The Sipi Falls are situated on the Sipi River which flows from Mount Elgon, and creates three pretty waterfalls ending in a 99m drop just outside of Sipi town.
This small trading centre is only 60kms from Mbale, the closest town on the main road from Kampala to Kenya’s northern frontier. There are three resorts overlooking the main falls which attract local expatriates, aid workers and diplomats.
Activities usually centre on a 20 minute walking trail to the base of the main waterfall. A small fee is charged to view the falls and if continuing for another 30 minutes you’ll reach some caves. The caves contain salt deposits and some are as deep as 125m and contain traces of petrified wood.
There is also a day hike which travels from the main waterfall to three smaller falls upstream.
En route to Sipi Falls from Kampala is a popular spot for adrenalin seekers rafting the start of the Nile at Jinja. Only an hour’s drive from Kampala to Jinja, the launch point is a few kilometres above Bujagali Falls. There are a couple of places to stay at Jinja, mainly for backpackers and including the Red Hot Chilli campsite half way to Jinja but most people stay in Kampala or Entebbe.
A full day’s rafting covers 31km with 10 grade 3-5 rapids. There is excellent action on the river – wilder than Queenstown’s Shotover River but not as wild as the Zambezi with the exception of two rapids that equal the best of the Zambezi. The one is a 4 metre drop directly over a set of falls at Bujagali. There’s a good briefing before you hit the rapid but no mention is made of the fact that the raft and contents are going to drop vertically over the main rapid! The safety kayakers are quick and competent, always to hand to haul in anyone who falls out of the raft.
The second really wild rapid is a long thundering race down for about 30 metres to a huge standing wave that takes out over 50% of the rafts.
Lunch is held on a small island with four rapids to go – as basic as it gets anywhere else, lots of carbs, cold meats, salads and juice. One of the big differences between the Nile and Zambezi rafting is the big calm paddling or swimming sections between rapids – sun cream and loads of drinking water is a must for this trip.
The last rapid is a big one after which everyone enjoys the beer on the drive back to Kampala, and there is much sniggering over the day’s events and whoever was dunked. Sadly a new hydro station will mean the end of this adrenalin filled trip although there are some rapids further down stream which may still be used for a gentler trip.
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