Thrilling white water rafting on the Nile in Uganda

The waters of the Nile flow from Lake Victoria at Jinja, Uganda. Before its 6700-kilometre journey to the Mediterranean Sea in Egypt. Several whitewater raft guides are operating near the town of Jinja that offers day trips. Down a 20 kilometre stretch of the White Nile River through eight world-class rapids. These rapids are in the classes V, IV, III and II. By a few of the rapids, you can choose between classes, depending on how much of a thrill seeker you are. When I was in Uganda, I decided to go for a day of white water rafting on this might river.

I had chosen to go with Adrift. In addition to a lead guide in each safety raft with you. There is a separate safety boat with several guides and three safety kayaks per raft in the water with you. Besides this big array of safety measures the package also included a videographer and photographer. They were travelling by their own kayaks and went ahead of the groups to photograph and film everything that happened on the river that day. When the rapids became too much for you, there was always the option to join the safety raft downstream.

Time to go rafting!

On the morning of the rafting trip, I got picked up by a driver from Uganda and brought to the location. When we arrived there was a nice breakfast waiting for us while we were listening to the safety briefing. I started to get really nervous by now! After everybody had their gear fitted we headed to the river to practice some of the safety measures. They showed us how we could help each other back in the boat, what to do when the boat flips and the proper positions to sit in while going to a rapid.

Time to head into the rapids! There wasa nice an slow start with the rapid called ‘jaws’ with is an class II or III, depending on the time of the day. After a short paddle you will have a rapid called ‘Pyramid’ this is an class 2 as well. But not long after that the easy times are over. It is time for the first class V rapid of the day! And what kind of one, the ‘overtime’ is an which is a complex water fall, with an exciting drop depending on the water levels of the day.

For me this meant a 5 meter drop down! And guess what… we went backwards! And as I was sitting on the front row, I made have made a backwards headrol. But I was lucky enough to have stayed inside the boat. Not much time to recover because rapid four of the day is coming up, this rapid is called ‘retrospect’ and is a class IV. After this long rapid, which is followed by a rollercoast like train of waves. You mastered the first part of the nile!

Time for a break

After the first four rapids of the day, there is a long and calm stretch of river in front of you. The ultimate place to sit back, relax and have lunch. Lunch is provided by Adrift, and while enjoying the sandwiches and fruits you have time to take in the scenery and wildlife on the mighty Nile. But do not get too comfortable, before you know it the next rapid is showing up. After a short paddle the rapid ‘Bubugo’ another IV class to wake you up from the lunch break in the sun. Just after this rapid, you can have a look at the Wildwaters Lodge. A breathtaking accommodation in the midst of tropical jungle on an island in the middle of the Nile. Sounds like a dream right?

When approaching the Itanda Fall you will have to disembark the rafts. To go around the grade VI rapids and waterfalls. These are not suitable for raft, which makes it the perfect moment to give your legs a little stretch. After carrying the rafts over the rocks and past the rapids it is time to get back in and on the water. With the next rapid coming op ‘the bad place’ another class V rapid who is true to its name. The day is coming towards an end. There is only one rapid left for the day and that one is ‘vengeance’, a grade IV to finish the day properly.

Defeated by the Nile

And right when I thought we made it through the day without flipping the rafts, it happened. We got stuck between the waves and there was no more saving ourselves. The Nile defeated us and we went under. The exact thing I feared the most when going rafting. And yes, the first few seconds were scary, we were in the mids of the rapid and the water was very wild. But the safety kayaks reached us so quickly and pulled us out of the rapid. The second the kayak reached me everything was okay and I was happy this happened. The rafting experience was complete! Time for the BBQ that was waiting for us on the land. A nice way to end the day and chat with the others that joined me that day.

Where to stay and how to get there

There are many options for where to stay. You can decide to stay in Jinja or Kampala to guest houses and luxury lodges along the river. They offer free shuttles from Kampala to Jinja. I have stayed in both the luxurious Wildwaters Lodge, located on Kalagala Island in the middle of the river. And the Kagala falls overland camp, located on the edge of the river. Something suitable for every price class. You will arrive in Uganda at Entebbe International Airport, Uganda’s main airport. Which is bout three hours southwest of Jinja. Driving in Uganda, especially in Entebbe en Kampala, is not advised and it would be best to arrange a shuttle service to either Jinja or Kampala. From where you will be picked up by Adrift to go rafting. Also, make sure your trip insurance covers both whitewater rafting and ground transportation in Uganda.

Is rafting save?

Rafting will never be 100% safe, but it is not as dangerous as some people or the media shows. Roughly on every 100.000 people that go rafting, there will be one fatality and about 150 injuries. Which mostly happen either by the peddles or when falling out of the boat. Mostly the rocks underneath the water can be of danger. But when comparing the injuries to other sports, such as horseriding, hiking or surfing the injury rate is much lower for rafting.

So, rafting is fairly safe. But rafting in the Nile is even safer than for example rivers in America or New Zealand. This is because the Nile River is very deep. So when you fall out of the boat, there is a minimal to no chance that you will hit rocks as they are simply much lower. This makes rafting on the Nile in Uganda extremely suitable for inexperienced rafters, like me. Do you want to see how my rafting went? Take a look at the video!

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