Top Biggest Waterfalls
The Victoria Falls are claimed to be many things – the largest, greatest, biggest waterfall in the world. In truth, there are taller, wider and bigger waterfalls, but are they better? And how do we measure them? Here we take a completely unbiased look at waterfalls of the world and see how they compare.
Depending on how you measure and classify a waterfall, different falls will come out on top. There are many different lists of the world’s top waterfalls, based on varying classifications and measurements.
The easiest category to determine, the tallest waterfall in the world, is universally agreed to be Angel Falls (or Kerepakupai Merú) in Venezuela, which drop an amazing 979 metres. Vic 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, which are 479m high.
When it comes to the remaining categories, two other waterfalls contend with the Victoria Falls for the overall title – Niagara Falls, in Canada, and Iguazu Falls, Argentina. Whilst neither of these score highly on height (Niagara deepest drop is only 51 m, Iguazu’s 82 m), all three compete for the overall title of the largest waterfall in the world.
With a total width of 1,708 metres, Vic Falls are often claimed as the widest waterfall in the World. The Iguazu Falls claims a greater total width of 2,682m. Niagara, with a total width of 1,204 m, are out of the running here.
However these total widths do not represent a single or unbroken line of water. Iguazu is broken up into hundreds of separate, smaller, cascades, of different levels and heights. Even the Victoria Falls is divided, by two islands (Cataract Island and Livingstone Island) towards its western end, although it still regarded a single, continuous, fall-line. As a result of this technicality the Victoria Falls are often claimed as the largest continuous curtain of falling water.
The final, and most difficult, category for measuring the world’s waterfalls is by volume of flow, here measured in cubic metres per second (cms). The Victoria Falls have an average volume of 1,088 cms, and are beaten both by Niagara (2,407 cms) and Iguazu (1,746 cms).
However, the Victoria Falls and Zambezi River fluctuate with a huge seasonal variation of flow, and an annual average flow figure hides these variations. At its highest point, in March/April, it is estimated that a monthly average of 3,000 to 6,000 cms of water flow over these Falls, and its highest recorded flow was over 12,000 cms. Iguazu holds a similar record, although much lower standard annual range, whilst Niagara has a highest flow of only 6,800 cms.
What stands out, in comparison with all the major waterfalls of the world, is that the Victoria Falls are unique. No other Falls of such size are so perfectly formed, with an almost constant vertical drop of 100m over an almost straight fall-line of 1,700 metres in width.
All categories considered, the overall title of biggest, greatest or largest waterfall in the world is highly debatable. For us, Niagara is a comfortable third, Iguazu second and Victoria Falls an easy first.