In 2006 a German, Stefan Ziemendorff working on a water project at the village Cocachimba (about 1 hour from Chachapoyas by car) organized for the Gocta Waterfall to be measured. To do this a rough trail had to be cut to get close to it as the local people were scared of the waterfall and never went near it.
Ziemendorff with a team of surveyors measured the height as 771m (2529ft) with an estimated potential error of 13m (43ft) either way. He then went on to claim that Gocta Waterfall was the third highest waterfall in the world and the Peruvian press got very excited about it – with a TV crew soon coming in to get footage which was then shown on TV around Latin America.
Since then there has been some dispute about the claim that Gocta Waterfall is the third highest waterfall in the world. Some say it is the fifth highest and others the 14th – the latter based on the World Waterfall Database.
However on close inspection of each of the waterfalls mentioned in the World Waterfall Database, most of them haven’t been properly measured and purely estimates, local beliefs and scaling from topographical maps has been taken as a true height. So while nobody disproves the ranking of Gocta Waterfall, it remains be the third highest.
When you walk close to the tallest drop it is an awesome experience – the spray blasts you as so much air is pummeled down in the bottom of the amphitheater, which encloses the fall. Add to that there is a great section of forest along the way with the chance of seeing the endemic yellow-tailed woolly monkey, which only exists in northern-eastern Peru and you have a great day out. From the village of Cocachimba it is a 2.5-3 hour walk along a good trail.
Alternatively you can walk from the village of San Pablo along another trail to the base of the first fall and get wet there with a great view of the complete fall on the way. And what’s more – it is very accessible as a day trip from Chachapoyas.