Travelling through Sironko to Bulambuli districts, I have had the privilege of visiting Sisiyi falls.
This fall encompasses a unique splendour, the falling masses of water really accentuate Mt Elgon sub-region landscape and are incredible to capture.
Many visitors to this site confess they discovered it while travelling on the route and after seeing it from a distance, over time, you feel indebted to arrange a visit there.
On November 18, I set out for the site that lies approx. 40km east of Mbale town.
“The transport fare for the 40km journey to Buyaga trading centre is only sh4, 000 then you board a boda boda cyclist to Sisiyi Falls with Shs 2000,” Mr Stephen Gibenya, Boda boda cyclist says.
The flat terrain at Buyaga trading centre promotes good visibility and as I approach the site, I begin to savour the object of my adventure.
For nature lovers, Sisiyi falls is covered by the green vegetation of trees that shades the tourist spot from the sun.
With this, tourists are being kept cool as they try to climb the waterfall. And with relative ease, tourists can hike the falls in a hand-holding human chain formation which is usually led by a guide.
The falls is described by the Bagisu ethnic tribe living in the area as ‘Mezi ge lisusi’ –loosely meaning ‘The Smoky waters’. Today in Mt Elgon sub-region Sisiyi falls is known as the greatest curtain of falling water in the area.
The site sits on a 13-acre private piece of land. It is magnificent. The fresh freezing breeze was unexpected, but pleasant.
The artificial forest of eucalyptus trees, offered a cooling canopy above and expansive trimmed lawns suitable for picnics and camping for over 200 people. The space looks sufficient for relaxing outdoor activities and energetic games.
What welcomes you at Sisiyi falls resort is the adjacent Butandiga ridge, with shimmering stony hills, and the water falls like a white sheet about 110 metres, probably the highest water fall in Bugisu [Mbale, Sironko, Manafwa, Bulambuli and Bududa districts] which many a new comer would take for Sipi falls in Kapchorwa.
It can be accessed through three big stones and trees that stand along the way; these stones and trees could be about 500 years old according Mrs Margret Maleza, 63 a caretaker at the place.
When Maleza, ushers me in and offers to provide a guide for me but I was lost in admiration for the rich, natural design. She says many visitors who go there are tourists, mainly Asian, European and occasionally a few local tourists.
“When I was a little girl, these falls were huge but due to cutting down of trees, it has reduced and adds that increased human habitation on the slopes of the Elgon Mountains will gradually cause the volume of the water to dwindle further,” Maleza explains.
As I sit in the compound relaxing, I feel drops of water falling on me and my eyes look in the direction of the drops of water, only to see water rolling off about a 110 metre cliff.
It comes down gushing, splashing, falling waterfall toppling off the fall, gushing over rocks and attacking everything in sight then it tumbles down the Sisiyi hill in a series of mini-waterfalls.
Maleza then gets a guide for me; Stephen Nangoli, who takes me around the compound then to the falls.
As we get closer to the fall, it cascades down the rocks creating a tremendous splash, the strong water scares off each of us before we gather the courage to get closer.
At the bottom of the cliff, there is a crater lake formed. And here the rocks are very slippery making walking through the waters across the rock very difficult.
Until this time when I had the opportunity to get to Sisiyi falls in Bulambuli about 40 Km along Sironko-Moroto road, I was one of those people who believed that good places’ only existed in the towns.
Following my guide, it became clear for the first time that the towering eucalyptus trees on the edge of the lawn obstructed the falls. The fall constantly, generated a loud roar and sent my entire body into a tremor.
As the water drifted down the granite rock, clouds of spray formed and thickened as it splattered against the shallow bed rock, then glided over innumerable rocks.
This degenerated into gaggling noises, which died as soon as the water touched the two huge rocks at the bottom and turned to a stream. By this time I was completely drenched by the mist.
To many local people, Sisyi has been a source of clean and safe water. However, unlike in most sites around central Uganda, where unusual physical features automatically gain spiritual significance, there is no cultural religious attachment to Sisiyi falls.
Maleza said though that many of the Asians who visit the site believe the Sisiyi water falls are capable of curing emotional ailments, like mending broken marriages, the Bagisu have nothing they talk about.
“Some consider the shallow bottom of the falls a place for abolution that cleanses them off misfortune as well as delivering a vision for the future,” Wetaka said
She said the water at the lower end of the falls is ice-cold, close to freezing point.
Sisiyi Falls is found in eastern Uganda in Bulambuli District, northeast of Sironko and Mbale. The waterfall lies on the edge of Mt Elgon National Park that straddles the Uganda-Kenya border. With a cool climate than most of the country, Sisiyi Falls is a nice place to unwind, relax and literally chill out away from the hustle and bustle of the towns and cities. Sisiyi offers bird watching, trekking to the mainstream river fall, climbing along the rock to the top of about 110 metre high fall, hiking around the local area and visiting other smaller local waterfalls within Bugisu.