“Forward, Forward, Hold… GET DOWN” our guide Tutu yells as the water beneath us begins to disappear. We tuck our paddles in and hold on tight as we tip forward and plunge down into the rough water below. No matter how tight I think I’ve closed my mouth, the water finds a way in and as we surface a collective sputtering can be heard. Miraculously, we managed to stay inside the raft- quite the feat considering those aboard the other 9 rafts found themselves thrown out into the crushing waves.
The Nile River is the longest river in the World, made up of the White Nile that originates in Uganda’s Lake Victoria and the Blue Nile that begins in Lake Turkana in Ethiopia. The two meet up in Sudan before flowing through Egypt and out to the Mediterranean Sea after travelling a distance of over 6,600 km.
Uganda’s White Nile is known for its excellent white water rafting, so while I was here I decided try it out. I’d never been rafting before, but figured the Nile would be the perfect place to start! You might as well go big or go home right?
My trip to Uganda was a short, spontaneous one. I landed at the Entebbe Airport having no idea what I was going to do or where I was going to sleep that night! Since it was already 9pm, I got a taxi to take me to the first hostel I found in my lonely Planet East Africa guide and hoped there’d be room.
The Backpackers Hostel, located about 10 minutes from downtown Kampala, was great and had a couple cheap beds left. The hostel had pamphlets for various Ugandan activities including going rafting with ADRIFT.
So the following morning, I took a boda boda into Kampala to catch Adrift’s free shuttle bus to Jinja. A boda boda is a slightly terrifying motorbike, with no helmets, that weaves in and out of the congested Kampala morning traffic. I quickly learned that everything in Africa is an adventure!
It’s said that Uganda is where the East African savannah meets the West African jungle and although the drive from Kampala to Jinja was only about an hour and a half, the scenery was varied and beautiful.
Everything is so green here as you go from Kampala which is relatively modern to areas where the only houses are mud huts.
Jinja has some of the world’s best white water rafting. The town is found on the shores of Lake Victoria and is home to the Nile Brewery- which makes my favourite East African beer.
One of Jinja’s main attractions is The Source of the Nile, a beautiful park on the banks of the Nile River.
It’s also home to a bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the memorial garden and a little canteen, where you can enjoy a Nile beer and some fries while watching hilarious old school music videos.
We arrived at the Adrift starting point and got all our equipment on.
Once we were dressed for our wild ride, we were sorted into boats and headed out into the Nile to practice our paddling and go over the safety procedures, like how to get back into the raft if you are thrown out!
After our short training ended, we paddled out into the Nile to start our 9 rapid, 31 km journey!
One of the first big rapids we went over was Bujagli Falls. This serious of large rapids is one of Uganda’s natural beauties and a favourite tourist site. While it may be beautiful to look at, I definitely think it’s a lot more fun to raft over it!
Five rapids later, we pulled up to Wakisi ”Lunch” island to eat and found a delicious picnic lunch of sandwiches, potato salad, juice and delicious fresh pineapple waiting for us.
After touring around the island, with full bellies, we headed back out for 45mins of flat water and hopped out for a swim as we digested our lunch. Unfortunately at this point, the beautiful sun disappeared and before we knew it, we were in the middle of serious downpour. Luckily, it only lasted about 20 minutes and by the time we got to the second waterfall of the day the sun came back out.
I can’t believed I rafted over not one but two waterfalls on this trip!
Rafting along was a beautiful way to see the river. The shoreline was lush green with little villages set up all along it. The locals who were out fishing or doing laundry always stopped to wave at us as we passed by.
There were tons of birds along the river, but there are no longer any hippos or crocodiles. Tutu said they’ve all been scared out of this area, but if we went up north we’d see 100’s of both along the banks of the Nile. That would be cool to see, but not something I’d want to be rafting through!
The very last rapid of the day is called “The Bad Place.” It’s the biggest serious of rapids by far, made up of category 3-6 rapids. It’s HUGE. You actually have to get out of the raft and walk past the first part since there’s no way you’d make it through the category 6 part of it. It was a wild ride, but again, we managed to stay in the boat. Apparently our team was a group of beginner experts, as we were the only raft that made it through all nine rapids without falling out!
The cost for the day was $125, which included transport there and back, rafting, gear, lunch and beer/soda after- so you definitely get your money’s worth with this company and the Adrift guides make sure you have a fabulous day out on the Nile.
Once my heart rate slowed down after the adrenaline rush of making it through “The Bad Place” we paddled our raft to shore and headed up to the bus to celebrate surviving our rafting adventure. With unlimited beer and soda, team TUTU toasted to our success with a none other than a NILE beer!
It was an incredible day and it’s pretty cool to say that I rafted down the Nile River!