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+256 779 376110 info@trotsandsafari.com

Jinja

Jinja is a town located in the Eastern part of Uganda, along the northern shores of Lake Victoria. The town is found 80 kilometres away from Kampala which the capital of Uganda. Jinja is famous internationally mainly because it is the source of the great River Nile. It is in Jinja that the river Nile leaves Lake Victoria and starts a 6,650km journey to Egypt. Jinja derives its name from the huge rocks that were found in the area along the river Nile. Most of the rocks were covered in water after the construction of the Owen falls dam in 1956. The dominant tribal group in Jinja are the Bantu speaking Basoga. Jinja has always been an area of great importance to Uganda even before independence from the British. It was one of the first areas to be identified for urban development by a planner from the colonial government known as Ernst May in 1948. The plan of the town was excellent and using it, the colonial government built good roads and organized estates.

Later on, the town rose to prominence when a hydroelectric power station was built at the Owen falls dam (now known as Nalubale dam). It was the only source of power in Uganda and because of that most industries were constructed in the town. Jinja thrived as the industrial hub of Uganda from the 1950’s to 1970’s. However, it’s first major setback occurred during the regime of Idi Amin in the 1970’s. Most Asians were chased out of the country by the Idi Amin in his economic war causing a massive collapse of industries. The industries were given out to selected people who were not trained to run the machines. As the industries collapsed, some were left deserted and Kampala eventually took over as the industrial hub of the country.

Jinja is slowly getting back to its former glory with many of the industries now up and running. The main industry in Jinja are Kakira sugar works owned by Madhivani group of companies. This industry is the greatest employer of people in Jinja. There is also Nile Breweries limited which is the number one beer and wine distiller in Uganda. Nytil textile has also made a comeback but we cannot forget to mention MM steel factory. In Kiira Motors, Jinja has the only car manufacturing plant in Uganda. Finally, there are the renovated local markets, milling plants and large merchandise shops.

Tourism in Jinja

Instead of relying on only industries for its growth as it had been in the past, Jinja has embraced tourism. Jinja is one of the best places to visit in Uganda. The town is blessed with incredible natural scenery as a result of being close to two major water bodies – the Nile and Lake Victoria. Jinja is considered to be the adventure capital of East Africa because of the numerous adrenaline and other tourism related activities which we will be discussing in detail in later chapters. The tourist attractions and activities have been developed together with high quality accommodation facilities where visitors can stay comfortably. The main adrenaline raising activities are white water rafting, bungee jumping, zip-lining, quad biking and tubing the Nile. We recommend that you also read about the attractions in Entebbe and the things to do in Kampala.

Things to do in Jinja

White water Rafting: White water rafting is one of the most popular adventurous activities in Jinja. The white water rafting experience in Jinja is said to be of the highest quality in Africa because it has several grade 4 and 5 rapids. Most of the rafting is done at the Kalagala and Itanda falls. White water rafting in Jinja involves maneuvering through strong waves and rapids using tube boats (filled with air) on the mighty Nile. While rafting on the waters of the Nile, participants pass through some breath-taking scenery and landscape along the margins of the river. There are also the wildlife species like birds, monkeys, butterflies and vegetation. Every rafter is given a life jacket and other rafting equipment. There is a rescue team in case of any issue that may arise during the rafting experience. A separate group of experienced rafters are there purposely to take photos of every participant so that no moment is lost. There are two white water rafting packages offered – half day and full day. The half day rafting package costs around $125 per person and the full day package goes for about $270. The main organizers of white water rafting are Nalubale rafting, Raft Uganda and Adrift Uganda.  The activity can also be booked through any reputable tour company in Uganda.

Jet Boating: This is a nerve-racking experience in which participants use a fast boat at very high speed  of about 100  kilometres per hour. The boat spins and turns as it squeezes through rapids and tides. The activity will raise your adrenaline but once you get used to it, it will prove very exciting and fun.  For one to engage in the jet boating experience on the Nile, one has to part with about $60.  It takes between 2 to 3 hours cruising on the rough and powerful waters of the Nile.

Bungee Jumping: This is even more nerve-racking than Jet Boating and will taste your resolve to the full. A cliff tower was built along the shores of the Nile at a height of 44 meters high so that people can safely jump towards the waters with a rope tied to their feet/legs. The experience can be very frightening but travellers love it as it is one way of showing your braveness. The experience costs about $115 but one needs to be at least 13 years and above to take part.  The person must also be free of any underlining illness like a heart attack, hypertension and more.

Playing Golf: Jinja has two famous golf courses. There is the Jinja Source of the Nile Golf Course and the Big Game Mini Golf Course. The Nile Golf Course was established in 1912 by the colonial administrators and is one of the top five golf courses in Uganda. It is a 9-hole course and is open to everyone who wishes to test their golfing skills. It also has other facilities like a swimming pool, a snooker table, a tennis court, a bar and a restaurant. The big game mini-golf course is much smaller course and designed for families with children. It has ten holes that are decorated with animal sculptures (lion, buffalo, elephant, rhino and leopard etc.) and takes less than an hour to complete.Visiting the source of the Nile:  It is in Jinja where the Nile starts its journey to North Africa. This was confirmed in 1858 when John Speke discovered that the source of the Nile was in Jinja. There is a landmark at the point where the waters leave Lake Victoria through a depression/gorge before spreading out and turning into what is called the River Nile. On a typical trip to visit the source of the Nile, Visitors stand on a group a rocks to spot the watermark from a distance. Others can take a boat to the actual source of the Nile but this depends on the volume of water or tides. The area around the source of the Nile is excellent for photography. After spotting the source of the Nile mark, visitors take photos next to a sign post and then visit one of the many craft shops to buy souvenir

Visiting the monument of Mahatma Gandhi: Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most famous global leaders in living memory. He is admired for his simplicity and working tirelessly to help liberate India and help it begin the journey to modernization. His work and presence was felt as far as Africa. Before his death, Gandhi wished to have his ashes poured on the great Nile after his death was fulfilled. Apart from pouring the ashes, a statue of Gandhi was constructed close to the source of the Nile to mark his death and legacy. After visiting the source of the Nile, tourists usually stop to take photos at the monument but also to learn about his life and work.

Monument of Mahatma Gandh

Visiting markets, churches and old colonial/Indian buildings: The first foreign settlers in Jinja before independence were Indians and people of Asian origin. Most came to Jinja because of trade and to work for the British colonial administrators in factories and during the construction of the railway line. Later, these Indians settled and opened up shops or factories. When the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin Dada expelled them out of Uganda in 1972, they left behind buildings and industries. Somewhere taken over by Ugandans while others remained dilapidated and monuments in the town. Apart from visiting the old buildings, Jinja also has large markets selling foodstuff and souvenir. You can also pay a visit to some of the old churches to marvel at the architectural designs.

Visit the rural village: Though Jinja is an urban city, tourists can choose to visit the rural villages to experience the kind of life lived by peasants. Most of the rural villages are covered with sugarcane and banana plantations. Some tourists choose to stay in one of the homes for a day to learn how the local people cook, take care of their domestic animals or brew alcohol. By the end of their stay with the host family, they would have learnt about the cultural norms and values of the people in the area.

Quad Biking: Quad biking in Jinja involves riding on a four-wheeled motorbike in some of the remotest parts of the town. The bikes will take you past the rural villages, forests, sugarcane plantations and along rarely seen sections of the Nile river. The Quad biking experience is very adventurous and can be taken by almost anyone irrespective of whether they have experience with the bikes or not. Lessons are given to all amateurs before going out into the

Horseback Riding: Horse riding is always interesting but doing it in the beautiful countryside of Africa is something else. The horse riding experience in Jinja takes between 1 to 3 hours and takes you to explore the rural communities, the river Nile and the beautiful landscape surrounding it. Participants are guided by an experienced Guide who knows all the routes.  Horse riding costs between $50 and $150 depending on how long the particular session is. One does not need to have any experience riding horses because there is a training session before the real thing.

Kayaking and Canoeing: This activity involves canoeing on the Nile at very slow pace. The experience costs about $125 for a whole day activity. Canoeing on the Nile exposes one to the incredible biodiversity and landscape surrounding the Nile. Those who book the activity are always given instructions, basic skills on how to row a boat and defence mechanisms in case of an incident while sailing. Life jackets are provided for everyone at no extra fee.

Cycling: Cycling offers a different experience from quad biking because it is more physical and drains more energy. However, the activity is equally adventurous depending on the route you take. Moreover, you don’t have to worry about completing within your allocated timeframe. Cyclists are provided with a mountain bike and a Guide to take them on an interesting journey of discovery beyond what the Quad bikes can provide. Using a mountain bike, one can go further into the sugar plantations, community villages, the river Nile and even up to Jinja town itself. Cycling doesn’t have a timeframe and can be hired for a whole day. If you want to have an amazing encounter with nature, you can choose to do the biking in Mabira forest. In this case, you will be driven with your bike to the starting point in Mabira forest. The activity costs between $30 to $40 and includes packed water and meals. While in Mabira forest, expect to encounter primates, birds, butterflies and the local people.

Visiting Mabira Forest: This is one of the largest remaining tropical rainforests in Uganda. Unfortunately, a large size of it has been destroyed a s result of human activities and urbanization. It is now smaller than its original size but still allows for great adventure and exciting activities for those who love nature. Mabira is located in Buikwe district – between Mukono and Jinja. The main activities carried out in Mabira forest is camping, bird watching and nature walks.

Launch Cruise along the River Nile:  This boat cruise is organized starting from the area around the source of the Nile area (Lake Victoria) and also at the Bujagali lake (formed as a result of the construction of a power dam). The one starting from around the source of the Nile takes you towards the newly constructed bridge, fishing villages and the resorts along the shores of River Nile. The Bujagali lake launch cruise also offers beautiful sights of the different flora and fauna along the banks of river Nile. Tourists can also spot the popular structures that make Jinja such a lovely town to live in. As with every launch cruise, there is a lot of partying, drinking and eating which is free as long as one has paid.

Bird Watching: Uganda is one of the best destinations for bird watching in the world. The country has over 1060 species of birds spread across the country. Jinja is one of the best places for birding in Uganda The birds can be spotted right out of your hotel, along the roads, in forests like Mabira or on the waters of Lake Victoria and river Nile. All one has to do is get a binocular and go out with a local birding Guide to look for sun birds, eagles, sparrows, common cuckoos, marabou storks and so much more. We highly recommend going to Mabira forest or take a boat along the Nile river for the best birding experience. Mabira forest is only 15 kilometres away from Jinja town and has an amazing collection of birds that can rival any other location in Uganda.

Fishing in Jinja: Jinja is one of the best places for sport fishing in Uganda. The most popular species to go out for is the large Nile perch and the tasty tilapia. One of the great things about fishing along the Nile in Jinja is that certain sections are reserved for sporting fishing hence allowing anglers to catch huge specimen. The ideal time to catch fish is in the morning and evening hours. Indiscriminate fishing is frowned upon as is using old-fashioned gear. One has to go for only mature fish. Before going out to fish, anglers will be briefed about the river and safety measures before being given correct fishing gear. Anglers who do sport fishing in Jinja always complete with happy faces. The local fishing Guides know the areas which have the highest concentration of fish.

Visiting the Ssezibwa Falls: The Sezibwa falls are found in Kayunga district – off the Jinja to Kampala highly. They are one of those places that make Uganda a true pearl of Africa. Apart from the amazing scenery and opportunities to take amazing photos, the Ssezibwa falls offer tourists a great opportunity to go for an amazing cultural experience. According to the local legend, a woman got pregnant and produced water instead of babies. The water flowed in two directions and one was river Ssezibwa. The Buganda kingdom views the river and waterfalls as sacred and many of their past kings would visit the falls for blessings/sacrifices. To this day, one of the most powerful shrines are found in the area and thousands of Ugandan’s continue to visit the shrine to seek for blessings from the local gods. Brave tourists can pay a visit to the shrine and learn about the history of the place from the witch doctors.

Tubing the Nile: This is a newly introduced activity along the Nile. It involves floating on the waters of the river Nile on air-pressured tubes. As participants float on the Nile, they have opportunities to go up to the main Jinja bridge and experience the amazing landscape. They can also watch monkeys, birds, tides and rapids from a distance. Tubing the Nile is a very cool thing to engage in and there are safety measures in place to ensure that no harm comes your way.

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