Far beyond SA’S borders lie some of the world’s best-known cascades. While they may be too far away or too costly to visit on a whim, they’re certainly a worthy bucket-list destination, should the travel gods smile on you some day.
VICTORIA FALLS (“MOSI-OA-TUNYA” – “THE SMOKE THAT THUNDERS”)
Victoria Falls, on the Zambezi River which forms the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, dazzles with its sheer size.
At 1 708m wide and 108m high, it’s recognised as the largest waterfall in the world. This falling sheet of water never fails to astonish visitors, is listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World and is also a Unesco Heritage Site.
Forming a border between the USA (New York State) and Canada (Ontario) is the Niagara Falls, which actually comprises three falls – the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls in the USA, and the Horseshoe Falls in Canada. Due to its natural beauty and recreational activities, Niagara Falls is the most visited waterfall in the world, drawing about 30 million people each year, and has been a favourite spot for honeymooners since the 19th century. It also generates massive amounts of hydro-electricity for both Canada and the USA.
IGUAZU FALLS (ABOVE)
Also in South America, Iguazu Falls is an extensive series of waterfalls along a 2,7km stretch of escarpment on the Argentinian-brazilian border. The spectacular waterfall system consists of 275 falls along the Iguazu River and was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1984.
ANGEL FALLS (LEFT)
Angel Falls in Venezuela is the highest uninterrupted waterfall in the world, with a height of 979m and a drop of 807m. Set deep within Venezuela’s Canaima National Park, a wilderness spanning three million hectares on the country’s borders with Brazil and Guyana, the waterfall’s so high that at warmer times of the year, the water turns into mist before reaching the river below.
Kaieteur Falls is located on the
Potaro River in the centre of Guyana’s rainforest. It’s the world’s largest single-drop waterfall by dint of the sheer volume of water rushing over it. While many falls have greater height, few have this combination of height and water volume. The waterfall is a major tourist attraction. Waterfalls are classified into
10 different types, depending on the way they descend:
• Plunge: Water descends vertically, losing contact with the bedrock surface.
• Horsetail: Descending water maintains some contact with bedrock.
• Cataract: A large, powerful waterfall.
• Multi-step: A series of waterfalls one after another of roughly the same size, each with its own sunken plunge pool.
• Block: Water descends from a relatively wide stream or river.
• Cascade: Water falls down a series of rock steps.
• Segmented: Distinctly separate flows of water form as it descends.
• Tiered: Water drops in a series of distinct, separate falls.
• Punchbowl: Water descends in a constricted form and then spreads out in a wider pool.
• Fan: Water spreads horizontally as it descends, while remaining in contact with bedrock.