Words by Shane Quinnell, Photos by Shane Quinnell and Raft Uganda and Videos by Tarryn Quinnell unless otherwise credited.
My heart doesn’t pound too hard too often but it is POUNDING now. I can hear it in my ears. “Forward,” comes the command! We stroke. Forward we go. I can feel our speed increase as we move into the main current. The background drone of thousands of litres of White, both in name and colour, Nile River water pummelling into submerged rocks and itself grows until it becomes a deafening ROOOOAAR!.
“FORWARD!” The water changes. The boat rocks. Violently. Water sprays. “GET DOWN!!”
With that command we hit a maelstrom of white madness. Down a chute straight into a 3 meter wall of white water. Our boat from Raft Uganda, which previously looked and felt very substantial, is tossed with a ferocity which rocks us all. The boat spins like a feather in the breeze. Bang! We stop. On the edge of a waterfall. Oh bugger…
Slowly the current grabs hold again, the boat moves. Without warning the current attacks, pulling us into the waterfall… backwards. Oh shit!
We all grab on for dear life as we hit free fall. We hit the water. I hit Tarryn. The water hits us. in the face, up the nose, on our heads, everywhere. We are on the verge of being submerged, our entire raft full to the brim with the Nile River. We are stuck in the water regurgitating at the bottom of the falls, known in white water terms as a hole. The water keeps coming until eventually as if the Nile decides we have taken enough of a pounding, it lets us go. We realise we are at the mercy of this river.
Somehow, despite the craziness, we are all still there. In one piece, in the raft. We didn’t capsize. WHOOOOPPP! The built up tension comes out. “That was fricken AWESOOOOME!” We scream in relief and excitement. That was the first rapid done, three more to go!
“This part of the Nile is one of the safest places to raft. Unlike the Zambezi there are no crocodiles, hippos or other dangerous things.”
When people think of the Nile they generally think of Egypt, the pyramids and Tutan Khamun. They also often associate the river with giant man eating Nile crocodiles. Very few thoughts are spared to the source and what can be found there. In this case Uganda’s second biggest town; Jinja, which is home to the source of the Nile, some absolutely BAD-ASS rapids and Raft Uganda.
As usual, the generalisations are not true; as our guide Juma proudly told us, “this part of the Nile is one of the safest places to raft. Unlike the Zambezi there are no crocodiles, hippos or other dangerous things.” While technically this is correct, some folk may consider hitting the Grade 5 rapids found on the way down the river in a blow-up rubber boat slightly risky. Nevertheless, it was great to see our guide was confident. Having worked on that section of river for over 20 years and visibly possessing great skills, he had reason to be.
As an aside you may be interested and saddened to hear there were once crocs in that part of the river but no more. The story there is actually quite crazy and goes something like this. During his reign, Uganda’s infamous 20th century dictator; Idi Amin, used to take disabled people and those he disliked to the river at lunch time. As he ate his food he would order the people to be fed to his reptilian friends as personal lunchtime entertainment. Unfortunately, as the people could not get rid of their tyrant leader they instead exterminated his favourite vacuum cleaners; the crocodiles. In all honesty, while I am saddened by the story, at the time I was rafting the river I was secretly ecstatic to know they were not around.
Our half day experience spent rafting down the Nile River with Raft Uganda was simply awesome. The Raft Uganda crew, from our raft guide Juma to the safety kayakers, were super proficient and very experienced. We had an insanely cool day out meeting the white water of the White Nile head on. Definitely something for your bucket list!
Check out the awesome video of the epic White Nile action!
How to Paddle the White Nile Waters…
For those looking for something to get the blood pumping and experience an African adventure, rafting the Nile is a GREAT thing to do. Here are some details to save you time in trying to figure out how it all works.
Location: Trips leave from Jinja, Uganda. Only an hour or two from Kampala and worth a visit.
Contacts: We went with locally owned and operated Raft Uganda (http://raftuganda.com/, firstname.lastname@example.org). All prices on their website but in general there are three options; half day ($125), full day ($140) and a family float for the little ones. Both the half and full day trips do multiple Grade 5 rapids. We were really happy with the service and expertise and would happily recommend Raft Uganda.
Enjoy the ride!!
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