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Highest Waterfall in the World

The Highest Waterfall in the World is generally agreed to be Angel Falls

The highest or tallest waterfall in the world is generally agreed to be Angel Falls, or Kerepakupai Merú, meaning ‘waterfall of the deepest place’, in Venezuela, which drop a reported 979 metres.

Angel Falls Venezuela

Angel Falls, Venezuela

The Victoria Falls, with its maximum drop of 105 metres, does not even make the top 100. It is not even the tallest waterfall in Zimbabwe, which is taken by Mutarazi Falls in the Eastern highlands, with a height of 479m. (There are also much taller falls in Africa – see our Waterfalls in Africa section for more information.)

There are technicalities in classification such as whether the fall drops straight down in a single ‘plunge’ or a series of tiered cascades down a slope over a steep angle, and as to where the top of a waterfall starts and the bottom ends, but in all current classifications, and accepted common knowledge, the Angel Falls takes the title of the highest waterfall in the world, with an overall height of 979m and a biggest single drop of 807m.

However, reasonable doubt has been expressed over the measurement of the Angel Falls, especially their overall height.

It is believed that when the falls were originally surveyed in 1949 measurements include sections below the falls down to the shores of the Río Churún, nearly a mile from the base of the main fall, and includes a second drop of about 100 feet about half of a kilometre downstream from the base of the main waterfall.

If correct, then the drop of 807 metres should be taken as a more realistic measurement of the true total height of the actual falls.

The second highest waterfall in the world (or perhaps the tallest!), measured in terms of overall height, is the Tugela Falls in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa.

Tugela Falls in South Africa believed to be the second highest in the world

Tugela Falls in the Drakensburg, South Africa.

Coming closely behind Angel Falls, with a total height of 948m, the Tugela Falls are a series of tiered plunges over five drops, the greatest of which is 411m, rather than a single plunging fall.

However if doubts over the height of the Angel Falls are confirmed, then the Tugela Falls will take the title of the overall highest waterfall in the world. It certainly is the highest in Africa.

Single Drop Waterfalls

Angel Falls would still come out top in terms of greatest single vertical drop (807m).

The second highest single drop waterfall is Kjeragfossen in Norway, with a drop of 715m. The next three waterfalls in this classification are all located in South America. Kukenaam, in Venezuela measures 674m, Cascade de Ventisquero Colgante, in Chile, 549m, and Catarata Gocta, Peru, 540m. Tugela Falls' biggest single drop of 411 m places it 10th in the greatest single drop category.

Tiered Waterfalls

After Tugela Falls in terms of overall height, the Cataratas las Tres Hermanas (‘Waterfalls of the three sisters’) in Peru records a 914 metre total height (again the waterfall is tiered), and the Olo'upena Falls in Hawaii 900 metres.

Olo'upena Falls is one of a series of very tall waterfalls with a small flow but huge drop, on the north shore of Molokai, Hawaii. Dropping off the escarpment some 900 metres, these are the world’s tallest seas cliffs. The height and volume of the falls mean they often dissipate into rain on the wind as they fall.

Yumbilla in Peru is next on the list with a total height of 896 metres, made up of four separate drops. Norway claims two waterfalls in the region of 865 metres in height, Skorgefossen (865m) and Vinnufossen (864m), the tallest waterfalls in Europe.

Table of the Overall Highest Waterfalls in the World

Waterfall River Country Height (m)
Angel Falls Río Gauja Venezuela 979
Tugela Falls (highest in Africa) Tugela River South Africa 948
Cataratas las Tres Hermanas Río Tambo Peru 914
Olo'upena Falls Mokokai Hawaii 900
Yumbilla   Peru 896
Skorgefossen Skorge Norway 865
Vinnufossen   Norway 864

Table of Highest Single Drop Waterfalls in the World

Waterfall Country Height (m)
Angel Falls Venezuela 807
Kjeragfossen Norway 715
Kukenaam Venezuela 674
Cascade de Ventisquero Colgante Chile 549
Catarata Gocta Peru 540

Data from the World Waterfall Database (www.worldwaterfalldatabase.com)

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