Some waterfalls form in mountain environments where the erosive water force is high and stream courses may be subject to sudden and catastrophic change. In such cases, the waterfall may not be the end product of many years of water action over a region, but rather the result of relatively sudden geological processes such as landslides, faults or volcanic action.
Waterfalls may also be artificial, and they are sometimes created as garden and landscape ornaments. See below some of the most interesting waterfalls of the world.
1. Angel Fall, Venezuela, world’s biggest waterfall! 973 metres fall.
Angel Falls or Salto Ángel is the Most beautiful waterfalls in the world, dropping a total of 978m from the summit of the Auyan Tepuy, and with an 807m uninterrupted drop.
In 1937 pilot Jimmy Angel landed on the Auyan Tepuy in search of gold. Unfortunately his plane got stuck and he wasn’t able to take off. After 11 days he made it to Kamarata. His plane was later recovered and can be seen in front of the airport at Ciudad Bolivar.
Angel Falls is situated in the Gran Sabana region of Venezuela. The area is filled with grasslands, with some dense jungle along the course of the rivers and at the base of the numerous tepuis, or flat-topped mountains. Angel falls is located on the side of the largest of the Venezuela’s tepuis known as Auyan-tepui.
There is an incredible variety of tropical wildlife in the area, including monkeys, poison arrow frogs and hundreds of species of orchids. Aside from the monkeys, mammals in the area are generally difficult to spot but include giant anteaters, armadillos, porcupines, three-toed sloths, otters, jaguars, pumas, tapirs and capybaras.
Tropical, with frequent rainstorms. The driest time of year – when the Falls may be just a trickle – is from December to April.
It is possible to charter a plane to Canaima from Caracas, Margarita Island, or Ciudad Bolivar airports , and then organize a tour to the falls on your own. In practice, the simplest thing to do is sign up for a tour that takes care of the details. If you book a tour from your home country, it will be more expensive. Similarly, booking a tour from Caracas will cost more. It is cheapest to book a tour from the airport in Bolivar. Nearly all the Angel Falls tours operate out of this city, and their prices include the cost of a plane that flies from Ciudad Bolivar to Canaima. Expect to pay between Bs. 500,000 and 600,000 (approximately US$ 250) for a three-day. two-night tour that brings you to the falls. Most tours booked on your own from Ciudad Bolivar airport will include a fly-by of the falls on the way to Canaima camp.
A typical tour will include the flight to Canaima, and then three days of meals and (very basic) accommodation at the various campsites along the river towards the falls. The trip involves several hours in a dugout canoe and a few hours hiking through gallery forest to the main viewpoint below
2. Iguacu Waterfalls
The waterfall system consists of 275 falls along 2.7 kilometres (1.67 miles) of the Iguazu River. Some of the individual falls are up to 82 metres (269 feet) in height, though the majority are about 64 metres (210 feet). The Garganta del Diablo or Devil’s Throat (Garganta do Diabo in Portuguese), a U-shaped 150-metre-wide and 700-metre-long (490 by 2300 feet) cliff, is the most impressive of all, and marks the border between Argentina and Brazil. Most of the falls are within Argentine territory. About 900 metres of the 2.7-kilometre length does not have water flowing over it. The edge of the basalt cap recedes only 3 mm per year.
The water of the lower Iguazu collects in a canyon that drains into the Rio Parana in Argentina.
The falls are easily reached from the two main towns on either side of the falls: Foz de Iguacu in the Brazilian state of Parana, and Puerto Iguazu in the Argentine province of Missiones as well as from Ciudad del Este (Paraguay) on the other side of the Parana river from Foz do Iguaçu . The falls are shared by the Iguacu National Park (Argentina) and Iguacu National Park (Brazil). These parks were designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
On the Brazilian side there is a long walkway along the canyon with an extension to the lower base of the “Garganta del Diablo”. The Argentian access is facilitated by a train (“Tren a las Cataratas”) (in early August 2007 the name for the free train operated in the National Park is “Tren ecologico de la selva”) that brings visitors to different walkways. The “Paseo Garganta del Diablo” is a one kilometer long way to bring the visitor directly over the falls of the “Garganta del Diablo”. Other walkways allow access to the elongated stretch of falls on the Argentinian side and to the ferry that connects to the San Martin island.
The fall area provides opportunities for water sports and rock climbing.
Iguaçu Falls Panoramic view.
Upon seeing Iguaçu, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt reportedly exclaimed “Poor Niagara!” Vastly larger than North America’s Niagara falls, Iguaçu is rivalled only by Southern Africa’s Victoria Falls which separates Zambia and Zimbabwe (this is excluding extremely large rapid-like falls such as the Boyoma Falls). Whilst Iguazu is wider because it is split into about 270 discrete falls and large islands, Victoria is the largest curtain of water in the world, at over a mile wide and over 350 feet (108 meters) in height (in low flow Victoria is split into five by islands; in high flow it can be uninterrupted).
Air view, from the Argentinian side
The water falling over Iguazu in peak flow has a surface area of about 400,000 square metres (1.3 million square feet) whilst Victoria in peak flow has a surface area of over 550,000 square metres (1.8 million square feet). By comparison, Niagara has a surface area of under 183,000 square metres (600,000 square feet). Victoria’s annual peak flow is also greater than Iguazu’s annual peak—9.1 million litres per second versus 6.5 million—though in times of extreme flood the two have recorded very similar maximum water discharge (well in excess of 12 million litres per second). Niagara’s annual peak flow is about 2.8 million litres per second, although an all-time peak of 6.8 million has been recorded. Iguazu and Victoria fluctuate more greatly in their flow rate. Mist rises between 30 and 150 metres (100 and 500 feet) from Iguazu’s Garganta do Diabo, and over 300 metres (1,000 feet) above Victoria (sometimes over 600 metres).
Iguazu, however, affords better views and walkways and its shape allows for spectacular vistas. At one point a person can stand and be surrounded by 260 degrees of waterfalls. The Garganta do Diabo has water pouring into it from three sides, which makes for an exceptional sight. Likewise, because Iguazu is split into many relatively small falls, one can view these a portion at a time. Victoria does not allow this, as it is essentially one waterfall that falls into a canyon and is too immense to appreciate at once (except from the air). Iguazu and Victoria are generally regarded as the world’s most spectacular waterfalls, with people divided as to which is the more impressive.
3. Victoria Falls – a real super star
Mosi-oa-Tunya is the name used by the local people and Victoria Falls is the later name given by Europeans (see pre-colonial history).
Although Victoria Falls constitute neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, the claim it is the largest is based on a width of 1.7 km (1 mile) and height of 108 m (360 ft), forming the largest sheet of falling water in the world. The falls’ maximum flow rate compares well with that of other major waterfalls (see table below).
The unusual form of Victoria Falls enables virtually the whole width of the falls to be viewed face-on, at the same level as the top, from as close as 60 m (200 ft), because the whole Zambesi River drops into a deep, narrow slotlike chasm, connected to a long series of gorges. Few other waterfalls allow such a close approach on foot.
Many of Africa’s animals and birds can be seen in the immediate vicinity of Victoria Falls, and the continent’s range of river fish is also well represented in the Zambezi, enabling wildlife viewing and sport fishing to be combined with sightseeing.
Victoria Falls are one of Africa’s major tourist attractions, and are a UNESCO world’ heritage site. The Falls are shared between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and each country has a national park to protect them and a town serving as a tourism centre: Mosi oa Tunya and Livingstone in Zambia, and Victoria Falls national park and the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.(Latitude/longitude -17.925292 25.857611)
The Eastern Cataract, on the Zambian side.
For a considerable distance above the falls, the Zambezi flows over a level sheet of basalt, in a shallow valley bounded by low and distant sandstone hills. The river’s course is dotted with numerous tree-covered islands, which increase in number as the river approaches the falls. There are no mountains, or deep valleys which might be expected to create a waterfall, only flat plateau extending hundreds of kilometres in all directions.
The falls are formed as the full width of the river plummets in a single vertical drop into a chasm 60–120 m (200–400 ft) wide, carved by its waters along a fracture zone in the basalt plateau. The depth of the chasm, called the First Gorge, varies from 80 m (262 ft) at its western end to 108 m (360 ft) in the centre. The only outlet to the First Gorge is a 110 m (360 ft) wide gap about two-thirds of the way across the width of the falls from the western end, through which the whole volume of the river pours into the Victoria Falls gorges.
There are two islands on the crest of the falls that are large enough to divide the curtain of water even at full flood: Boaruka Island (or Cataract Island) near the western bank, and Livingstone Island near the middle. At less than full flood, additional islets divide the curtain of water into separate parallel streams. The main streams are named, in order from Zimbabwe (west) to Zambia (east): Leaping Water (called Devil’s Cataract by some), Main Falls, Rainbow Falls (the highest) and the Eastern Cataract.
The Zambezi basin above the falls experiences a rainy season from late November to early April, and a dry season the rest of the year. The river’s annual flood season is February to May with a peak in April, The spray from the falls typically rises to a height of over 400 metres (1,300 ft), and sometimes even twice as high, and is visible from up to 50 km (30 miles) away. At full moon, a “moonbow” can be seen in the spray instead of the usual daylight rainbow. During the flood season, however, it is impossible to see the foot of the falls and most of its face, and the walks along the cliff opposite it are in a constant shower and shrouded in mist. Close to the edge of the cliff, spray shoots upward like inverted rain, especially at Zambia’s Knife-Edge Bridge.
As the dry season takes effect, the islets on the crest become wider and more numerous, and in September to January up to half of the rocky face of the falls may become dry and the bottom of the First Gorge can be seen along most of its length. At this time it becomes possible (though not necessarily safe) to walk across some stretches of the river at the crest. It is also possible to walk to the bottom of the First Gorge at the Zimbabwean side. The minimum flow, which occurs in November, is around a tenth of the April figure; this variation in flow is greater than that of other major falls, and causes Victoria Falls’ annual average flow rate to be lower than might be expected based on the maximum flow.
Victoria Falls are roughly twice the height of North America’s Niagara Falls and well over twice the width of its Horseshoe Falls. In height and width Victoria Falls is rivalled only by South America’s Iguazu Falls. See table for comparisons.
Satellite image showing the broad Zambezi falling into the narrow cleft and subsequent series of zigzagging gorges (top of picture is north).
Victoria Falls Bridge spanning the Second Gorge.
The whole volume of the Zambezi River pours through the First Gorge’s 110 m (360 ft) wide exit for a distance of about 150 m (500 ft), then enters a zigzagging series of gorges designated by the order in which the river reaches them. Water entering the Second Gorge makes a sharp right turn and has carved out a deep pool there called the Boiling Pot. Reached via a steep footpath from the Zambian side, it is about 150 m (500 ft) across. Its surface is smooth at low water, but at high water is marked by enormous, slow swirls and heavy boiling turbulence.Objects that are swept over the falls, including the occasional hippo or even human, are frequently found swirling about here or washed up at the north-east end of the Second Gorge. This is where the bodies of Mrs Moss and Mr Orchard, mutilated by crocodiles, were found in 1910 after two canoes were capsized by a hippo at Long Island above the falls.
The principal gorges are (see reference for note about these measurements):
The walls of the gorges are nearly vertical and generally about 120 m (400 ft) high, but the level of the river in them varies by up to 20 metres (65 ft) between wet and dry seasons.