As a mountaineer, kayaker and explorer, I have kayaked and rafted a few rivers around the world. For me the chance to raft the Nile, the longest river on earth was worth the long wait. I would like to thank Adrift Uganda, for the accommodation, river guide and the friendly faces of all the staff and for making this possible.
After a 45 minute drive along a main road and a secondary road we turned off right down a dirt track for another 4k leading down to the put in at Kirigu, just above the river.
This unexpected purpose built put in site boasted sit down toilets, a covered eating area with benches, a small kitchen and concrete steps down to the river. Staff from a local river side lodge the “Wild Waters Lodge” were on site to serve a cooked breakfast of battered hardboiled egg and beef sausages, washed down with coffee, tea and cold drinks. We were being spoilt.
Breakfast finished, we kitted up with buoyancy aid, helmet and paddle and made our way down the steps to the river below, where the rafts were waiting. Four rafts in total, one safety raft and three for us. Japanese soldiers serving in Sudan with the UN peace keeping force were taking time off and filled two rafts and the third was filled by two Ugandans employed by the local lodge who supplied our food, two EU lobbyist from France and Luxembourg and me along with our river and rafting guide Roberto.
As we climbed aboard the rafts a small flotilla of safety kayaks entered the water, there job to rescue swimming rafters and retrieve paddles as when required. They showed their skills by performing tricks in their kayaks in water that looked far too dangerous and fast to be having fun.
I had imagined the source of the Nile to be a narrow river eventually leading to the gigantic river we all know, but I was wrong. It starts about a mile across as it drains out of Lake Victoria, before it is stopped in its tracks after about 1 kilometre by the Owen Falls Dam. Our put in is downstream about 25 k from the dam at which point the river is at least 500 metres across and flowing slowly on its long journey to Egypt. Using the warm calm flowing water to practice, we flipped the raft to learn the drills needed for the rapids ahead. We paddled slowly until the roar of the fast moving water could be heard ahead, this is the hardest rapid a grade 5 named “Overtime” a waterfall with a drop of about 2 metres after a grade three rapid leading into it. Paddle hard, was the call, followed by down and we all got down, crouching or sitting on the bottom of the raft. The raft was hit from three sides, tossing and bouncing through this mass of tumbling water and then it dipped, and plummeted over the falls, momentarily disappearing in this cauldron of explosive water, then calm, we were through and intact. With a quick click of paddles to salute our success we moved on to our next rapid aptly named “Retrospect”
The gaps between rapids were quite long, but floating on this mighty river offers the chance to see the wonderful animal and birds it has to offer. Otters and Monitor Lizards were busy going about their everyday duties whilst Pied Kingfishers and the majestic Fish Eagle patrolled the skies above our raft looking for lunch. Noisy colonies of weaver birds hung in trees whilst Snake birds and Jacana “Jesus Bird” patrolled the banks and water, on the lookout for food. Local fisherman in homemade dugout canoes fished with hand lines competing against the hundreds of cormorants.
Our guide flipped us at the next rapid “Retrospect” a grade 4 for fun and after climbing back on board after a rough swim, we conquered ” Bubugo” a grade 4 rapid before paddling on to Marubishi Island, known locally as lunch island.
Lunch was served by the same hotel staff delivered to the island by raft.
Wraps filled with chicken salad and avocado, bowls of hot sweet corn soup and cold drinks were ready and waiting all laid out on tables in a covered dining area which again had bench seats and tables and sit down toilets. We were in great hands.
After lunch we paddled “Vengence” grade 3 and “Hair of the Dog” grade 4 with smug smiles as we all stayed in the raft, only to be flipped again at “Kulu Shaker” grade 4 before going on to conquer the last rapid successfully “Nile Special” grade 4.
Ten minutes later after paddling 27 kilometres, we paddled a shore to the take out, where yet again we were treated to changing facilities, toilets, barbeque and a bar, all included in the days rafting. We were certainly with the best rafting company in Uganda.