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Sipi Falls Uganda

Sipi Falls Uganda

Sipi falls is one of the most eye-catching watermarks in Uganda, located in the eastern region of the country at the base of Mountain Elgon.  The Sipi falls are a combination of three water falls, Sipi the main waterfall, Simba and Ngasire which are detached by ravines. The falls are a creation of the water streams that flow from Mount Elgon over the narrow hilltops plunging down at the base of the mountain. Other than Sipi Falls, there are thousands of water falls contagious to Mountain Elgon, most notably Wanale, chebonet, Sisiyi and Bulago.

Most of the falls are unknown because they are hidden at the higher section of Elgon and inaccessible. Sipi Falls is the most popular and accessible one, plummeting at/from the foothills of the Mountain Elgon in the district of Kapchorwa. Most of the hikers of Mountain Elgon use Sipi falls area as the starting point. The name of the waterfalls “Sipi originates from “Sep” a rare plant that grows on the margins of River Sipi. The plant looks like wild banana and many use it as a herb. A past story has it that the name Sipi came to light as some British explorers met a lady getting the Medicinal Sep plant close to River Sipi and asked for the name of the breath-taking waterfalls at the cliff.  She thought they were asking about the plant and replied “Sep”. Due to the difference in dialect, the explorers heard “Sipi”and mistook it to be the name of the waterfalls which has been carried on up-to-date.

How to get to the Sipi Falls

Sipi falls are located in Kapchorwa district east of Uganda near Mbale district and the border of Kenya, 4 hours away from Kampala Capital city by road travel. The road that leads to the falls from the capital is the Kampala- Jinja highway, Iganga, join the Tinyiri -Mbale and finally to Kapchorwa.  Another option is by proceeding with Iganga- Bugiri- Tororo- Mbale and then to Kapchorwa. This is a distant route but offers opportunities for sighting the baboons at Busitema Forest.

The most recommended means of road transport is the use of car hire services with a guide from a local tour operator. This will lead you directly and conveniently to Sipi Falls. For Travellers on a budget, public transport (Bus or Matatu) from Kampala to Mbale costs about 30,000 Uganda Shilling. From Mbale to Kapchorwa, one can us private or public means or even a bodaboda. Commuter taxi costs 5,000 Uganda and bodaboda about 10,000 Uganda shilling.

Hiking Sipi Falls

Hiking Sipi falls is one of the most popular activities enjoyed by tourists on an eastern Uganda safari circuit which includes Jinja source of the nile, Mountain Elgon, Sipi Falls itself, Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve, Nyero Rock Paintings, Karamonja and Kidepo valley National park. Sipi Falls hike is such an exciting and adventurous activity for tourists who wish to appreciate nature in its beautiful natural form. The Sipi Falls can be seen from a far like at the lodge and on the main road but the ultimate enjoyment and discovering is done when hiked at the top of the cliffs. Travellers interested in a comprehensive hiking tour are advised to hire a local guide to lead them to the falls. The guides offer interesting and great stories of the falls and other beauties around.  The trails leading to the top of the falls are not well marked and might be mistaken by those going to the local communities hence a guide being helpful.  The local guides are available around the area but the best option is the one recommended by the lodge or at the Sipi Falls tourist information centre. The guide normally costs 5$ per Hike.

The hike to the top of the Sipi falls is about 7 kilometres and touring the three waterfalls takes a minimum time of 3 hours depending on your fitness. The Sipi falls hike involves trekking through village farms, vertical inclines and climbing ladders. The terrain gets tough to hike, muddy and sloppy on wet days and these conditions are regular due to the frequent rainfall received around Mountain Elgon region. Boots with great grips must be worn and a walking stick must come at hand during the hike. There are different starting points depending on the waterfalls, you wish to tour. Those visiting the three waterfalls are advised to first take on the falls at the highest cliff and then get to the down ones.

The Sipi Falls is the main and most popular waterfall plunging down from cliff with an altitude of about 95m. This is where most tourism amenities like lodges and visitor’s information centre are found. It is a very beautiful and a great picturesque place of nature. Take a swimming costume on a tour to this waterfall, the bottom basin is large enough for swimming.

Though less recognised by travellers, the other two waterfalls offer magnificent sights of Mountain Elgon, the semi-arid plains of Karamoja and West Kenya.  Simbi falls at 74m high is the second and middle fall. Getting to this waterfall requires hiking past the Sipi falls and proceed to sloppy pathway to the ancient cave. The cave is said to have been a habitat for humans and bats ages ago. On a dry day, hikers can stand in front of the falls and while its raining, they can get to the cave behind the falls and watch as water splashes around.

Ngasire is the third and last falls, located in more steep and remote areas. The route from Simba to Ngasire is strenuous to trek but worthy a hike because of the beautiful views of Lake Kyoga, Mountain Elgon and Karamoja plains it offers.  Also as it plunges down it concludes with spectacular splashes.  Ngasire ends the Sipi Falls adventure and the travellers have to descend back.

The best time to Visit the Sipi Falls

The climate tends to be cooler than anywhere else in the country but favourable for tourism throughout the year.  The best time to visit Sipi Falls are the dry months of January, February June, July, August, September and December.  During these months, the terrain is relatively dry and convenient for hiking.

Accommodation facilities in Sipi Area

Kapchorwa and Mbale has a chain of hotels and lodges to accommodate visitors of Sipi falls. These vary from Budget to luxury choices.

Sipi Falls Resort:  built in the African setting, Sipi falls resort is located within the Mountain Elgon national park offering beautiful sights of the waterfalls and Karamoja plains. It has standard chalets and two luxury cottages. The restaurant provides local organic foods together with continent dishes. The local foods to taste at the resort are matooke, tilapia and sweet potatoes. The Sipi falls resort is also the best place to sip the earthly Arabica coffee which is best drunk in the morning and evening.

The Crow’s Nest: Established at the lowlands of Mountain Elgon overlooking the waterfalls, The crow’s Nest is one of the most popular budget accommodation options for visitors of Sipi Falls. It is such a large facility, hosting a maximum of 100 guests.  Some rooms are self contained while others  have shared facilities like the dormitories and a couple of double rooms.

Sipi River Lodge: it is one of the high-end accommodation facilities in the area, with a nonchalant atmosphere and great views of Sipi falls. The rooms have all sorts of luxurious facility needed in an executive place. The bar and restaurant are top-notch. Sipi River Lodge is truly a wonderful place to stay.

Noah’s ark hotel: it is a grand accommodation facility that reaches out to all sorts of travellers, be it luxury, mid-range and budget. It additionally provides lazy camping for travellers on a shoestring budget. Noah’s Ark Hotel is one of the most booked hotel in Mbale, a guest is advised to book in advance to get a room.

Lacam Lodge:  Lacam lodge is a banda designed facility built with local materials. Its rooms are spacious and self-contained appealing to middle-class travellers. There are also arrangements for camping for those interested in budget and adventure options.