White water rafting in Jinja, Uganda

I can’t believe it’s 2018 and we’ve been traveling for three months –  it really feels as if our trip is speeding up. We’ve made our way into Uganda after a month in Kenya and its unbelievable to be here as Uganda was one of the countries I was most excited about visiting.

Known as the adventure-tourism capital of East Africa, Jinja sits on the northern shore of Lake Victoria. It is from Africa’s largest lake that the Nile, the world’s second-longest river after the Amazon, begins it’s journey of 6,800 km through 11 countries to the Mediterranean. Like the majority of mazungus who visit, we were here to raft its rapids.

We’ve been rafting before in Montenegro but those were little rapids and here we would be rafting a mix of grade IV and V rapids. We were mostly incredibly excited but also a little nervous as we headed for the river. Before paddling off we had a thorough safety briefing which included being flipped so we knew what to expect if (or more likely when!) it happened.

There was no messing about with our first rapid, the grade V beast ‘Overtime”. Before we had the chance to think about it we were heading straight for it. Shouts of ‘Paddle, paddle, paddle’ made us do just that as hard as we could before hearing what would quickly become the instruction of the day … ‘Rope, Get down!’ We dropped over the edge of its 4m waterfall and being at the front of the raft we really felt the full force of the water as it swallowed us under for a few seconds before spitting us out. The experience was absolutely exhilarating.

Front-row seat!
And we’re under!

The rapids all have wonderful names, and generally a pretty big personality to go with them, with ‘Vengeance’, ‘Hair of the Dog’ and ‘Nile Special’ a few favourites. We always heard the powerful rumbling sound of the rapids long before we’d see them and under skillful navigation from our guide, the raft bounced it’s way through them amazingly well as we rode some enormous waves and got pounded in the face with water.

Hitting a wall of water!

The crazy-fun rapids continued all morning but in-between there was lots of calm water which gave us time to appreciate the beautiful setting we were in – a wide river, lush forest lining the shore and lots of birds.

After a hectic morning it was time for lunch and as we paddled to shore we noticed a baby crocodile sunning itself on a rock. We really hoped it didn’t have parents, or friends, downstream.

After a tasty lunch, we continued through four more rapids in quick succession. The rest of our slightly nervous group had headed back to Kampala so the guide could now really have fun and we flipped on the 1st rapid. It’s amazing how quickly you’re disorientated and although you know there’s a safety kayaker who will very quickly pick you up, it’s a few terrifying seconds under the water.
On the last rapid we had the choice of staying in or flipping out! With differing opinions and without a minute to think, our awesome guide managed to keep everyone happy and flip me out in an Olympic-style backwards somersault while keeping Catherine in to ride through the huge waves. I floated off down the Nile thinking how ridiculously cool this was!
Going …
Going …

A crate full of cold beers on the truck ride home was the perfect end to an amazing day and an awesome way to end 2017.

ps … completion of a third dam, which is scheduled for July 2018, will flood the post – lunch rapids and it’s unclear what Jinja’s rafting future will be. If you’re keen to visit,  do so before then if at all possible.

Practical Information

Accommodation – we were camping at Nile River Camp in Bujagali, 7 km north of Jinja. The hostel has a magnificent view, fun bar and divine local coffee. It’s run by the incredibly hospitable Dylan and is the type of place you end up staying longer than you’d planned!
View from the hostel

Rafting – The hostel organised our rafting with Nalubale Rafting and they were brilliant. Everyone was super friendly and clearly very skilled. As you would hope, safety is a priority – we had five safety kayakers and a safety boat. A 6th kayaker doubled as the photographer and I thought the free photographs was a really nice touch.

Costs (US $)

  • Camping – 6/person/night
  • Rafting – 140/person. This includes two nights camping,  breakfast, lunch, photographs, all transport and ice-cold beers on the hour drive back

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