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Victoria Nile White Water Rafting, Uganda, Uganda

Practiced journeyerPracticed journeyer Andrew McPherson
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This is relatively new territory for paddlers, with a first descent in 1996 by a Minnesotan of questionable sanity. As such the 300-mile Victoria Nile, which flows from Lake Victoria to Lake Albert, still holds ample surprises--the scariest being a 55-mile stretch that drops one continuous Class IV-V rapid after the next for 800 feet. A quarter of that drop, by the way, takes place at 200-foot Murchison Falls, a mandatory portage.

Jinja, near Kampala, is a good first stop for a couple of days of relaxation. It is a quiet town with a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere and also, it is the home of Uganda's white water rafting industry. The rafting is awesome; they claim more grade five rapids than the more famous Zambezi rafting. What I can say is that at $65 it is certainly cheaper! We did the trip with Nile River Explorers, which is run by some very friendly South Africans who even throw in a night's free accommodation at their magnificent campsite. It is a full day's entertainment with the rafting rounded off by an excellent meal near the river. Jinja is also at the source of the Nile so don't miss out on the visit to the plaque marking the spot where the Nile leaves Lake Victoria on its long, long journey to the sea. There is a definite mystique attached to the Nile, something quite exciting knowing that the water flowing past your feet will continue its progress through the deserts of Sudan, past the Valley of the Kings and through Cairo to Alexandria.

More than four thousand miles in length, the Nile is the longest river on the planet. Until very recently no one had dared to challenge this river at its source in Uganda - some of the most powerful and sustained rapids on earth. Adrift made an historic first descent of the Victoria Nile in July 1996, and now make regular descents of this mighty stretch of water. Up to seven times the volume of the Zambezi thunders between heavily forested islands, creating massive rapids. After exploding through these 'monsters ' we drift lazily through large pools, in hot equatorial sunshine - until the next one ! ! This is white water rafting at it's best.

Adrift is a rafting company specialising in rafting the best rivers in the world - apart from the Nile they operate in Nepal, Turkey, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. They only use the best imported Avon rafts, and their guides are experienced professionals, having rafted in many of the above mentioned countries prior to the Nile. All are trained in rescue techniques and first aid.

Three trips are offered - the one and two day trips from the Source of the Nile ("The Big One") and longer expedition style trips rafting above the Murchison Falls and canoe trips into the Victoria Nile Delta. These can all be combined with a Wild Frontiers safari to view Mountain Gorillas and Queen Elizabeth National park, or fishing safaris for Nile perch.

It is from here that the Nile begins its majestic journey to the Mediterranean, 6700kms away. But don?t worry, we will not be rafting that far?only the first 20kms or so. Jinja is approximately one hour?s drive from Kampala and is easily reached by local matatu taxis that provide regular services throughout the day. There is a variety of accommodation available in and around the town, ranging from basic camping (US$2-$3) to mid-priced hostels (US$20-$30).

There are three main operators providing white-water rafting trips on the Nile. These are ADRIFT, EQUATOR RAFTS and NILE RIVER EXPLORERS. They all offer daily departures subject to minimum numbers. The distance rafted on a full day trip is approximately 20-25 kilometres and all provide lunch, drinks and end of trip BBQ. The cost for a day's rafting varies between US$65-95 depending on which company is used.

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