8 Waterfalls in South Africa That We Think Are Awesome

Posted on February 23, 2015 by Bevan Langley

Waterfalls Who doesn't love a great waterfall? Here are 8 waterfalls in South Africa that we think are awesome!

1. Mac-Mac Falls

Near Graskop, Mpumalanga



History tells us that the area was named Mac-Mac by President Thomas Burger, who, upon visiting the area, was stunned by the number of Scottish miners he found panning for gold during the gold-rush days of the 1870’s.

Today, the 65 metre high, Mac-Mac Falls has been declared a National Monument, and, while the gold prospectors have long-since departed, visitors to the Mac-Mac falls can still consider this a natural treasure.

Getting to the main view site requires a R10 entrance fee as well as a walk from the car park to the main viewing platform which is protected by a mesh fence. Unfortunately the mesh does hamper the view somewhat, however, it is still worth the effort.

The falls used to be a single stream, however, the miners blasted the river in an effort to get to the gold reef over which it flows, and so, today there are twin falls.

Swimming below the falls is strictly forbidden, however, if you’d like to get out and about you can always visit the Mac-Mac Pools just around the corner otherwise, you can try one of the beautiful walks through the indigenous bush. 

Visit the Mac-Mac Falls Page 

 

2. Howick Falls

In Howick, KwaZulu-Natal



Howick Falls, as well as the pools below, is steeped in myth and legend. The local name for the falls is KwaNogqaza, which means "Place of the Tall One" in Zulu. It is approximately 95 metres in height and lies on the Umgeni River which meets the sea just north of Durban. 

Besides the mystique, Howick Falls is also an absolutely stunning landmark which has rightly earned its reputation as one of the main attractions in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.

The best place to view Howick Falls is probably from the view site at the end of Morling Street. 
If you’re planning a day in the Midlands, I’d highly recommend putting Howick Falls on the itinerary.

Visit the Howick Falls Page
 

3. Augrabies Falls

In Augrabies Falls National Park, Northern Cape



Sheer Power! 

The Augrabies Falls, aptly named Ankeorbis by the original Khoikhoi people, which means “place of big noises”, is definitely a place that lives up to its name.

In full flood, the mighty Orange River comes gushing over the 56 metre drop, down into the granite gorge and barges its way through the 18 kilometre abyss below.

The sound is deafening!

At any time of the year Augrabies Falls is a spectacular site and is a must for anyone travelling to the region. 
Legend has it that some of the best alluvial diamond deposits can be found at the base of the falls – however, I doubt anyone has gone down to check.

Besides the falls, visitors should also look out for some of the region’s other natural treasures including Klipspringers, Hartmann's mountain zebra, Springbok, Gemsbok as well as the indigenous kokerboom or Quiver Tree.

Visit the Augrabies Falls Page


4. Mzinyathi Falls

In Inanda, KwaZulu-Natal
 


Mzinyathi is a Zulu word meaning “House of Buffalo Bulls”, and while there are no more buffalo bulls left roaming the Inanda hills, there are still a number of natural treasures that have remained.

Situated at Ebuhleni in the Inanda region, the Mzinyathi Falls is a majestic landmark which cascades over a sandstone ledge and into the forested gorge below. The Mzinyathi River continues on until it empties itself into the Inanada Dam which lies on the Umgeni River.

Aside from its natural beauty, the Mzinyathi Falls has also seen a great deal of history over the years. In the early 19th century, the Oadi people who fled from the Zulu king Dingane, settled in the Mzinyathi Valley. Here the Oadi Chief set up his Royal homestead.

In more recent times, the Baptist Nazareth Church leader, Isaiah Shembe used the pools above the falls to baptise his proselytes in the early years of the 20th Century, while today, there is a small Rastafarian community living in the caves below the falls.

If all this wasn’t enough, to add to its accolades, the Mzunyathi Falls has recently been inducted by eThekweni Municipality as a tourist attraction along the Inanda Heritage Route. 

Visit the Mzunyathi Falls Page


5. Mbaxeni River Waterfall

Near Msikaba, Eastern Cape


 
This is such a cool waterfall! It's a little off the beaten track, and I'm guessing not too many people know about it, but it is well worth a visit. 

To get there we drove down as close to the river as we could get and then walked along the rocks the rest of the way. The river was low at the time (March) so it was very easy - I'm not sure if this river is in flood much, but I'm assuming it would be a lot more difficult to get to the waterfall when it is. 

We stopped at the top of the waterfall and spent the afternoon swimming and lazing about. The waterfall itself looks about 30 metres high, so I wasn't about to try jumping! Besides, there doesn't appear to be any place to get out once you're at the bottom so I'd advise against trying that. If you're scared of heights, you're probably not going to like it here much so you’ll probably want to set up a little further up river. 

If you don't mind heights and you're looking for an interesting place to spend an afternoon/morning, then the Mbaxeni River Waterfall could be a good detour for you. I know I really enjoyed it!

Visit the Mbaxeni River Waterfall Page


6. Tugela Falls

Royal Natal National Park, Kwazulu-Natal
 


The Tugela Falls are, without a doubt the crowning spectacle of the Amphitheatre region. At a total height of 948 metres (3110 feet), the five cascading drop-offs that constitute the Tugela Falls is a sight to behold from any vantage point.

The Tugela River (Tugela meaning “Sudden” or “Startling” in Zulu) begins its journey to the sea at Mont-Aux-Sources, the tallest peak along the plateau. After only a few short kilometres, the river meets its first and most daunting obstacle – the Amphitheatre and the edge of the Drakensberg escarpment. 

It is here that the Tugela River puts on its most spectacular display. After heavy rains, as many as 18 waterfalls can be seen along the top of the Amphitheatre, while in the frigid winter months, the river sometimes freezes, creating pillars if ice that cling to the crags. 

Not only is Tugela Falls the tallest waterfall in the Africa, but, there is some debate as to whether it is, in fact, the tallest waterfall in the world. Angel Falls in Venezuela currently holds this title, and while it is recognised as having the tallest single uninterrupted drop of any waterfall in the world, speculation does exist about the total height of both falls. In any event, Tugela Falls is a spectacular natural feature deserving of any traveller’s admiration. 

There are a number of routes to get to the falls. The Chain Ladder’s Hike, which starts at the Sentinel Parking Lot near Witsieshoek, follows a contour path around the back of the Amphitheatre and up onto the escarpment via a series of chain ladders that have been bolted into the rock face. This route takes you to the top of the Tugela Falls and offers some breath taking views of the Royal Natal and Rugged Glen Parks. The second option is to hike the 7 kilometres upstream to the foot of the falls from The Royal Natal Park. 

Either way, you’re guaranteed to be blown away by this national treasure – just make sure you check ahead to see what the weather is doing – nothing ruins a great hike like a violent thunder storm. You can also contact Ezemvelo for more information on the routes and hiking conditions on +27 (0) 33 845 1999

Visit the Tugela Falls Page


7. Madonna and Child

Near Hogsback, Eastern Cape



The Madonna and Child Falls are but one of the many natural beauties that litter the quint little town of Hogsback in the Eastern Cape. 

Entrance to the falls is free and access can be obtained by either the short hike from Wolf Ridge Road down a steep decline (there are steps and handrails at sections to assist), or via the Big Tree on the main road - This route takes a little longer, but the pathway through the indigenous Tyumie forest also includes the Swallow Tail Falls and Bridal Veil Falls as well. 

Once at the Madonna and Child Falls see if you can make out the shape of the “mother and child” in the outcrop of rock that gives these falls their name. Some imagination may be required, but you should start to see it soon enough.

Before you head back, take some time to cool off in the pools and explore the surrounding forest. Keep your eyes peeled and see if you can spot any of the beautiful birds that have made these forests their home.

Visit the Madonna and Child Page


8. Karkloof Falls

In Karkloof Nature Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
 


The Karkloof River meanders its’ way through the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and joins the Umgeni River, just above Albert Falls Dam, but not before putting on a spectacular display at the Karkloof Falls.

This 88 metre high, natural beauty, is the highlight of the Karkloof Nature Reserve and even managed to capture the imagination of the early settlers who called it “the most beautiful waterfall in the land” 

Karkloof Falls is the final drop in a series of smaller waterfalls, the most notable of which being the Woodhouse Falls. This 10 metre high section of the river was named after a terrible tragedy in which a famer named William Woodhouse was thrust over the falls when his horse tripped while crossing the Karkloof River. 

Entrance to the Karkloof Falls is free and can be found on the Karkloof Road heading away from Howick (a sign pointing the way to the falls can be seen in Howick itself). 

There are a number of excellent picnic sites in the surrounding area, and the forests of Shafron Grange are teeming with bird and animal life including Crowned Eagles, Martial Eagles, Duiker, Porcupines, as well as a very rare species of butterfly called the Karkloof blue Orachrysops ariadne.

Visit the Karkloof Falls Page

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