Away with the River Nile rapids on a tube
I am not a person so much into the business of wild safaris even though I enjoy the peace, lessons and stunning beauty of the wilderness and its inhabitants. My true love however has been of activities that give me an adrenaline rush.
These could range from zip lining high above the tall trees of the Mabira forest or over Lake Bunyonyi Uganda’s deepest lake. Others are rafting the rapids of the Nile, sky diving, flying in a hot air balloon across the vast savannah of a National Park and the like.
That is why following several posts I saw on Ugandan social media by young people doing what is called tubing along the River Nile, I didn’t hesitate to try it out when a chance availed itself.
The venture is operated by a company called Tubing the Nile ran by ambitious young people as one of their products.
In Uganda, tubing is not a common adventure activity and until recently many people had not even heard of it. Its concept is derived from white water rafting although for this case, there are no rafts but a tube.
It is simply an act of sitting on round car tyre-like tubes put together in a specific number with a professional guide rowing a kayak on which the entire tubes are tied.
The tubes on which people sit are then dragged on water to the direction the guide is rowing and sometimes he lets the water take the tubes downstream.
It’s a thrilling experience I can never resist doing again.
As Uganda slowly opens up for domestic tourism, I and three colleagues decided to take a try on tubing in the Eastern City of Jinja which is famous for the Source of the River Nile and other water activities like rafting, kayaking, bungee jumping and camping by the river bank.
The journey from Kampala City to Jinja is barely a two hour drive on a good traffic day and from Jinja town, it’s about an 8 km drive along a murram but generally motorable road to an area called Bujagaali.
During our earlier years growing up, Bujagaali falls itself was famous before a new dam was built near it submerging the falls in the process. No one who visited this place in the early 2000s can easily forget oracle Jajja Bujagaali.
Our hosts had two tubing packages on offer, the first called Flat water tubing at a cost of $25 per person. This package is for mainly those so scared of the rapids. It operates around calm water and it is highly recommended for children and the water phobic.
The second package was the thing for us, known as white water tubing, this is longer and scarier for it goes through wild rapids that give you a bumpy sail. This is recommended for Adrenaline junkies for a cost of $50.
On our way, excitement overpowered our time keeping as we stopped at several places to either take pictures or eat the roadside chicken.
We therefore arrived late, way past our agreed time and surely expected a bashing from our hosts but it never came, instead we were warmly welcomed by grinning faces with none of them wearing a frown.
Before we reached, the skies opened and a little drizzle started to worry my colleagues, on my side, the rain would be no hindrance. In fact it would be a great experience tubing the Nile in the rain, I thought.
A team of professional guides captured our personal details before giving us a safety briefing and equipping us with knowledge on what to expect out there in the river.
We then got into another car that would drop us at our starting point where we met another group of adventurers already waiting for us.
At the starting point, our guides then tied the tubes together in groups of fours with each group tied to a boat in which a guide sat.
Clad in our swimming gear and life jackets, we were helped onto the tubes. This was the moment we were waiting for.
Sheer fright at the beginning for my team turned into screams of fun as we set off downstream. The hearts stopped racing faster as we set sail in the calm waters.
We, and the group that trailed us hit the rapids and sailed the calm waters in tandem.
All my companions then did was to scream in excitement and call out to the photographer on a tube a few metres away from us.
For the safety of clients’ gadgets, a professional photographer tubes along with you to cater for your photography needs.
Given his experience in the trade, he seemed to know exactly at what spots he could capture a beautiful moment.
Your phone or personal camera is left safe at the banks.
The journey takes about three hours of floating downstream meeting rapids and calm water in succession.
In the areas with rapids, one is gasping for breath and in screams while in areas of calm water, one is looking at different birds, small aquatic animals and vegetation along the banks or waiting on a second kingfisher bird to return and dive into the water and come out with a fish within a split second just next to your tube.
My initial worry was falling off the tube at the rapids even with some swimming skills but it turns out it is really difficult to fall off.
For an evening shift on the tube, the sunset with its beautiful reflections on the river will be a memory to stay with forever.