The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

Thukela River / Tugela River

Afrikaans name: Tugelarivier


Tugela River near Bergville

Photo © Steven Herbert

With a length of 502 km the Tugela River, also known as the Thukela River, is the longest river in KwaZulu-Natal. “Thukela” is the Zulu word for “something that startles.”

It begins its journey to the sea high up in the Drakensberg Mountains where it tumbles down 947 metres at the Tugela Falls. It eventually flows into the Indian Ocean.

The river has been a major obstacle for travellers over the years. This was particular true when this mighty river was in flood. Even in recent history one was reminded of the luxury of modern bridges over the river when the flooding caused by Cyclone Demoina washed away the 450 metre long John Ross bridge.

The Tugela River is fed by numerous other rivers including the Mooi River, Klip River, Blood River and Sundays River.

Near Winterton

The Tugela River near Winterton

Photo © Steven Herbert

What adventures have you had along the Tugela River?

Road bridge across the Thukela River

The road bridge over the river near the town of Tugela

Photo © Steven Herbert

Railway bridge

Railway bridge near the town of Tugela

Photo © Steven Herbert

References and further reading

Wild Issue 32 - Author: - Published: 2015 - Page: 74

Getaway - Vol 31 No 04 - Author: - Published: 2019 - Page: 48

Readers Digest Illustrated Guide to Southern Africa - 4th edition - Author: - Published: 1986 - Page: 348

Conollys Guide to Southern Africa - 2nd edition - Author: Denis Conolly - Published: 1982 - Page: 199


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