THE ADRENALIN CENTRE OF EAST AFRICA
JINJA town stands beside the sole outflow from lake Victoria, a location that john speke proclaimed in 1862 to be the source of river Nile, thus settling the mystery of this iconic river that dated back to the time of the ancient Egyptians.
Today, the source attracts thousands of visitors each year.some are drawn by a sense of history and a fondness for geography. Others are lured by the knowledge that discovering the headwaters of the Nile is considerably more comfortable and entertaining than it was in 1862. Many of Jinja’s fine old Asian and British buildings have been restored as restaurants and hotels, while the river banks can be enjoyed with equipment as basic as a set of golf clubs.
The prospect of adventure still persists, however, and the source of the mighty river can also be explored with kayaks, white water rafts, jet boats, quad bikes, mountain bikes, on horse backs, on foot and on the original ‘African Queen’ at spectacular Kalagala falls.
CLIMATE: The Nile corridor enjoys good weather all year round.
LANDSCAPE: Below its outlet from Lake Victoria, the Nile descends between high, cultivated banks over a series of rapids marked by forested mid-channel islands.
CULTURE AND PEOPLE: The Nile at Jinja divides two tribes, the Baganda on the west bank and the Basoga on the Eastern, Jinja side. The Nile is of great cultural importance to both, with rituals being performed at shrines at the Bujjagali Falls and Kalagala Falls.
JINJA: Relaxation, history and adventure: Thanks to a combination of high octane activities and relaxing excursions, descent hotels and restaurants, pleasant scenery and an enduring historical significance, the Jinja Nile is one of Uganda’s main tourism destinations.
The town is located on a plateau above the Nile as it funnels out of lake Victoria. For many visitors, enduring memories of the town are of the bicycle taxis playing their trade along the flat main streets, and the view across the golf course towards the river from the Nile crescent, a road lined by fine 1950’s mansions.
Seven kilometers north of Jinja, the pace of life is very different at Bujagali Falls, a location firmly established as East Africa’s adventure tourism epicenter. Each year thousands of tourists visit the falls simply to stand on the banks and watch 1.8 million litres of water per second churning over the rock ledges between the mid-river islands. In addition, however, Bujagali hosts a constant stream of tourists, backpackers and overland truckers seeking a more interactive experience, namely travelling over this and numerous other rapids in a white water raft. For, since it was first negotiated in 1996, the 30km section of the Nile north of Jinja has become renowned as one of the world’s finest tracts of white water.
The thrill lies in the series of high grade rapids-mostly four and five –and a consistently high volume of water in the river compared with other top rafting destinations.
Rafting is no longer the only high; other activities keep the adrenalin flowing, such as kayaking, tubing, quad biking, jet biking, jet boating and a 44-metre bungee jump over the river. The menu offers mild as well as wild options. Family boat trips, sand owner cruises, horse riding and mountain biking provide an opportunity for gentle explorations on water and dry land. For movie buffs, the 60th anniversary of the classic movie ‘The African Queen’ is being celebrated on the source of the Nile this year with the restoration and launch in april at kalagala falls of the original steam-powered boat from the film.
In 2011 a new hydro power dam will open on the river to submerge the Bujagali falls. Seven of the original rapids on the upper stretch of the river are now no longer used for rafting and will be submerged as a result of the dam later in the year, including the well known Bujagali falls.
Rafting, however, will continue from new embarkation points below the dam. Improved road access allows rafting operators to access this lower action-packed section of the Nile, with just as enthralling rapids, guaranteed to endorse the river’s status as one of the best one day white water rafting trips in the world.
MABIRA FOREST: Mabira forest, between Kampala and Jinja, offers a taste of tropical forest just an hour from the capital. Central Uganda’s largest forest reserve offers guided and unguided forest walks, specialist birding and mountain biking.
ACCOMMODATION: jinja town offers upmarket guest houses and mid-range and budget hotels. Bujagali falls has backpacker accommodation and mid range tented camp while, upriver, superior lodges overlook the over time rapid and Kalagala falls. Mabira forest has an upmarket lodge and back parker accommodation.
TRAVEL: Jinja is 80km east of Kampala on a tarmac road. Travel time is about two hours.