River Nile White Water Rafting – Inside Out Experience

ChimpReports' Paul Mugume (Front Right), Paul Ampurire (Front Left) and other journalists on a rafting excursion in Jinja

In his 1908 book, pill ‘My African Journey’, buy more about former British Prime Minister, salve Sir Winston Churchill referred to Uganda as the Pearl of Africa.

Sir Churchill’s conclusion was inspired by his impression of the East African country as an example of splendor in its ‘variety of form and color,’ its ‘profusion of brilliant life’ and the many exciting features that Uganda is gifted with.

Notable among Uganda’s rousing features are a variety of wildlife, a rich culture and cultural sites, food, lakes, rivers, hotels and many other attractions that are of interest to tourists, both domestic and foreign.

Uganda is also home to the source of the world’s longest river, the Nile flowing North and adventures including white water rafting, bungee jumping, bird watching among many other activities.

When I showed up for White Water rafting, I didn’t exactly know what I was headed for. In my mind, I thought it would be a smooth ride on the Nile with my camera; shooting photos of the different bird species and probably live on periscope via my phone.

In a hot midmorning of Saturday, December 17th, we arrive at Kirugu site, at the bank of River Nile in Jinja District. The site is about 30 minutes away from Jinja town and it’s the starting points for rafting adventures.

Robert Wafula (Roberto), our Rastafarian rafting guide asks us to leave our phones and cameras in our bags, remove trousers, shirts and stay barefooted.  We wear head gears and life jackets; grab raft paddles ascending down to where the boats were parked.

My advice, if you’re ever going to do this, is to choose wisely. Because the next thing I knew, I was upside down in an enraged patch of the Nile, plenty of fast-flowing water above me; all those beautiful birds and vegetation along the banks had pugnaciously disappeared from my memory.

Strong rapids at The Bad Place, just below Itanda falls.

Strong rapids at ‘The Bad Place,’ just below Itanda falls.

I couldn’t remember how many people we were on the boat, or even the simple fact that Museveni has ruled Uganda for over three decades. The only thing I remembered was that I needed air to breathe and obviously the water I had swallowed was enough.

That was at the lower end of Bubugo falls which are classified grade four. Our boat had capsized and Roberto was shouting; “don’t let go of the rope; try to relax.”

That was towards the middle of the 12km journey of adventure on the Nile. Earlier, we made a stop in the calm waters where our guide asked us to leave the boat to swim. At that point, Roberto said, the waters were at least 15 metres deep.

Almost all of us on the boat were hesitant to leave; scared for our lives but the guide assured us of safety saying the life jackets were enough to keep us floating on the waters.

On our boat, were a team of six journalists, three from The Observer, one sports journalist from local television, NTV, and from ChimpReports were Paul Ampurire and yours truly.

Our whole team was made up of over 70 journalists from different fields and different media houses; distributed to different raft boats. Rafting was one of the different activities we undertook during Multichoice Uganda’s media party which climaxed with Barbeque, lots of drinks and a performance from dancehall star, Peter Miles.

As we slowly entered the waters, hands clung to the rope on the sides of the boat, waters at first were really cold and for starters, that gave us confidence even as we went further. The guide ran us through commands given while on the ride and we practiced many of them before reaching the first rapids.

River Nile separates the two districts of Jinja in Busoga Kingdom and Kayunga in Buganda Kingdom. The first rapids are shared between the two districts.


Named Dead Dutchman, the rapids are classified level six and hence unsafe for rafting. Their name was derived from a Dutch man who died trying to check them out.

“He was using the air-inflated life jacket. When he flipped, the jacket burst. He was left helpless and died,” said Roberto.

We passed on the sides dodging the rapids whose waters seemed to defy laws of physics with giant, frothy waves crashing into one another at impossible angles.

Upper end of Bubugo rapids. Our boat capsized at this place

Upper end of Bubugo rapids. Our boat capsized at this place

Just after Dead Dutchman were Grade five Overtime rapids which consist of two channels, Retrospect in the Busoga and Sharp Suwi in Buganda. We passed by Sharp Suwi and being the first, all the fear in me got washed out.

Everything felt normal and I could paddle harder as we sailed through the calm waters.

All we could see along the banks were miles and miles of pristine woodland, no garbage, no development, no fences, just cormorants and monkeys.

Locals have free access to the river since it’s not fenced and some were seen swimming with in the waters.

Different bird species including African Open-billed Storks, Green-backed Herons, Rock Pratencols, among many other swimming species could be seen on the rocks and at the banks.


Towards the upper end of Itanda falls, we got off the boat and walked on the river bank before getting back on the water at the Dead place.

“Last year, one of our colleagues died at Itanda falls. I dread this place,” said one of the journalists from The Observer, whom we had on board.

The bad place has two sections; on the Buganda side, there is 50 percent chance of the boat flipping while on the Busoga side, the chance of flipping is 100 percent.

We took the side of 50 percent flip and luckily or should I say unluckily, our boat never capsized although others did.

One of our fellows whose boat flipped lost grip of the rope but was quickly rescued by the guides who moved in Kayaks. He however sustained some bruises from scratches on rocks.

And like the name suggests, The Bad Place, indeed was pretty bad.

But the Nile; that historic source of life spurting 4,000 miles across Africa to the Mediterranean Sea, was exceedingly beautiful.


The water was warm and clean, perfect for getting dunked into.

The other guides, who were moving in beautiful-looking Kayaks were funny, skilled and made the rest of us feel safe.

Uganda is really a wonderful place to experience Africa and I wouldn’t for even a second hesitate to agree with Sir Churchill that the small landlocked country is really the Pearl of Africa.

Our full-day trip was guided by tour company, Adrift which started in 1996 and claims to be Uganda’s first rafting company – and rafting is just a piece of it.

Rafting is just the beginning of Uganda’s charms in the Eastern District of Jinja. If you want more adventure, Adrift can take you bungee jumping, family floating trips and a trip around Jinja town itself is satisfying.

The river guides serve up tasty food and barbecue in the evening with a cold beer for those that would enjoy one.


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