One of the most dramatic and impressive natural monuments in Polynesia is Vaipo Cascade – Vaipo Falls. The beauty of these magnificent, roughly 350 m tall falls is enhanced by the rare, amazing landscape of Vaipo Canyon.
Map of the site
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This waterfall originates from the Tovi’i plateau. The stream at the falls is approximately 3 m wide. In rainy periods it might become much larger but sometimes it disappears altogether.
As the stream reaches the rim of this basalt plateau, water slides down along the nearly vertical cliffs, forming a classical horsetail waterfall. During its fall the water is vaporized and wetting the deep canyon. The stream has several smaller cascades at its foot.
At the foot of the falls has formed a basin inhabited by eels, shrimps, and other creatures.
The waterfall is accessed by a walk from Hakaui through a fantastic landscape adorned with incredibly tall, nearly vertical cliff pinnacles (many are more than 550 m tall!) and lush rainforest. There are many smaller waterfalls seen along the way if the weather is not dry. The walk starts in the majestic Hakaui Valley and then continues in a giant side ravine – Vaipo Canyon.
Mysterious stone sculptures and countless stone platforms in the shaded forest add to the effect – this island was densely inhabited before the coming of Europeans and their illnesses.
When accessing the falls from below, they look like a true miracle – it seems that the water is falling directly from the saddle between two rock pinnacles. Only from the air is visible the plateau where the stream originates.
Often there is mentioned that Vaipo Falls is the second (or third) tallest in the world. This is not correct – numerous falls around the world are taller.
Often there is given a very (suspiciously) exact height of the falls – 1148 feet. When converting this to meters we get a rounded figure – 350 m. Thus most likely the exact height of falls has not been measured yet and it could be very well 1150 feet… or 1180 feet… or 1111… etc.
- L.A.Miller, Nuku Hiva – Hakaui 1971, Mystery. Accessed in 18.12.11. Magnificent images with an exciting story behind!
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