By Sam from Kayak the Nile about their new Source of the Nile tours.
When most travellers plan activities for their Ugandan holidays there are some regular candidates: the gorillas in Bwindi, the stunning scenery and big game in Queen Elizabeth or Murchison Falls National Parks, and finally, the river Nile.
There was however an embarrassing issue with this symbolic place, which until recently was left unaddressed.
This is the story of how the issue got forced upon us and the solution we came up with:
Read a guidebook, go online to TripAdvisor or visit any travel forum and invariably you’ll come across descriptions of the source of the Nile that follows this format:
“It was good, but, I was a little underwhelmed.”
Honestly this is disappointing, a globally known feature of our planet, the point where the worldís longest river leaves one of the worldís largest lakes, the start of a truly epic journey was, ëunderwhelmingí.
For years this has been the case, and, while plenty of people have visited the source, there was no sign that they consistently had the experience that such a venue truly deserved.
I knew this, the other Jinja business owners knew this, but it was ëthe way it wasí and day-to-day life kept everyone too busy for curing this to become a priority – that is until this email arrived in my inbox:
From: Mum & Dad
Subject: Visiting Uganda
Thought you should know we have just booked our tickets to Uganda!! Excited to see what has kept you there and seeing the sights.
Mum x x
Apart from making sure I had a haircut, suddenly I had to try to design an itinerary for my mother, who was notoriously averse to going near whitewater. Teaching people to kayak on the whitewater is the thing that has kept me here, but I knew she would would ultimately feel out of pocket if she didnít see the river.
The source of the Nile was the obvious destination for her, but questions quickly came up about it: Should she have the same experience as everyone else? Would I be happy letting her first experience of the river I now call home be ‘underwhelming’?
The only saving grace from this situation was that I knew she would be happy on a kayak if it was, as she says, ‘what I call stable’.
The idea had been floated a few times in the past that we should do more at the source; our experience had always shown us that the best way to see a river is from the water itself, away from engines, and at your own pace. The source seemed like an obvious fit for this but it had always been set back.
Just weeks later they were in country and both parents were now, having visited the sights of western Uganda, on their way to us in Jinja. We would meet them in the evening on the shore of lake Victoria where I would have to present the place I now called home.
My plan was simple. We had hired a truck to get the large ësit-on-topí kayaks that I hoped would fall into my motherís category of ìwhat I call stableî from our base in Bujagali to lake Victoria. As sunset approached, we would launch onto the calm water and paddle our way through the ëofficialí source, a couple of ice cold gin and tonics would never be too far away and we could enjoy them while watching the sun fade over one of the worldís greatest rivers.
I announced the plan, and my apprehension over the how my mother would feel about kayaks was well placed. Thankfully, when she saw them they seemed to be acceptable, though I feel that this may still have been affected by the shock of my new haircut.
We pushed out on the water with perfect timing, and really, we couldnít have asked for a better evening for the trip. The air was calm but still just warm enough for the iced gin and tonics to be doing their job. Floating past the spot where Gandhi’s ashes were spread and the point where Speke ended the Victorian chase for the source of the Nile, we were moving barely faster than the river, with all the time we needed to explore the bird filled islands, enjoy the scenery, chat about the place and simply be at nature’s pace.
This was the experience that I wanted my parents to have – with seemingly endless amounts of time, able to soak in the place, and appreciate all of its beauty.
As the final few birds swooped in for the night it was time for us to get off the water. Though I had to usher everyone towards the bank I did so happily knowing that the reluctance being shown in returning meant that I had been successful in presenting the river in the way I knew it. As something that was too good to leave.
This was a very special trip, and making sure that I was able to show my parents the source of the Nile in the light that I see the whole river was important to me.
Since this night a few months ago, word spread about this trip and requests came in from people wanting to have this same relaxed experience. We are now proud to run these tours on request for anyone who wishes to see the source of the Nile in the way that we think it deserves to be shown.
For more details see http://kayakthenile.com