Sipi Falls – Awesome Things to Do & See

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Sipi Falls, Uganda

Sipi Falls – Awesome Things to Do & See

The Sipi Falls are a series of three pretty waterfalls (85m, 65m, and 100m), situated in the foothills of Mount Elgon in eastern Uganda.

Sipi are the most beautiful waterfalls in Uganda and an iconic attraction in the region. The area around the falls offers plenty of awesome things to do and see. It’s a perfect spot for weekend trips from Kampala or short Uganda tours.

You can take a weekend trip to Sipi to escape the noise and bustle of the Kampala. You will embrace the tranquility of some of Uganda most beautiful landscapes.

You will also see a little more of Uganda and inhale some fresh air in one of the country’s most popular hillside retreats. You will have a variety of exciting activities to enjoy, including waterfall hikes, cave explorations, sunset walks, authentic cultural encounters, bird watching, rock abseiling, sightseeing and photography, coffee tours etc…

Sipi falls also provide the starting point and end point of climbing tours in Mount Elgon National park. It’s also wonderful stopover to break down long Uganda safaris to the Kidepo National Park – a classic but remote Uganda wildlife Park in the farther north eastern corner of the country.

Where Is Sipi Falls Found?

The Sipi Falls are found in Kapchorwa District approximately 275 km from Kampala, the capital of Uganda. The falls are found in Eastern Uganda in small trading centre of Sipi, close to the Uganda border with Kenya. They’re only 45km from Mbale town along a good surfaced road.

Sipi Falls are situated on Sipi River at 1,775 meters above sea level on the northeastern foothills of Mount Elgon – Africa’s 8th highest Mountain. River Sipi flows from the top of Mt Elgon.

And at the bottom of the mountain, the river encounters high cliffs and numerous rocks thereby creating a series of rapids and the three stunning Sipi waterfalls. After creating the waterfalls the Sipi River continues and pours into Lake Kyoga.

Sipi Falls, Uganda
Sipi Falls, Uganda

How To Get To Sipi Falls?

You can get to Sipi Fall by road. It takes about 4 to 5 hours to drive to Sipi Falls from Kampala city. For a short weekend trip, you need to start early, at around 6 am to avoid traffic jam. This will also give you a full afternoon of enjoying the fresh air and scenery in Sipi Waterfalls.

Along the way, you can stop in Jinja- the source of the Nile and at random petrol stations for bathroom breaks and to pick up snacks.

If you leave early, you can arrive at your lodge at Sip in time for lunch.

The Winding Road To Sipi Falls
The Winding Road To Sipi Falls

Where To Stay At Sipi Falls?

The Sipi Falls are serviced by half-a-dozen resorts and lodges that collectively cater to most tastes and budgets. Sipi River Lodge definitely falls into the luxury category, but for style and charm in an idyllic setting, close to the waterfalls. It is arguably the best place to stay.

Other Places to stay at Sipi Falls Include:

  • Lacam Lodge
  • Sipi Falls Resort
  • The Crow’s Nest
  • Noah’s Ark Resort

Things To Do In Sipi Falls Area

There are plenty of things you can do at Sipi Falls in Uganda. There are various hiking routes, birdwatching trips, climbing adventures, rock abseiling, sunset walks, sunrise walks, rock climbing, sightseeing and photography, coffee tours, and village community walks, and cultural experiences.

1. Hike To The Sipi Falls

One of the most popular things to do in Sipi Falls is the 7 km (3-4 hour) hike to see the Sipi Falls themselves. You can have a hike to each of the waterfalls.

Well we call it a hike, but it is not that far or that hard, so you could call it a walk (what’s the difference between hiking and walking anyway?!)

The hike takes you through villages and coffee and banana Plantations.

It also offers you excellent views of the massive wall-like cliffs, the green slopes of Mount Elgon from up, to the flat grounds below the foothills across Kapchorwa, and in the distance panoramic views of the plains of Karamoja region.

It is possible to walk off on your own, but we recommend taking a local tour guide who can explain the flora and fauna and also negotiate the passage through private property.

Hiking To Sipi Falls
Hiking To Sipi Falls

2. Rock Abseiling At Sipi Falls

If you are missing a bit adrenaline in your day of Sipi Falls Hike, you can also take a 2 hours rock abseiling adventure from the top of the 100-meter-high Sipi Falls. Equipment (rappels) is provided as well as highly-trained guides to take you through this exhilarating adventure.

You will hung from a rope in the cool mist of the cascading falls right beside you, as you enjoy the spectacular panoramic view of the valley below.

3. Guided Coffee Tour Experiences

Aside from the falls themselves, a highlight to visiting Sipi is a 3 to 4 hours tour that takes you through the intricate details of how coffee is produced at a nearby family farm.

The Sipi Falls area is great for growing Arabica coffee. This is because of its high altitude that makes the area cooler and gets plenty of rainfall.

On the coffee tour, you will stretch your legs as you hike up the hillside, through leafy banana plantations which serve two functions: firstly to supply bananas and secondly to provide shade for the coffee trees which grow beneath them.

You will explore coffee plantations and learn how the coffee plants are planted and grown. You can also try your hand at planting a seedling.

You will pick the coffee berries, to deshell and grind them with a traditional mortar and pestle, and roast them on an open fire, before – the best part – finishing with a fine cup of strong Arabica coffee.

4. Cave Adventuring

During your Sipi Falls tour, you can also take a 1 hour cave exploration tour.

On this adventure, you will discover a cluster of caves on the cliff above the Sipi River. The largest cave extends for about 125m into the rock face.

The cave contains rich mineral salt deposits that have clearly been worked extensively at some time in the past, as well as traces of petrified wood. You can as well the Sipi Mise Cave, an important local shrine set within a small forest-fringed cavern.

5. Sunset Walks (King’s View Point)

The sunset walk in the Sipi area takes about 1 ½ hours.

On this simple and relaxing walk, you hike from your lodge to the King’s View Point rock. On your way, you’ll have time to interact with the local people as they keep waving at you, since the community people are so welcoming.

As soon as you get to the view point, you will be amazed by the overwhelming views of the plainlands of Karamoja region and of the 3 Sipi Waterfalls.

You can also see the Mount Elgon ranges till the Jackson Summit, which is the second highest point of Mount Elgon and the Jacksons Table.

You will be able to spot bird species, like the redwing sterling, pied crow among others, and you may also chance to see some monkeys.

You will be taken through the story telling about the people staying in the area and how the Karamojongs used to behave against the natives back in those days. This activity starts at 05:30 pm to 07:30 pm.

6. Sebei Cultural Tour Experiences

During your visit to the Sipi Falls, there are many opportunities to learn more about the ancient culture lifestyle and customs of the local Sebei People.

Sebei people are known for a cultural practice with a negative connotation: Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The number of girls that undergo FGM is rapidly declining. Circumcision of boys is still taking place, in the December months of even years: 2020, 2022, and 2024 etc.

We like to engage our visitors in positive Sebei cultural practices such as elder storytelling, name giving ceremonies, traditional farming, coffee tours, cooking and dancing. A lot can be learned from these ancient practices.

7. Full Day Kalenjin Wilderness Trail

Kalenjin wilderness trail is found in the ground and wilderness of Kapchorwa along the Sebei land. The hike gives you a chance to learn about the Kalenjin people and their culture; from their language to dressing cord and food.

The language spoken here is ‘Kupsabiny’. The Kalenjin wilderness hike offers mesmerizing sights of birds, butterflies, tree species, coffee plantations, and some community members who always warmly welcome guests.

Your hike continues to give you stunning views of falls (Sirinda and Cheptoi waterfalls). Kalenjin people are believed to have come from highlands of Ethiopia and then moved to Kenya.  From there, some continued to eastern Uganda.

This ethnic group of people is categorized into the Baya and the Sula.

They also are well known as the best athletes, which has made the Sebei region to be dubbed the land of champions. Remarkably, Joshua Cheptegei, Jacob Kiplimo, Peruth Chemutai and Stephen Kiprotich, the world athletics champions are all come from the Sebei region and are pure Kalenjins.

8. Extended Walk To Chebonet Waterfalls

The Chebonet waterfalls are situated on the north edge of Mount Elgon National Park in Kapchorwa District. The falls are located at an elevation of about 1,775 meters above sea level. They have an amazing water drop of about 100 meters. Chebonet Falls hike takes about 3 hours.

On your way, you pass through the community, several coffee farms and banana plantations, which give you an opportunity to interact with local farmers and the community members. Hiking, sightseeing, and photography are among the top activities that take place on Chebonet waterfalls.

Chebonet Waterfalls, Near Sipi Falls. Credit: Uganda Wildlife Authority
Chebonet Waterfalls, Near Sipi Falls. Credit: Uganda Wildlife Authority

7. Climbing Mount Elgon

Mt Elgon, an extinct shield volcano, has the broadest volcanic base in the world. It was one time, thousands of years ago Africa’s highest mountain, far exceeding Kilimanjaro’s current 5,895m.

But millennia of erosion gradually reduced its peak to its current height of 4,321m – 8th Africa, 4th in East Africa. Elgon has the largest mountain caldera in the world measuring 50km by 80km.

The full trekking circuit to the peaks and caldera takes 5 to 6 days to complete. You follow either Sasa or Sipi trails. Tulambule Uganda Safaris can organize your trip departing and returning to Sipi Falls with all equipment included.

8. Attending Bagisu Imbalu Ceremony

The Bagisu or Bamasaba in the Mbale area near Sipi Falls are best known for the Imbalu (Male Circumcision Ceremony). It is a ceremony during which the Bagisu boys are publicly circumcised with a special knife without pain killers. It is a cultural safari experience like no other in Uganda.

How Is Imbalu Ceremony Conducted?

The Imbalu is held in December and August of even-numbered years. This lively, colorful event is open to anybody, even tourists.

It usually occurs before 10:00 am.  It involves all initiates — anything from one to several dozens of young men being matched by a whistling, cheering crowd to the circumcision ground.

The initiates have their faces plastered in ash. And they are stripped below the waist on the way to the circumcision site. Here, they must line up in front of a crowd of family and friends of all ages and genders.

Imbalu Initiates At the Circumcision Ground, Sipi Falls Tour
Imbalu Initiates At the Circumcision Ground

The operation/procedure lasts around one minute. The initiate holds his arm rigidly in front of the circumciser while grasping a stick in his hands, and staring forward expressionlessly. The circumciser then removes the foreskin from the penis by making three bold cuts around the foreskin.

When the surgery is complete, a whistle is blown, and the initiate raises his hands triumphantly in the air. He then begins to dance, as he proudly display his bloodied members to an ululating crowd

Any initiate who screams out during the painful operation is labeled a coward, as is any Mugisu man circumcised by a doctor under local anesthetic.

Once the crowd is satisfied with his bravery, the initiate is led away to a quiet place by a few friends. Here, he is wrapped in a cloth while he waits for the breeding to stop.

Although it is acceptable for a Mugisu man to delay circumcision into his late 20s, he will not be considered a ‘true man until he has undergone the rite. And  he will be forbidden from marrying or attending an important clan meeting.

Origin of Imbalu

The origin of the Imbalu tradition is not well known. However, according to legend, the first Mugisu man to be circumcised had a reputation of seducing the wives of his neighbors. And he was taken before the committee of elders, who ordered that he should be semi-castrated as both a punishment and deterrent.

But the plan backfired. When he recovered, he went back to his seducing ways. And it was whispered he had become even more proficient lovers following the operation. After that, his rivals decided that they too would have to be circumcised to compete for sexual favors!

8. Rock Climbing Adventure

There is a magnificent rock is found in Tororo town on the way back to Kampala from Sipi.  The rock stands at 1,483 m high and is the main landmark in Tororo town. Climbing Tororo rock takes 2 to 3 hours and is one of the popular activities in the town.

9. Birdwatching Tours

You can also take a 3 to 4 hours birding tour in the Sipi and Mountain Elgon area. The area recorded the highest number of bird species (275) on the Big Birding Day of 2013, beating off perennial favorites Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Park.

10. Sisiyi Falls Walk

Sisiyi waterfall is located in near Mbale, along on the highway to Kapchorwa district/Sipi Falls. Many people and tourists mistake this waterfall as Sipi falls, because of the resemblance. It is a better place to visit during while on your hiking safari to Uganda.

Sisiyi waterfall is the best place to visit after hiking Sipi falls. And it is the reason why we normally call a hike to Sisiyi waterfall as an extended walk to Sipi, because it is not so popular. The hike takes 2 to 3 hours.

Our Sipi Falls tours

What To Pack For The Sipi Falls Tour?

Packing for a safari is in most cases not easy.

This is 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 as they’ll be heavy for you to carry.

The packing list for Sipi falls tour depends on several things such as the number of days you plan on spending in Sipi and the activities that you plan on participating in. The recommended packing list should include:-

  • A camera and extra batteries
  • Binoculars
  • Raincoat for when the weather changes
  • Comfortable hiking boots
  • Bottled drinking water
  • Sunscreen, sunhat, and insect repellent
  • Long-sleeved shirts and trousers.
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