In the Midlands near Pietermaritzburg can be found quite many nice waterfalls but the best known are Howick Falls.

Description of Howick Falls

This waterfall is approximately 95 m high, although other sources give a height of 94, 111 or even 119 m. uMngeni River here falls over a dolerite cliff with Ecca shale (deposits from the Permian period) below it (1).

This is an easily accessible, visually impressive waterfall which slides down along nearly vertical cliff in a single plunge.

The best time to visit the falls in after heavy rain in the spring or summer. During the other times of the year, the falls are much less impressive. Much of the water is taken by Midmar Dam (built in 1965) and only if the water in sluice gates is released, the falls return to their former glory.

Around the falls has been developed visitor infrastructure – a viewing platform, a network of trails, which, sadly, is not too well kept. The town around the falls also could feel a bit rough and loud – maybe come here in the morning, during the working days.

Unfortunately, there are also lots of litter in the river and around the falls. But, there is always hope. There are people who take care of this beautiful place (2).

The name comes from the town which in turn is named after Charles Grey, 1st Earl Grey, of Howick.

Howick Falls and reflections
Howick Falls and reflections. / Rupert Maspero, Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Dangerous place?

This waterfall has rather dubious fame – at least 40 people have fallen down and died here. Most of these accidents were cases of suicide and also murder. But some accidents are caused by pure carelessness. The stream above the falls often seems to be fairly weak and there are cases when people have tried to cross it and were swept in the falls.

Dangers of Howick Falls have one more – mythical dimension. According to local legends, this waterfall is a dangerous, magical place. In the pool below the falls live evil spirits and also a legendary serpent – Inkanyamba. This creature has a body of snake and head of the horse. The anger of this serpent can cause storms. There is a possibility that this legend originates from sightings of a large eel in these waters.

Many believe that only sangomas – traditional healers are more or less safe to approach the waterfall. But local women seem to disregard all the dangers and often are seen doing the wash above the falls.

Wash at the Howick Falls
Wash at the Howick Falls. / Steve Slater, Flickr / CC BY 2.0


  1. Evelyn Mervine, KwaZulu-Natal Holiday: Howick Falls. Accessed in 11th June 2019.
  2. Nikki Brighton, Howick Falls, River Walks. Accessed in 11th June 2019.
Howick Falls on the map
[travelers-map height=320px this_post=true init_maxzoom=9]
Location, GPS coordinates: 29.4868 S 30.2385 E
Categories: Waterfalls
Values: Geology, Visual
Rating: 3 out of 10 stars
Where is located? Africa, South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal, Midlands, in the Howick town
Alternate names: KwaNogqaza (Zulu name, meaning: “Place of the Tall One”
Height: 95 m
Drops: 1
Stream: uMngeni River (Umgeni, Mgeni River)

Video of Howick Falls

IanKinnear, April 2014

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