Ssezibwa falls in Uganda

Ssezibwa falls are one of the most visited waterfalls in Uganda. A trip top Ssezibwa falls can be included on a Uganda safari tour in the eastern park of Uganda in Jinja as part of the excursion. The Ssezibwa falls are formed as a result of water squeezing through narrow opening of rocks and dropping at a speed of about 17 meters into a large pool that is about 14 meters deep. Most tourists visit the falls as a gate away from home on a weekend as it’s a good relaxing place with beautiful scenery. 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 name Ssezibwa is a local idiom referring to “something endless”. The Ssezibwa falls are also considered an important cultural and spiritual site for the Buganda kingdom and the site is under the administration of the Buganda culture and tourism department thus the Ssezibwa falls are an important part of Buganda’s history, culture and beliefs. This cultural importance of the falls adds to the mystery and attractiveness. The Buganda people in their cultural beliefs believe in the supernatural powers of 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’ home. Her father told her to go back to her husband and sort out their marital issues. She was escorted by her mother who later left her close to her husband’s home. As she approached her marital home, she got tired and decided to rest however, as she rested, she gave birth to twins in form of water. Her husband later found her after being directed by a man who saw her go to the bush. They saw a pool of water flowing which became the two rivers namely 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 called Nalongo Nnkubo through the obstacles and these 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) also settled around the falls. Because of this legend, twins are highly valued in Buganda and their birth is looked up 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.

Ssezibwa falls in Uganda
Water falls

The Kings of Buganda used to come to this place to seek blessings and good health for example 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 honour the gods of the falls. 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 who is the current king of Buganda also paid a visit the place in 2002 to commission it as one of Buganda’s important tourism sites.

Just like the kings of Bunganda did, the local Baganda people also visit the falls to seek blessings from the gods for 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 favour 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.

Tourist activities done around the Ssezibwa Falls

The Ssezibwa waterfalls are a great place for relaxation over the weekend or on holiday for it offers a cool and serene environment. Below are some of the activities one can do while visiting the falls.


Given the serena and cool ambiance around the falls, the Ssezibwa falls are a great place for photography. 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. Most Ugandans do visit the falls for photo shots of marriage proposals, birthday parties and any other kind of celebration that requires great photos.

Rock climbing experience;

The Ssezibwa falls are rocky and climbing 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 a bit challenging to those who are not fit but the final reward is great views of the waterfalls and surrounding scenery.

Birding experience;

The Ssezibwa falls area is surrounded by a forest which is a sanctuary to over 50 bird species. Birders will find the place very amazing for example while at the foot of the falls one can spot African Finfoot and the Long-tailed Cormorant on the water. Other bird 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, Vieillot’s 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.

Ssezibwa falls in Uganda
Uganda Safaris Tours

Nature Walks and Villages walks

Nature walk tours are the most interesting activities at Ssezibwa falls after viewing the beautiful falls. The surrounding forests makes this activity possible along with the existing bushes and shrubs. The main tree species found around the falls include the bamboo, Muvule, Musizi, Mahogany, fig, Eucalyptus and Ebony trees and with the help of the 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.

There are about 4 villages around the falls namely the Ngogwe, Madudu, Wamala and Kungu villages. Some of the visitors who come to the sight wish to have close encounters with the local residents. Students from different schools in Uganda also choose this place as a perfect ground for field work and research.

Cultural Experience:

There are many shrines built to allow local people who still believe in cultural practise to connect with their dead ancestors and gods. Jajja Ssezibwa’s 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 as its built inside a cave. Only men who haven’t 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.

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 Sezibwa falls offers a cool environment with beautiful sounds of birds and primates. Drinks and food can be got from the Sezibwa Falls Resort but you are recommended to 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.

What to note about the Ssezibwa falls before visiting?

Just like any other tourist attraction, Ssezibwa falls has fees required for entry, Adults need about UGX 10,000 while children pay about UGX 5,000 each. Extra activities like photography, nature walks, birding and camping are paid for separately.

The Ssezibwa falls are open for visitors throughout the year however they are best experienced during the rainy season when there is a strong and full force of water fall.

Ssezibwa falls are still underdeveloped in terms of accommodation and meals. There is no restaurant at the falls and visitors have to carry their own food.

How to access Ssezibwa falls?

Driving from Kampala, it’s about 30km away from Kampala city along the main road between Kampala city and Jinja city found in Mukono district. Nearing the falls, you will see a signpost on your right , once you join the Junction heading to the falls, the road is made of murram however, improvised road for also small cars although a 4wheel drive would be best 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 you will see on arrival is the main gate made from reeds, 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 will 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.

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