An Experience of Sheer Thrill: Abseiling and Rock Climbing at Sipi Falls

An abseiler poses for a photo before he descends down the Sipi falls cliff on a rope.

Undoubtedly, Sipi Falls has become a premium tourism destination largely because of activities like abseiling, rappelling as well as what many know as rock climbing.

The falls are situated in Eastern Uganda in Kapchorwa district, on the edge of Mount Elgon National Park.

On arrival at the peak of the rock which is the starting point, stood a couple of local and international tourists who had come to have fun and above all catch a glimpse of the rock climbing exercise from the main water falls.

With a local guide, we walked through the jungle and finally arrived at the top of the main waterfalls where we met a team of highly trained young adventurous Ugandan guides. These were ready to take us through this mind blowing and thrilling adventure.

Seeing one female tourist descend, my heart skipped and I am gripped in fear, in my heart I thought ‘If all these people are here for this, then I will not risk or even attempt to try’.

To many, abseiling may sound new but it’s a sport or activity involving descending down the foot of a steep rock or other near-vertical surface using a doubled rope coiled round your body and fixed on a highpoint as you start the adventure.

Looking at my photo bank, I am taken off by the moments people when cheering and daring to abseil without fear or favour. The cowards kept miles away as the adventure went on but was cut short by rain drizzle.

A day at Sipi falls is one that is worthwhile and the memories will stick. And if you are one that loves extreme sport and to have an adrenaline rush, then abseiling is a perfect fit.

“I travelled all the way from Kampala to come and experience the true meaning of abseiling in my own country and not this business of just being told” said Nyakato Ainesasi Marcella as she got dressed up for the abseil.

Adding that, on reaching the site and seeing several people go abseiling, she was driven by curiosity to give it a shot.

“I usually see these things on TV, I promised to try out my luck and now, I am here today to take on this breath taking exercise”.

Marcella revealed that when she got at the peak where the falls pour, she encountered so many local and international tourists all yearning to go down the steep slope of Mulima Hills, said to be one of the most beautiful water falls forming the three falls at Sippi.

“This is something I dreamt of always and going down for me came with a lot of mixed reaction. I was scared but I was also inspired by those who got trolling down on the foot of the rock water falls”.

“In between the raised surface and the bottom line, I felt like my life was over, my heart was skipping, I had to say a little word of prayer. I guess because I could neither make a return nor reach down on time,” Marcella said to me

She recounted that when she opened her eyes, she was 30 metres away from the bottom surface. She hang in between the space where she could feel droplets of water splash her from the wave of the falls.

“My body was wet as fear surrounded me, I had to close my eyes completely because I had lost touch with the rocky surface and this time round, I was simply hanging in space with nowhere to touch or step”.

After a couple of minutes, she finally could hear sounds of young children cheering her up at the foot of the falls. It suddenly occured to her that she had finally made it. It was the end of her exciting yet thrilling adventure.

“It took me ten minutes to comprehend the truth between my start and finishing point. I looked up the falls and could not believe I had made it. Just like giving birth – until the baby is out, the journey is not over because anything can happen”.

Marcella, 22, tells me this day is certainly one that she will live to tell her children and her peers to go try out.

However, abseiling itself isn’t the only tussle. At the bottom, you will have to maneuvre the rocky surface back to the mainland, a journey that took Marcella two full hours to complete. Soon it would start raining but with few options, she aimed for the finishing point.

In our van, we sat waiting for the rain to calm down. As I interact with the driver, two people emerge from the side of a road all wet and dripping. One of them happens to be Marcella and the other is Soyekwo Bob, a tour guide.

According to Soyekwo, the falls are fast becoming a stop spot for many local and international tourists and this is good news for them as a business entity.

However, he is worried that the “materials” available at the site will not be able to accommodate the visitors in the near future.

“Many people tell us they have only watched it in movies but here we do live drills, forget about Bungee jumping and zip lining, abseiling is just more than fun”.

The abseiling process

He revealed that those coming in for abseiling are taken into a process of dressing up in what is termed as “honest dress”.

Simply put, your life depends on this outfit. After being dressed, the system is checked five times to ensure its safety before you embark on the 110 meter-deep abseil.

Whereas a person abseiling can have contact with the rocky surface from the first time he or she is released, it only goes on to 30 metres, the rest of the ninety metres you are on your own, hanging on the surface in what he called flying in between the water falls.

The cheers from onlookers as well as friends is yet another booster that will keep you going. .

After the 110 meters abseil, you land your feet in Kapotigo village where you again gather your breath. Some of these locals will welcome you and offer support while you hike your way back to the top of the falls.

Beneath the falls at Kapotigo village, there is a natural pool where one can go swimming for fun.

That said, it is important that you brace yourself for the cold water with its temperature usually about 10 degrees Centigrade. However, part of the water from the falls is also used by the locals for domestic use.

The Sipi Falls consist of a series of three stunning waterfalls situated ar the foothills of Mount Elgon, near the border with Kenya. The falls are located on the Sipi River that flows from hot springs on top of Mt. Elgon, and at bottom of the mountain, the river encounters high cliffs and numerous rocks thereby creating a series of rapids and the three stunning Sipi waterfalls.




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