On the shores of the River Nile and huge Lake Victoria, Jinja is Uganda’s fourth largest town, having once been the capital city. Its tropical atmosphere and lush vegetation are big attractions, but the main highlight is undisputedly the River Nile. Thought to be the home of the source of the Nile, the world’s largest river spanning Egypt Sudan and Uganda, it holds major spiritual significance for the local people and offers some thrilling grade 5 rapids for us visitors.
Jinja is a compact, low rise town with little historical interest, apart from some interesting Asian architecture from the colonial period. It suffered at the hands of Idi Amin’s government, having once been the industrial heartland, but you can still head out to the leafy suburbs to experience a taste of it in its prime.
For adventure seekers, here you can embark on a thrilling excursion down the Nile, through sets of wild rapids, up to grade 5, interspersed with relaxed sections of beauty where you can sit back and enjoy the picturesque surroundings. Bujagali Falls is perhaps the most famous section - the source of the Nile. Known for the sheer volume of the cascading water rather than the height of the falls, it is here that the force was created to empower the rapids. Thrust into the limelight in recent times, Bujagali Falls was flooded in late 2011 to create a 200-megawatt dam. Owen Falls Dam, created from flooding the impressive Ripon Falls in 1954, was inadequate to meet the rising need for electricity.
A hub for tourism and spirituality, it was not uncommon to see witchdoctors on the lush banks. Now a dam, the waters are calm and peaceful and a place of sacred value to the Busaga people has been submerged. You can still enjoy white water rafting here, although as two major falls Kyabirwa and Big Brother have been submerged, you will be starting further downstream and continue past the previous stop point.
For families there are nice rides avoiding the rapids completely, focussing on the stunning vistas and wonderful biodiversity of the region. There is a startling variety of birdlife, attracted by a multitude of fish, including Nile perch, tilapia and tiger fish, which in turn have a great life in the oxygenated paradise. Listen to the call of fish eagles through the early morning mist, or set out on a canoe at sunset. Jinja has become a hive of activity, with not only white water rafting, but also bungee jumping, wild jet-powered boats up the Nile, quad bike safaris and horseback safaris.
You can hire a fishing boat in the calmer waters down stream and at weekends the Budondo Cultural group provides musical entertainment at Chillington Gate.