Ssezibwa Falls is located 32 kilometers away from Kampala city along the main road between Kampala and Jinja in the District of Mukono. The Ssezibwa falls are a result of water squeezing through narrow opening of rocks and dropping at great speed (17 meters) into a large pool that is about 14 meters deep. The area around the falls are one of best places to go for relaxation after a long wildlife safari in Uganda or before visiting the source of the Nile river for activities like Whitewater rafting or bungee jumping. The name Ssezibwa is a local idiom referring to something endless. The Ssezibwa falls are also considered an important cultural and spiritual site for the Baganda people. They also one of the top things to see in Uganda. The site is under the administration of the Buganda culture and tourism department
The Ssezibwa falls are characterized by several rocks with sharp edges and a large pool below. From the falls, the river Ssezibwa flows all the way to Lake Kyoga. The area around the falls is home to small primates like Vervet and red-tailed monkeys. Snakes like the African cobra, green mambas and horned adder also call the place home. Other animals include otters, tadpoles, mongooses and wild cats.
The Ssezibwa falls are an important part of Bugandas history, culture and beliefs. This cultural importance adds to the mystery and attractiveness of the falls. The Baganda believe in the supernatural powers of the river Ssezibwa. A Buganda Legend has it that a woman (Nakangu Tebatuusa) had an issue with her husband (Nsubuga Sebwaata) and left her marital home to her parents. Her dad told her to go back to her husband and sort out their marital issues. She was escorted by her mother who left her close to her home. As she approached her marital home, she got tired and as she rested, gave birth to birth to twins in form of water. He husband found her after being led by a man who had seen her go to the bush. They saw a pool of water flowing which became the two rivers named Bwanda and Sezibwa.
At birth Bwanda flowed towards the East to Nyenga while Sezibwa flowed towards the west meeting many obstacles. He was helped by a spirit (Nalongo Nnkubo) through the obstacles. This Spirits settled in the area around the waterfalls and shrines where built to worship them. Apart from Nnalongo Kkubo other gods include Walumbe (god of death and life), Musoke (Rains), Ddungu (hunting), Kibuuka (war), Musisi (earthquakes) and Mukasa (fertility, wealth and good health). Because of this legend, twins are highly valued in Buganda. Their birth is looked upon as a special blessing and rituals were performed to appease the gods. The parents are given special names like Salongo (Father) or Nalongo (Mother). It was tradition for everyone passing close to the waterfalls to throw stones into the water for blessings.
The Kings (Kabakas) of Buganda used to come to this place to seek blessings and good health. Kabaka Mwanga planted a wild olive tree known as Mwanga tree while on a journey between two of his palaces in 1889. This tree is over 100 years old. He was spell-bound by the natural beauty of the waterfalls and decided to stay in the area for some time with his servants. While leaving, he planted a tree to honor the gods of the falls. Cultural. Later King Muteesa II also planted a tree as a mark of respect and recognition of the spiritual importance of the waterfalls and river Ssezibwa. King Ronald Mwenda Mutebi II paid a visit the place in 2002 to commission it as one of Bugandas important tourism sites.
The kings aside, people from all over Uganda still flock to the place to seek blessings from the gods for their health, jobs, children, business and families. The medicine men (traditional healer) invoke the gods or use local herbs to cure diseases, toothache, stomach upsets and skin diseases. Sacrifices to win the favor of the gods may include coffee beans, eggs, local beer, chicken or animals like sheep and goats. The animals and chicken are killed on top of the falls and then dropped down to appease the gods and feed Ssezibwa. Do not be shocked if you find dead animals at the foot of the falls.
It is interesting to note that although these cultural practices thrive here, the Anglican Church owns some land close to the waterfalls. Christians come to the area for retreats and meditation. Baptism services are performed in the same waters. You might be interested in an article about the top heritage sites in Uganda. We have an amazing 1 day Jinja city tour package that covers Ssezibwa falls and all the other interesting activities within Jinja.
How to reach Ssezibwa Falls?
How does one reach the falls the capital Kampala? From Kampala, the distance to the Sezibwa Waterfalls is about 30km. Once you join the Junction heading to the falls, the road is made of murram. You need a good 4 Wheel Drive Car to go through this rough patch especially during the rainy season. You need to drive slowly and remain observant so as not to bypass the main junction leading to the falls. There is a signpost showing the direction to the Ssezibwa River Resort but it is so easy to miss it.
The first thing that strikes you after passing through the main gate (made from reeds) is the beautiful scenery and gentle sounds of the waterfalls. The area is full of trees and is relatively unspoiled. As you move further inside the facility you not only spot the waterfalls but also a bridge under which the river flows downstream. The bridge offers arguably the best spot to view the falls and take photos. Across the bridge are rocks and more trees standing on well-manicured grass. All these combine to create a great atmosphere for relaxation.
Activities around the Ssezibwa Falls
The Ssezibwa waterfalls are a great place for relaxation over the weekend or during a holiday break. It is close to the capital city Kampala and offers a cool and serene environment. Moreover, its cheap compared to Ugandas other destinations. Those who are coming from whitewater rafting in Jinja or visiting the Eastern Districts of Uganda can stop by the falls to rest and marvel at the clear waters. The other activities are:
The management of the facility discourages swimming in the beautiful pool after the falls especially for those who arent good in swimming. I suspect that there have been some deaths here. If you are an experienced swimmer and want to play with nature, then no one will stop you. I mean who can discourage you from plunging into these waters after completing more difficult tusks like bungee jumping and whitewater rafting in Jinja.
If you are looking for a place to take great photos, then the Ssezibwa falls could just be the place you are looking for. Apart from the waterfalls, the beautiful green environment, rocks and trees look good on the camera. You could take photos while playing games within the gardens across the bridge or of the monkeys during the nature walks.
Hiking and Climbing Rocks:
This involves a hike on top of the fall where you will be able to see the River Sezibwa forcefully flowing down the rocks and escaping through the dense trees and bushes. The hike may be challenging for those who are not fit but the final reward is great views of the waterfalls and surrounding scenery. You may even spot lizards and other creatures along the way.
The area surrounding the Ssezibwa waterfalls is covered by a forest which is a sanctuary to over 50 bird species. Birders will find the place very amazing. Just at the foot of he falls one can spot African Finfoot and the Long-tailed Cormorant enjoying a swim. The other species within and around the falls include the African Finfoot, African Grey Hornbill, African Paradise Fly Catcher, Ashy Fly Catcher, Black-necked Weaver, Blue-spotted Wood Dove, Bronze Mannikin, Dark-capped Bulbul, Emerald Cuckoo, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Osprey, Great Blue Turaco, Green Crombec, Green Hylia Woodland Kingfisher, Grey-backed Carmaroptera, Grey-headed Negrofinch, Grey-headed Sparrow, Hadada Ibis, Little Greenbul, Lizard Buzzard, Olive-bellied Sunbird, Red-bellied Paradise-Flycatcher, Red-chested Sunbird, Red-eyed Dove, Red-faced Crombec, Red-headed Malimbe, Ross Turaco, Shining Blue Kingfisher, Speckled Mousebird,Striped Kingfisher, Superb Sunbird, Tambourine Dove, Toro Olive Greenbul, Velvet Mantled Drongo, Vieillots Black Weaver, Western Nicator, White headed Sawwing, White-browed Scrub Robin, White-spotted Flufftails, White-throated Bee-eater, Yellow Fronted Canary, Yellow Wagtail, Yellow-fronted Canary, Yellow-White-eye, Black and White Mannikin.
Mukono Nature Walks
This is arguably the most attractive activity after viewing the beautiful falls. The surrounding forests are the first place to go to. The main trees types are bamboo, Muvule, Musizi, Mahogany, fig, Eucalyptus and Ebony trees. The area also has a lot of bushes and shrubs. With the help of a local Guide, you will also spot more birds, butterflies and small primates. The walk can be prolonged to include visits to local farms and plantations (sugarcane and tea) in the surrounding areas. International tourists are charged about $4. This amount is used to pay the Guide and the balance for forest conservation efforts.
Village Walks: There are four villages in the vicinity Ngogwe, Madudu, Wamala and Kungu. Intentional tourists who come to the sight often wish to have close encounters with the local villagers to experience life in an African home. Students from different schools in Uganda also choose this place as a perfect ground for field work and research. This walk may cost 10,000 Uganda shillings per person.
Before Christianity and other forms of religion became widespread in Uganda, the local people had their traditional religions. Many shrines where built to allow people connect to their dead ancestors and gods. Jajja Ssezibwa Shrine still remains popular and is located just next to the beautiful waterfalls. Those who are interested in learning more about the ancient cultural practices of the people of Buganda can visit the shrines to learn about their ancient gods and spiritual beings. The shrine itself is said to have several objects of spiritual importance including pots, bark cloth, spears, beans, calabashes, cowrie shells and other fetishes. Smoke can be seen rising from the bottom of the falls as sacrifices are made to the water and other gods. Women are not allowed to enter inside the shrine itself (built inside a cave). Only men who havent had sexual intercourse the night before are allowed. If you are a Christian, a Muslim or of another denomination, you should really think twice if this is the place you want to go.
Ssezibwa Falls Picnics and camping:
The beautiful green gardens around the falls are perfect for picnics, small family parties and merry making without disturbing others. You can set up a picnic site under one of the tall trees and enjoy the cool breeze, watch the amazing waterfalls, play games as you have good time with family or friends. Those interested in camping will find the neatly mowed grounds after the bridge perfect. Camping close to the Ssezibwa falls offers a cool environment with beautiful sounds of birds and primates. Drinks and food can be got from the Ssezibwa Falls Resort but we recommend that you come with you own to avoid being disappointed by the poor services in the place. Please note that you will be camping with some local folks who come to visit the shrines.
Information about visiting the Ssezibwa Falls
The Entrance fee is about 10,000 Uganda shillings ($3).
The Ssezibwa falls are opened throughout the year but if you wish to experience the full force of the falls, you need to visit during the rainy season.
Unfortunately like in the case of the Sipi Falls in Kapchorwa, the facility is not well managed. Its a pity especially because there is a huge potential in the place if the management woke up and became more innovative. The place has no restaurant and the only hotel there is not of high quality. I am sure that if they improved on a few things here and there, the place would draw in more visitors and money. Visitors who wish to spend a day or two in this unspoiled environment while also expecting great food and high quality services.
To visit the Ssezibwa falls, contact safari vacations and travel services, confirm with us the dates you intend to visits the falls and confirm the payments, as we can tailor the package with other activities to much your interests.