The White Nile III
The Nile is the world's longest river with the White and Blue Niles originating in east Africa, flowing northwards to meet in Khartoum, Sudan, and then on to the Mediterranean. The source of the White Nile is at the town of Jinja in southeast Uganda, one hour east of the capital, Kampala.
Uganda is a small, developing, equatorial country with a population of about 20 million people. Synonymous with Idi Amin and the political instability in the 1970s and 1980s, Uganda is, at least in the southeastern part of the country, safe and friendly nowadays and is a country with terrific potential.
The rafting run
Adrift run a 23 mile section of the river starting only 6 miles downstream of the source, just upstream of Bujagali Falls. The Nile is a big volume, pool drop river, ranging in volume from 1,000 to 3,000 cumec. The volume is deceptive because the river is quite wide in places and is often bisected by islands. We ran the river at a relatively low level; be warned! Over the 23 mile run there are perhaps 10 - 11 clearly defined rapids, mostly big volume grade 4s although two are technical 5s and Itunda is a continuous 5+.
There's more to life than canoeing
Safaris in Kenya, snorkelling and diving off the Kenyan coast, and potential for 'sea' paddling amongst the Sesia Islands on Lake Victoria. I would still be wary of going to see the mountain gorillas in southwest Uganda following the kidnapping of tourists a couple of years ago.
Various activities can be booked once in Kenya and Uganda through local travel agencies and hotels. You can usually sign up for the one day rafting run at short notice. Adrift also take bookings for packages from their UK office.
When to go
The Nile has a reliable source of water, Lake Victoria, and whilst flows may vary, partly depending on activity at the dam upstream, the Nile can be paddled all year round. However, it is better to avoid the wet seasons and, therefore, April/May and November/December. We forgot all about climate and went in May but it really wasn't a problem.
Kenya: not required.
Uganda: can be obtained upon entering the country for US$30 each.
We arrived via Nairobi. The cheapest direct flights, from Gatwick, were with British Airways at 440 return including tax but without boats. Flying direct to Uganda is convenient with Entebbe Airport only half an hour from Kampala but will be a bit more expensive. The overland bus from Nairobi to Kampala took 11 hours and was about 19 one way for the so called Royal service.
There is a backpackers' hostel in Kampala from which Adrift pick up customers. The rafting companies also provide basic Banda accommodation right next to the put in, complete with open air showers and bars, a cheap, mellow place to hang out for a few days.
White water activities
There are currently two rafting companies, Adrift and Nile River Explorers. We paddled with Adrift who charge US$95 for the one day rafting trip. They also offer a two day alternative which includes an overnight camp on the lunch stop island and runs further downstream. The odd kayak can be hired but they are not plentiful. Nile River Explorers offer a slightly shorter one day run but their campsite is stunning and they offer five day kayak courses on the calmer section between the dam and the rafting run, an excellent option for canoeing widows if only we'd known about it in advance!
The usual sources, Lonely Planet, Rough Guide and Brandt, also Adrift's glossy brochure and the 1996 articles about the first descents (not just Guy Baker's trip further downstream at Murchison but also a bizarre account of two guys supposedly doing the first descent of the rafting run).