Sipi falls is nestled in the Eastern part of Uganda in Kapchorwa district near Mbale district. It is located at least 277 kilometers away from Kampala and they are found at the edge of Mountain Elgon National Park. The word Sipi was derived from the ‘sep’ a wild banana that grows along the River Sipi. The Sep banana is used as medicine by the locals to treat measles and fever. Sipi falls are considered to be the most romantic falls in the world with the beautiful scenery that they give off.
Exploring the sipi falls should be top of your list while on a safari to Uganda. It is a good destination for couples, those traveling in groups and those travelling with their families. It is an adventure that you should try out, take as many photos as you want, and enjoy the various activities that are offered around the sipi falls. You will need a tour guide to take you around the falls and a local tour guide will need about $5 to take you on a trek to the falls.
Sipi falls comprises of three falls that can easily be trekked with the first one being the main sipi fall, the middle one is known as the Simba falls and the last one being the Ngasire falls. While hiking up the falls you will be rewarded with the most beautiful sights like the Karamoja region, Mountain Elgon, Lake Kyoga, Mountain Elgon National Park, and the Arabica coffee plantations.
The three sipi falls
This is the main and highest waterfall with about 95 meters of drop. The waterfall is the most visited because it is the first one and most tourists are always worn-out to complete the trek to the other two. Although trekking to the first and main sipi fall is entertaining, continuing on the other two that are found on even more steep routes are more adventurous and offer great views.
Simba falls is the second sipi waterfall falling for over 74m is the middle little waterfall and it can only be accessed after trekking to the first waterfall. The second cave at Simba falls is believed to have been home to humans many years ago but at the moment, it is infested with bats. The cave is the safest place to watch the waterfalls from.
The Ngasire falls are taller than the Simba falls and the most exciting to see however the trail from the Simba to Ngasire is the most strenuous and hardest to take. The waterfall is about 85meters and you can easily see them from the middle waterfall and o your trek. The Ngasire falls are found in steeper areas and you will have to be energetic to continue the climb. When you get to the top of the falls, you will have clear views of Lake Kyoga, Mountain Elgon, and the Karamojong areas. Carry your camera so that you can take as many photos as you want. The trek down the falls will be easy and you can take your time while sloping down the hill.
How to get to Sipi Falls
Sipi Falls in Kapchorwa is 4 to 5 hours away from Kampala and the mainly used highway is the Kampala-Jinja highway. After leaving Kampala, you will go through the Mabira forest, River Nile, and other exciting tourist attractions along the way. From Jinja, you will head to Iganga before turning off on your left on Tirinyi road leading to Mbale town.
If you are already in Mbale, you can use private means or public means and it costs about 5000shs to get to Sipi from Mbale if you are using public means. When we talk about public transport, we mean taxis, buses, and boda-Bodas. The distance from Mbale to Sipi is just 50km but if you do not want to use taxis, then you can use a boda to get you to your destination and it is shs30000 from Kampala to Mbale while using public means.
The other route that you can use is the Tororo route which instead of branching off at Tirinyi, you just continue on sight to Tororo and then drive to Mbale. This is a longer but scenic route as you get to see baboons in the Busitema forest.
Although public means are good especially when it comes to saving, we highly advise you to use public means because travelling to an unknown place without a guide is a bit dangerous because you do not know the exact location and might become prey to thieves. Using private means is easier as long as you have booked through a local tour operator because all you need to do is show up and enjoy the ride to and from Sipi Falls.
Activities carried out around sipi falls
Sipi falls is currently one of the places in Uganda that have attracted both local and foreign tourists. The beautiful scenery created by the fall and the misty fog around it gives it a unique touch that everyone should get to see first-hand. There are a lot of activities that can be done around the sipi falls and below is what you should expect.
This is the most participated in activity and will take you about 3 hours to hike around all the 3 sipi falls. A professional tour guide will lead the way to the hike routes that are about 7 to 8 kilometers. The different paths leading to the three sipi falls are all unique in their own way offering beautiful scenery that is a bit different from each other. The hike is best done during the dry season when the routes are not slippery but you can still do it during the wet season. You will need good and strong hiking boots, a walking stick and trousers if you want to enjoy your hike up the sipi falls.
Visit the Forest Exploration Center
The forest exploration Center is about 13 kilometers away from Sipi falls. The center will give you an insight on how into conserving forests and the importance of conserving forests. There are other tourist attractions around the forest and these include the different bird species, waterfalls and caves.
Explore the Mountain Elgon National park
Mountain Elgon National Park is right at the edge of the Sipi Falls and is a must-visit for tourists. The park has a lot to offer in terms of activities that keep you entertained throughout your stay in Sipi Falls. The best time to visit the National park is during the dry season because this is the time when the animals can easily be viewed.
Mountain Elgon National park is home to about 300 bird species that can be viewed all year round. As you plan your trip to Sipi, make sure that you carry some birding gear with you like binoculars, a camera with extra batteries, a guidebook, a rain jacket, and comfortable hiking boots. Some of the bird species that are found within the Park include the res-throated wryneck, weyn’s weaver, and Night warbler, common Chiffchaff, African Reed Warbler, Rattling Cisticola, and White-browed Crombec.
The National Park is just 34 kilometers away from sipi Falls and one of the places that you should visit while on a safari to sipi falls. The park is home to different animal species that you can see some of which include Defassa waterbucks, leopards, spotted hyenas, red-tailed monkeys, elephants, vervet monkeys, baboons, and bushbucks, forest hogs, and black and white colobus monkeys among others.
The region is best known for growing Arabica coffee due to the good weather conditions that are experienced in the area. Many people in the area have been growing coffee for a long time and on this safari, you will get to experience the life of a common coffee grower. Your tour guide will take you to a farm where the locals will take you through the whole process of growing the coffee beans, picking, shelling the beans, the roasting process, and grinding them. You can also taste a cup of the Elgon coffee that you participated in making.
Community visits are the best way in which tourists can learn more about the unique Ugandan culture. The Bagisu people who are part of the many tribes that are found in the country live around the Elgon region and their culture is one that you shouldn’t miss out on. They are famously known for their public circumcision that is carried out every even year to initiate young boys into manhood. Locally referred to as ‘Imbalu’, the circumcision starts with songs and dances with the candidate moving from one place to another while dancing to the upbeat rhythm while being escorted by a large crowd. The candidate is finally circumcised without numbing the pain using a sharp knife. You can also participate in the circumcision songs and dance but note that you will not be allowed to take any photos. During the community visits, you can also test some of the local foods prepared in the area not forgetting the ‘Malewa’ delicacy. Malewa is bamboo shoots that are prepared with groundnuts.
The Sabiny also live around the Sipi falls and are worth visiting while on a safari to the area. The Sabiny were known for female genital mutilation that was carried out on every girl in the village after human rights activists and the government put sanctions on the activity, it has greatly reduced. They however also have a lot to offer to tourists from traditional dances and songs and the get a taste of the local food.
Abseiling is a top activity that is carried out around sipi falls especially by adrenaline junkies. Abseiling refers to climbing down steep slopes or rocks with firm equipment to keep you from falling tied around your waist. The sipi falls offer the best abseiling experience with the magnitude and beautiful scenery that they create. You will be given the equipment after checking it to see whether it is firm and with the help of a tour guide, your abseiling journey will commence.
Trek up Mountain Elgon
There are several things that you get to see on a climb up the Mountain and these include the different bird species and vegetation that keeps on changing as you climb up the Mountain. Mountain Elgon has three peaks and the best time to go for a hike is during the dry season.
The Bullfights in Bududa
The bullfights in Bududa started during colonial times but were not given much attention until recently when the activity attracts a large crowd. Bullfighting is locally known as Namasho and before the fight begins, prayers and offerings are made to the ancestors and gods to bless the event. Locals come with their drinks especially beer to cheer on their best bulls and the best bull is given a prize after the fight. Join in the activity, bet on the best bull, and also get a taste of the local beer.
Exploring the Nyero Rock painting
Nyero rocks are located in the Kumi district a few kilometers away from Sipi falls. It will take you about 2 hours to drive from Mbale to the Nyero rock. No one knows who did the paintings but locals believe they were painted thousands of years ago. The paintings are of different things including animals and the locals living around the rock consider it to be a sacred place where the gods live to date.
Packing for the sipi falls safari
Packing for a safari is in most cases not easy because you might want to pack different things that you believe are essential but it is always advisable that you do not pack a lot of things because they will be heavy for you to carry. The packing list for sipi falls depends on several things with the main ones being how many days you plan on spending in Sipi and the activities that you plan on participating in. The things that you might need for hiking might not be needed for birding. The recommended packing list should include:
• A camera and extra batteries
• Raincoat for when the weather changes
• Comfortable hiking boots
• Bottled drinking water
• Sunscreen, sunhat, and insect repellent
• Long-sleeved shirts and trousers.
Where to stay in Sipi
There are several accommodation facilities that you can use while in Sipi and these are categorized into three that is basic accommodation, mid-range, and luxury accommodation facilities. We help you choose what type of facility fits into your needs and your budget and some of the facilities that you can check out while in Sipi include the following:
Crowns Nest Rest camp
This is a budget/basic camp that has a great view of the Sipi falls. The camp is surrounded by beautiful scenery with good and welcoming staff that will make you feel at home. Meals are prepared and served at the dining and it offers activities to its guests like a trek up the Elgon Mountain, a walk through the coffee plantations, hiking up the sipi falls and around the village.
Locam lodge is a mid-range accommodation facility located on a cliff with great views of the falls. The lodge is a good place for tourists that would love to do camping with their tents, has Bandas that were constructed using local material that is grass thatched and constructed with Timber. Three of these Bandas are not self-contained and these are known to be cheaper than those that are self-contained.
Sipi River lodge
Sipi River Lodge is a luxury accommodation facility with very comfortable rooms that are self-contained with en-suite bathrooms. The lodge is made up of both cottages and Bandas and these were given various names to distinguish them like Sasa Bandas, Chepkui cottages, Piswa Bandas, and Kapsurur cottage. The rooms are nicely decorated with a private veranda and you can also go to the bar or reading area to cool off.
Noah’s Ark hotels
This is an all-around accommodation facility that is it has budget, mid-range, and luxury rooms all in one place and good for all travelers. It was constructed along the slopes of Mountain Elgon and is a popular destination for many tourists. Camping can also
Sipi falls Resort
Sipi falls resort is located right within the mountain Elgon National Park and is one of the luxurious facilities around Sipi Falls. Two luxurious cottages have recently been added to the already existing rooms and these are to cater to the high-end tourists. The cottages at Sipi Falls Resort were constructed using bamboo materials and grass-thatched but have a modern touch to them. All meals are served at the resort from breakfast to dinner.
Best time to visit Sipi Falls
When should I visit the sipi falls is a frequently asked question by both local and international tourists. The answer is that Sipi falls can be visited all year round whether it is the wet season or the dry season. The dry season which starts in December to February is however considered to be the best time to visit if you are planning on hiking up the three sipi falls but the wet season is also recommended because it is during this time that the falls are in full force but note that the hike routes will be slippery and you need to be careful.