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In Things To Do, Travel

Rafting the Nile River

JINJA, UGANDA – Nile River Adventures is a must-do white water rafting experience in Uganda. Located in Jinja, a 2-hour drive from the capital of Kampala, Nile River Adventures provides great outdoor activities like rafting, cruises, river boarding, paddle boarding, kayaking, and even safaris.

I did the Grade 5 Full Day Rafting.

My two friends, Ellie, and I booked with Nile River Adventures over the phone and arranged for an early morning pick-up in Kampala at the Nakumatt Oasis Shopping Mall.

We arrived at the Explorers Backpackers where we signed a waiver, paid, and were fitted with life jackets & helmets. In total, there were 8 of us rafting, including our guide. Read the full itinerary here.

Nile River Explorers

Our group about to experience our first fall. A spotter waits at the bottom for anyone who goes overboard.

I’ve gone rafting in rivers in Queenstown, New Zealand and Chiang Mai, Thailand. Both seem like molasses compared to the Nile River…

I cannot think of a scarier moment in my life than when our raft flipped on one of the Grade 5 rapids. Skydiving, bungee jumping, and swimming with sharks all pale in comparison. Just so you know, this is the definition of a Grade 5 rapid according to the International Scale of River Difficulty:

Whitewater, large waves, continuous rapids, large rocks and hazards, maybe a large drop, precise maneuvering. Often characterized by “must make” moves, i.e. failure to execute a specific maneuver at a specific point may result in serious injury or death.

Scared yet? I consider myself a decent swimmer and going under was frightening. During that one flip, I held my last breath and curled into the fetal-position we were taught. It’s suppose to lob you to the surface like a cork until a spotter can come rescue you.

Nile River Explorers

Keep in mind there are 8 bodies tumbling around underwater…

I felt like I was underwater for a full minute, but in reality it was probably 8 seconds at the most. Rest assured I was in safe hands! We had our main raft, a safety raft, and half a dozen safety kayakers spotting us after every major rapid.

Never, ever swim once you go under! It is so loud and disorienting, you won’t be able to tell which direction is up. The last thing you want to do is swim downwards…

Now doesn’t that sound like fun!?

Don’t worry. The river isn’t a continuous barrage of fast-flowing water. There are 15 to 30 minutes of flat water between. Sometimes we even had to paddle for a bit. If you do get a little spooked after flipping, you can choose to go on the safety raft. No shame in that.

"Where did everyone go?" - me, while being tossed around in a hellish vortex

“Where did everyone go?” – me while being tossed around in a hellish vortex

Our group flipped four times, which is apparently a phenomenon compared to other rafters who only flipped once or twice.

We ended the day with a delicious BBQ and beers by the river, then a ride to the camp because we choose to stay overnight. Otherwise, you can also get a ride back to the city.

Accommodation at the Explorers River Camp is free on a first come, first serve basis. I highly recommend it! There’s a bar/restaurant with a beautiful view of the river. The accommodations are simple: a double-bunk room for 4 people with shared showers and toilets. The facilities are clean, but there are limited electrical outlets for you to charge your devices. We ended up charging our phones and cameras in the main restaurant area. WI-FI is available, although it comes and goes.

Nile River Explorers

Explorer’s River Camp where we stayed overnight.

BREAKDOWN
Price: $140USD/per person (transportation & accommodation included); the company accepts cash or credit card
Duration: 8 hours
Distance from Kampala: 2 hours
Peak season: Year-round

TIPS
• Slather on waterproof sunscreen of SPF 45 or higher (my friend’s knees were burnt to a crisp)
• Take nothing valuable with you! No phones, gadgets, or sunglasses
• Bring Ugandan shillings for drinks, dinner, & breakfast
• Bring a headlamp because it’s quite dark at night at camp
• Pay the extra $80 for the photos – they are worth every penny!

WHO SHOULD GO?
Adrenaline seekers who want to be scared out of their bathing suits!

Go soon! Word on the street is that river-related attractions are now threatened by foreign companies investing in several dam projects along the Nile.

No rapids, no rafting.

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