Whitewater Rafting the Nile with Nalubale

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    Flat waters of the River Nile.
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    Heading out into the water.
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    Safety briefing. Save your friend!
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    So much fun!
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    Here we come...
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    Yeah, really fun!
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    Watchful eyes.
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    Wildlife is never far on the Nile.
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    Paddle air-guitar.
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    Yeah, I see you!
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    Haha!
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    What a ride.
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    Local fishing boat.
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    Class 6 Rapids in the background, behind the goat and the farmer.
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    Life on the River Nile.
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    Oh those waters.
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    Brave!
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    "Get down and hang on!"
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    Splash!
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    Not a bad spot for a lunch.
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    Fancy stools.
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    Rapid rapids.
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    The crew.
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    Rafting gang.
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    See you later Maria!
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    Nalubale Rafting headquarters and hostel.
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    Preparations.
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    Air vessels of fun!

Whitewater Rafting the Nile River.  
Feb 21 – Kampala, Uganda.
My telephone rang at 05:51.  It was my Ronald from Nalubale Rafting.  He was looking for the hotel in Kampala where I was staying.  Ronald arrived at the hotel at 06:10.  06:10!  They had told me last night that he would be there at 06:15.  Five minutes early?  In Africa?  Wow!  A professionalism seldom experienced on this continent…!

Ronald helped me to get my backpack in the car and we drove through the city to pick up another future would-be Nile rafter.  Our road crew complete, we drove two hours east to a Ugandan city called Jinja which is at the source of the Nile…a great place to start a whitewater rafting trip.

Whitewater Rafting the Nile River!

The Nile.  The longest river on the earth!  Class 5 rapids!  Awesome…

I remembered to put on my seatbelt as we got out of the city.  When I opened my eyes again we were pulling up the gates of the Nalubale Rafting Hostel and Offices.  It was almost like I had been teleported from the outskirts of Kampala to Nalubale in Jinja… The car pulled up next to a stack of rafts.

Air vessels of fun!

Air vessels of fun!

Nalubale means ‘Mother Nile’, the spirit that resides around Lake Victoria.
Will, a very friendly co-owner of Nalubale Rafting, greeted us as we got out of the car.  Nalubale Rafting was on a beautiful property and Will told me they have been running the company for 10 years.  They have become the highest ranking Nile rafting company on TripAdvisor with a reputation of being the friendliest.  Oh, I had lucked out and picked the good one!  A staff of excited ex-pats and locals were busy getting everything ready for the morning while I was checking in with Will.

Preparations.

Preparations.

Nine of us climbed into the back of a truck and sat on the bench seats.  For 40 minutes as we drove through the Ugandan countryside on our way to the river.  Children’s voices rang out along the road asking, “Hi, how are you?” in every small village we passed though, pleased at the chance to use the sentence they have learned in primary school.


We arrived at the River Nile.  Beautiful.  Green.  It is lush.  Alive with birds all around.  The roar of the rapids in the distance announced their location to your presence.  The Nile is a wonderful and required place to see in your life.  And, the water is 27⁰ Celsius of gentle warmth…

We unloaded the truck and got everything ready.  There was our whitewater raft complimented by a First Aid whitewater raft, and four other kayaks for all safety precautions.  At 10:00 we climbed onto our water vessels and headed out on the water.

The 25 kilometer stretch of Nile River we would be tackling has rapids from Class 1 to Class 6.  We would only be passing through rapids from Class 1 to Class 5.

I asked our guides, Nell and Kate, to classify the rapid classes for me in their own words…This is their wonderful summary:
Class 1 Rapids – Flat water moving with little obstruction.  A bathtub, where you smoke a cigar and listen to Barry Manilow.
Class 2 Rapids – Steeper.  Maybe a little obstruction in the path.  There might be splashes of waves here in there that get you in the face.
Class 3 Rapids – Potential falls in the river.  Possible features to navigate around, but no consequences.  All good fun.
Class 4 Rapids – More vertical waters.  You may need to make one or two technical moves to get around something.  You could get a little banged up in these or break something in your body passing through these.
Class 5 Rapids – This is where it is at!  Steep waters.  Creeks on the river!  Big features of water and waves with multiple maneuvers necessary to navigate through the rapids.  Swimming comes with a risk of injury.
Class 6 Rapids – Highest end of the rapid-scale of magnitude.  Potential death if things go wrong.  You do not want to be out on that boat!
A safety briefing took place.  On the flat river, we practiced falling out of the raft and helping each other back in again.  We practiced flipping the raft over and getting to safety.  Once our guides were comfortable with our adequacies, we were ready.  As a team, we paddled into the moving water…

Yeah, really fun!

Yeah, really fun!

Whitewater rafting the Nile River adventuring started with a 4 meter waterfall that we were to navigate our way down.  What an introduction to the day!  Were we ready?  Of course!  So much fun.  Maria, a Spanish girl seated behind me, kept on checking to make sure she was able to scream.  Her ability would never leave her!…

A First Aid safety supply raft stayed ahead of us and the four kayakers positioned themselves strategically for every rapids we would encounter in case there could be any problems.  Our raft always came through the rapids last with all eyes on us to make sure we got to safety should any of us rookies fall out of the air-inflated boat.

Oh those waters.

Oh those waters.

The source of the River Nile begins in Jinja, Uganda, 1,200 meters above sea level.
 Before lunch, we passed through two sets of Class 5 Rapids and two sets of Class 3 Rapids.  When we were in between the excitement of the rapids and floating down the river, the nature around us was incredible.  There were eagles soaring above and kingfishers hunting to the side.  A young otter made an appearance.  Local Ugandans were fishing from small wooden boats, fishing from rocks, swimming in the river, and ferrying across the water in boats filled with people, bicycles and bananas.  The river is really alive.  Here and there, up on the green banks were small huts for living, and some for tourism accommodation.  Giant bolder stacks form islands in the river that needed to be navigated around, and small islands of vegetation floated down the river beside the raft.  The whole scene was amazing.

Class 6 Rapids in the background, behind the goat and the farmer.

Class 6 Rapids in the background, behind the goat and the farmer.

Everyone was having a great day and we were involved in a lot of splash wars with the staff as we passed by each other on the water.  At 12:30, we parked on the side of the river and climbed 50 meters up a bank where a pre-prepared lunch of wraps, salad, fresh fruit, and fresh baked cake was fuel for the afternoon.  The feast was fantastic!

The afternoon was more of the same; there would be water fights, sea-green tossing battles, rapids to ride, and a lot of laughter.  Our total time on the river for the day was five hours of rafting through eight sets of rapids.  It was an amazing experience.  It even poured rain and a thunderstorm took place as we were on the water which was a nice break from the sun as nature showed more of her sides to us.

Splash!

Splash!

On the final rapid, in the deepest part of 25 kilometer stretch of river, one guide remained in the raft and the other four of us jumped out to swim through the rapids as it was safe to do so.  I passed through a swirl pool and it felt like I was in a video game or a washing machine cycle that eventually sent me on through.  The rushing river carried us for about another kilometer downstream.  I have always wanted to experience that in a safe place, to just feel the rush of the river carrying me with the current.

We all ended up at the same place where we got out of water, carried the rafts and kayaks to the truck, and loaded everything.  Then, it was party time as we climbed onto the bench seats in the truck and drank beer supplied all of the way back to the Nalubale Rafting headquarters, laughing and joking with the staff for the whole ride.

See you later Maria!

See you later Maria!

If you are thinking of traveling to Uganda, visiting the Nile is essential.  And, whitewater rafting the Nile is certainly the coolest first-hand way that you could ever encounter the longest river in the world .  But, you need to hurry.  The Ugandan government is building a dam to generate hydroelectric power and within two years, many of the small river villages will be flooded and the rapids are likely to disappear.  So go now.  Email Nalubale.  It is a blast!

If you are looking for a great day, here it is.

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