to stay the night.
3. Blue Nile Falls, Ethiopia
The Blue Nile Falls are located 19 kilometers downstream from Lake Tana on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia. The waterfall’s Amharic name comes from the misty curtains and glittering rainbows that surround it (Tis Abay, or the Great Smoke). It stands 170 feet tall and overlooks the confluence of four streams that once joined to form a 1,312-foot wide channel during the rainy season. Although a hydroelectric station erected in 2003 now harnesses much of the waterfall’s power, it remains a spectacular sight during the peak flood months of August and September. The falls are accessible via two separate hiking paths. The first includes a short boat ride across the river to the base of the falls, while the second includes a 17th-century stone bridge (the first in Ethiopia) to observe the main waterfall perspectives on the opposite side of the river.
4. Murchison Falls, Uganda
Murchison Falls is located on the Blue Nile and serves as the focal point of Murchison Falls National Park (one of Uganda’s most popular wildlife viewing spots) (although the river is known as the Victoria Nile in Uganda). The river makes its way down a tight ravine measuring only 23 feet in width before plunging 141 feet into the Devil’s Cauldron. The waterfall, which is shrouded in mist and embellished with a constant rainbow, sees about 187 million gallons of water tumble over its cliff each minute. The easiest way to see the falls up close is to take a launch ride upriver from Paraa, which will take you to the base of the falls. Keep a lookout for elephants, buffalo, lions, and the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe as you go through the park. Murchison Falls National Park is well-known for its Shoebill storks.
5. Tugela Falls, South Africa
Tugela Falls, a series of five free-leaping seasonal cascades in South Africa, has a total drop of 3,110 feet, making it the world’s second-highest waterfall. Based on apparent differences in the measurements of both waterfalls, some sites suggest it may even exceed Venezuela’s Angel Falls as the world’s tallest waterfall. In any case, plunging in a cloud of froth from the top of The Amphitheatre escarpment—the most iconic natural feature in KwaZulu-majestic Natal’s Royal Natal National Park—is a spectacular sight.
Mont-Aux-Sources, one of Drakensberg’s tallest peaks, is the source of the Tugela River. Take the hard Sentinel trek to the top of the escarpment for a better perspective, or choose an easy hike along the Tugela Gorge to the foot of the falls for a closer look.
6. Kalandula Falls, Angola
Kalandula Falls (Quedas de Kalandula), formerly known as the Duque de Bragança Falls until Angola’s independence in 1975, is one of the country’s most well-known natural attractions. It is one of the continent’s greatest waterfalls by volume, standing 344 feet tall and 1,300 feet wide on the Lucala River in Malanje Province. It is a horseshoe-shaped waterfall on the border of a lush forest, with many individual cascades and plumes of spray thrown up by the tumbling water, similar to its larger sister, Victoria Falls. It is most magnificent near the end of the rainy season (February to April) when tourists are permitted to swim in the pool at the bottom. Kalandula Falls is about a five-hour drive from Luanda and 10 minutes by cab from Kalandula settlement. For a chance to see the falls at sunrise and sunset, book a room at the Pousada Kalandula hotel at the top of the falls.
7. Ouzoud Falls, Morocco
Although first-time visitors to Morocco may not equate the Saharan country with much water, the north contains numerous oases of luxuriant foliage. Ouzoud Falls, a beautiful group of waterfalls that cascade into the El-Abid River, is located in the Middle Atlas Mountains. The falls are named after a Berber phrase that means “to grind grain,” a reference to the modest mills that once stood at the top of the falls and are still operational today. Ouzoud Falls is a renowned tourist site with all of the necessary infrastructure. Take a boat cruise to the swimming pool at the base of the falls, or dine at one of the restaurants along the waterfall walkway. Wild Barbary macaques, an endangered monkey species, are found in the olive orchards that surround Ouzoud.