Sipi Falls

Mt Elgon National Park, Kapchorwa Province, Uganda

About Sipi Falls


Hiking Distance: 6-7km loop
Suggested Time: 3.5 hours

Date first visited: 2008-06-16
Date last visited: 2008-06-16

Waterfall Latitude: 1.33808
Waterfall Longitude: 34.37991

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Sipi Falls was actually a series of three tall waterfalls all plunging along the lower slopes of Mt Elgon.

Mt Elgon is said to be the 4th highest peak in Africa and shared between Eastern Uganda and Western Kenya.

Lacam_Lodge_023_06162008 - The main drop of Sipi Falls as seen from the Lacam Lodge
The main drop of Sipi Falls as seen from the Lacam Lodge

In the literature, the name of Sipi Falls was often only associated with the main falls, which you can see in the picture above.

However, I managed to go on a guided hike to further explore the area, and this led us to Sipi Falls’ other two impressive waterfalls.

It turned out that visiting all three waterfalls involved a rather difficult 7km loop hike that was full of steep ascents and descents, flimsy ladders, flimsy catwalks, lots of farms, and lots of mud.

This was especially the case since it had rained during the start of the hike.

Although it might have been possible to visit the other two waterfalls through a combination of driving and shorter walks (something I only found out about during the long hike), I found this longer hike to be more fulfilling.

Experiencing Sipi Falls from the Lacam Lodge Overlooks

Lacam_Lodge_014_06162008 - The main drop of Sipi Falls as seen from the Lacam Lodge
The main drop of Sipi Falls as seen from the Lacam Lodge

Julie and I were able to see the main drop of Sipi Falls (which also happened to be the tallest tier at about 100m) from the eco-lodge called Lacam Lodge, where we stayed.

We managed to witness the falls from numerous positions around an amphitheater.

Such overlooks also allowed us to look further downhill towards the town of Mbale in the valley below.

I also noticed that there were a handful of other lodges built around this amphitheater so I’d imagine that if you stayed there (instead of the one we were at), then it would be just as easy to see and photograph the main drop of Sipi Falls.

The Grand Tour of Sipi Falls

Sipi_Falls_002_06162008 - Descending on a trail leading into the ravine containing the three drops of Sipi Falls
Descending on a trail leading into the ravine containing the three drops of Sipi Falls

After coordinating with and paying the local guide at the lodge, I embarked on a hike that he guided.

It began by descending through some local farms before descending further towards the base of the main Sipi Falls.

It had rained during this descent so that made it a bit tricky to not slip and fall as soon as the steps gave way to the steep, slippery, and muddy dirt trail.

As a result of this muddiness, I opted not to go right down to the very base of the main Sipi Falls as I was content with the viewing spots that I had already experienced.

Sipi_Falls_015_06162008 - Looking back at the main Sipi Falls from a small cave
Looking back at the main Sipi Falls from a small cave

Beyond the base of the falls, the trail then climbed steeply towards a small cave with a view back at the main Sipi Falls.

From this unusual vantage point, I could get similarly angled views of the falls as those from the Lacam Lodge (albeit from the opposite side now).

As we continued the hike, the trail then went through a farm and back onto the tarmac road eventually reaching another property where we followed a trail uphill to a flimsy catwalk leading to views of the second Sipi Falls.

This second waterfall was said to be 75m tall, and it consisted of some upper cascades before making its big plunge.

Sipi_Falls_069_06162008 - Contextual look at the second Sipi Falls
Contextual look at the second Sipi Falls

The guide led me around a faint path, which took us to a tiny cave right behind this middle waterfall.

Continuing with the hike, we then climbed up some more steep and muddy sections until we made it to the top of this middle waterfall.

The view from this vantage point allowed me to appreciate how cultivated the western slopes of Mt Elgon were.

I figured that the combination of the rich volcanic soil of Mt Elgon must have made the land very fertile and thus conducive to cultivation.

Next, we went through some more farms before ascending some more slippery tracks.

Sipi_Falls_085_06162008 - Going up a very muddy section of a track that appeared to go through someone's plantation somewhere between the second and third Sipi Falls
Going up a very muddy section of a track that appeared to go through someone’s plantation somewhere between the second and third Sipi Falls

It was a good thing the guide was there to help pull me up on sections where I felt like I would lose traction with each muddy step that I took.

In any case, we’d ultimately reach the base of the uppermost (or third) of the Sipi Falls.

The walk between the second and third falls seemed like a long way, but seeing that third waterfall made it well worth the effort.

Like the other two waterfalls, this 85m falls was both tall and columnar.

Given its height, we managed to see it from pretty far away as we made the final approach to the waterfall’s base.

Sipi_Falls_095_06162008 - Approaching the third Sipi Falls
Approaching the third Sipi Falls

We ended up following a path that took us real close to the falls where we could really appreciate its height as well as the vigor of its flow (given the amount of mist it spewed).

In the wake of all this mist, we did see faint rainbows from the partial sunlight that momentarily broke through the overcast skies.

After experiencing this last of the Sipi Falls, we pretty much hiked all downhill as we ultimately rejoined the tarmac road near the Lacam Lodge, where the hike ended.

In total, the overall hike took me about 3 hours and 15 minutes, which might have been a little faster than average.

Sipi_Falls_103_06162008 - Approaching the paved road as we were about to conclude our Sipi Falls hike at the Lacam Lodge
Approaching the paved road as we were about to conclude our Sipi Falls hike at the Lacam Lodge

If I were to plan a trip involving this waterfall, I’d count on allocating at least 4 hours to do this hike at a more leisurely pace.

Authorities

Sipi Falls resides in the Mt Elgon National Park near Mbale in the east of Uganda. It is administered by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. For more information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting their website or Facebook page.

Mbale_002_06162008 - Passing through the town of Mbale right at the base of the western slope of Mt Elgon
Lacam_Lodge_001_06162008 - Looking downhill towards the valley downstream of Sipi Falls as seen from the Lacam Lodge
Lacam_Lodge_005_06162008 - Looking down at some of the structures of the Lacam Lodge eco-accommodation
Lacam_Lodge_008_jx_06162008 - The panorama looking downslope of Mt Elgon as seen from the Lacam Lodge
Lacam_Lodge_017_06162008 - Context of the main drop of Sipi Falls as seen from the Lacam Lodge
Sipi_Falls_001_06162008 - Descending steps as the local guide led me towards the base of the main Sipi Falls
Sipi_Falls_003_06162008 - Approaching the main Sipi Falls, which still seemed quite a bit distant from where we were at
Sipi_Falls_005_06162008 - Almost at the base of the main Sipi Falls
Sipi_Falls_006_06162008 - Near the base of the main Sipi Falls. There was actually more of the falls further below, which started from a muddy scramble right where the guide was standing in this photo
Sipi_Falls_009_06162008 - Looking up at the entire drop of the main Sipi Falls from its base
Sipi_Falls_014_06162008 - Looking back at the main Sipi Falls after ascending a steep path towards a small ledge and cave
Sipi_Falls_022_06162008 - The local guide standing before a little cave after climbing past the base of the first of the Sipi Falls
Sipi_Falls_032_06162008 - Walking through a farming area. If you look carefully, you might be able to spot the second Sipi Falls in the distance
Sipi_Falls_038_06162008 - Descending towards a rickety footbridge somewhere between the first and second Sipi Falls
Sipi_Falls_043_06162008 - Approaching the second Sipi Falls
Sipi_Falls_049_06162008 - Behind the second Sipi Falls
Sipi_Falls_060_06162008 - Inside the cave behind the second Sipi Falls, which was significantly bigger than the first tiny cave we saw earlier in this hike by the first Sipi Falls
Sipi_Falls_063_06162008 - Looking out from behind the second Sipi Falls
Sipi_Falls_075_06162008 - Looking down at the second Sipi Falls as we were ascending towards its top
Sipi_Falls_082_06162008 - Looking over the top of the second Sipi Falls towards the cultivated landscape below
Sipi_Falls_089_06162008 - Finally approaching the Sipi Falls
Sipi_Falls_097_06162008 - At the misty base of the third Sipi Falls accompanied by a faint rainbow
Sipi_Falls_102_06162008 - The landscape surrounding the trail as we were descending back towards the tarmac road after having visited the third Sipi Falls
Lacam_Lodge_017_jx_06162008 - After such a long hike, it was nice to return to our eco-lodge
Lacam_Lodge_020_06162008 - Last look at the main Sipi Falls from the Lacam Lodge just as the sun was about to set

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As for specific directions, we were driven here so we can’t really give specifics.

However, we can say that it took us about 5 hours to drive east from Kampala to the Lacam Lodge (where we could see the main Sipi Falls).

That’s something to consider if you’re incorporating this place into your itinerary.

Right to left sweep starting from the main waterfall and ending towards the setting sun hidden behind the tree in the foreground

Trip Planning Resources


Nearby Accommodations



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Tagged with: elgon, uganda, kenya, waterfall, africa, kapchorwa, mbale



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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