Jinja is the second largest town in Uganda in East Africa, and it is about four thousand miles from London. It is on the shores of Lake Victoria, near the source of the River Nile, which flows North all the way to the Mediterranean. The tribe who live on the West side of the Nile are called the Baganda and their language is Luganda. The tribe that occupies the East side are called the Basoga, and they have a similar language called Lusoga. About forty languages are spoken in Uganda. Children have to learn English, which is the written language of the country, when they go to school.
Jinja is a town located in southeastern Uganda where the Nile flows out of Lake Victoria, situated at an elevation of 3,740 feet (1,140 metres) above sea level. Jinja was founded in 1901 as a British administrative centre and grew to become one of the larger towns in Uganda. When construction on the Owen Falls Dam (now the Nalubaale Dam), 3 miles (5 km) downstream, was completed in 1954, the hydroelectric power thus provided was instrumental in Jinja’s development as the country’s main industrial centre. A second dam, Kiira, was later constructed about 0.6 mile (1 km) from Nalubaale. It was completed in 1999 and began producing hydroelectric power the next year. Industries include the first steel-rolling mill of eastern Africa, a copper smeltery, plywood and tobacco factories, and a grain-conditioning plant. Nearby are a brewery, a textile factory, and large sugar plantations. Products are transported by lake steamer as well as by rail and road. Jinja has rail links with Kampala (50 miles [80 km] southwest) and the port of Mombasa, Kenya.
Location and Size of Jinja
Jinja District is located in the Southeastern part of Uganda. It is a small district found east of the Nile River and along the northern shores of Lake Victoria. Jinja District has an area of 767.7 sq Km of which 701.9 sq km is land and the rest (65.8 Sq km) is covered by water bodies.
The district is subdivided into 3 counties namely, Butembe, Kagoma and Jinja Municipality. There are 6 Sub-Counties; 46 Parishes and 381 villages. Jinja Municipality has three sub-counties and 55 villages.
Jinja District is bordered Kamuli District to the north, Luuka District to the east, Mayuge District to the southeast, Buvuma District to the south,Buikwe District to the west and Kayunga District to the northwest. The district headquarters at Buwenge are located 96 kilometres (60 mi), by road, east of Kampala, Uganda’s capital and largest city. The coordinates of the district are: 00 30N, 33 12E. (Latitude:0.5000; Longitude:33.2000).
Jinja Town is the municipal and commercial centre of Jinja District. Outside the capital city, Kampala, there are hardly any high-rise blocks or big supermarkets. In Jinja things are bought and sold in small
Jinja is famous for the Nile River and white water rafting and bungee jumping are some of activities here. The once-picturesque Bujagali Falls has been submerged because of the construction of the new hydroelectric dam, that went into commercial production in August 2012, doubling the Ugandan electricity supply. Some local residents are upset by the disappearance of the falls because they believe in the Spirit of the Falls, the 39th embodiment of which is an old man who performed rituals at the Falls for the protection of the community.
History of Jinja
Before 1906, Jinja was a fishing village that benefited from being located on long-distance trade routes. The origin of the name “Jinja” comes from the language of the two peoples (the Bagandaand the Basoga) that lived on either side of the River Nile in the area. In both languages “Jinja” means “Rock”. In most of Africa, rivers like the Nile hindered migration, this explains the ethnic boundaries along the Nile as one moves north from the river’s source on the northern shores of Lake Victoria.
However the area around Jinja was one place where the river could be breached due to the large rocks near the Ripon Falls. Here, on either bank of the river, were large flat rocks where small boats could be launched to cross the river. These rock formations were also accredited with providing a natural moderator for the water flow out of Lake Victoria. For the original local inhabitants, the location was a crossing point, for trade, migration and as a fishing post.
This might explain why, despite this barrier, the two tribes have very similar languages, and the more powerful Baganda had an enormous influence on the Basoga. The area was called the ‘Place of Rocks’ or ‘The Place of Flat Rocks’. The word for stones or rocks in the language of the Baganda is ‘Ejjinja (Plural Amayinja), and in the Basoga dialect this became Edinda. The British used this reference to name the town they established – “Jinja”
In 1954,with the building of the Owen Falls Dam, (later renamed Nalubaale Power Station, the Ripon Falls were submerged. Most of the ‘Flat Rocks’ that gave the area its name disappeared under water as well. However a description of what the area looked like can be found in the notes of John Hanning Speke, the first European to lay eyes on the Source of the Nile:
“Though beautiful, the scene was not exactly what I expected, for the broad surface of the lake was shut out from view by a spur of hill, and the falls, about twelve feet deep and four to five hundred feet broad, were broken by rocks; still it was a sight that attracted one to it for hours. The roar of the waters, the thousands of passenger fish leaping at the falls with all their might, the fishermen coming out in boats, and taking post on all the rocks with rod and hook, hippopotami and crocodiles lying sleepily on the water, the ferry at work above the falls, and cattle driven down to drink at the margin of the lake, made in all, with the pretty nature of the country—small grassy-topped hills, with trees in the intervening valleys and on the lower slopes—as interesting a picture as one could wish to see.”
Cotton-packing, nearby sugar estates, and railway access all enabled Jinja to grow in size. By 1906 a street pattern had been laid out, and Indian traders moved in starting around 1910. The Indians were Catholic Christians and English-speaking, and originated in the former Portuguese colony of Goa on the west coast of India.
The town was founded in 1907 by the British, as an administrative centre for the Provincial Government Headquarters for Busoga region. This was around the time that Lake Victoria’s importance in transport rose due to the Uganda Railway linking Kisumu, a Kenyan town on the lake, with Mombasa on the Indian Ocean, 900 miles (1,400 km) away. British-American Tobacco Uganda (BATU) established a tobacco processing factory in Jinja in 1928.
Things to Do in Jinja
This is arguably one of the top things to do in Uganda and Jinja town particular. The Grade 5 Whitewater rafting experience in Jinja is the best in Africa. It is a scary activity but also very exciting and thrilling like nothing else. Whitewater rafting is organized as a half or full day activity. The activity not only involves navigating through the rapids but also making stops at some of the islands.
The islands have an amazing collection of green vegetation, birds and primates like Vervet monkeys. Prepare to be thrown out the raft at least once as you head downstream but with nothing to worry about – You will be rowing with some of the most experienced crews in the world. The crew will pick you up each time you are thrown out of the raft. You do not need to be experienced to take part in the activity. The companies know how to handle both beginners and expert rafters. Whitewater rafting in Jinja occurs throughout the year and costs between $140 and $150.
All whitewater rafting companies take safety seriously. Participants are given protective gear and escorted by several rescue kayaks. So why not go for whitewater rafting in Jinja? The memory of floating down rapids of the longest river on earth will stay with you for the rest of your life.
This experience is similar to white water rafting but with a difference. Instead of using the balloon rafts, you conquer the rapids using a high speed boat moving at speeds of up to 90 kilometers per hour. This activity costs $75 for adults and will also give you the same adrenaline rush typical of all the other water activities on the Nile.
This is one of the craziest activities you will ever do in your life. It involves jumping from a tower (44 meters high) and down towards the Nile waters with a rope tied to the ankles. Bungee jumping is common around the world but we are talking about doing it over the longest river on earth. As one leaps from the raised platform, they get a birds view of the terrain below. This activity is not for the faint heated, It take 2 minutes at most but the memory will last a lifetime.
The Bungee jumping site in Jinja is arguably the best and most thrilling in Africa. The jumps are organized both during the day and in the night. The crew has won several international awards for organizing the activity to the highest possible standards. Bungee jumping in Jinja costs $115 per person.
The Big Game Mini-Golf course in Jinja is intriguing. It was constructed with large statues of the big five (leopard, buffaloes, lion, buffalo, elephant and rhino) and other creatures. A typical golfing day involves putting past the rhino, rounding the python, teeing past the hippo, hacking from inside the buffalo or bogeying beside the lion. It is unique golfing experience and comes with a lot of fun, drinks and mingling with the local high class and tourists from all over the world.
Visiting the source of the Nile
As already noted, the river Nile is the longest river in the world. It flows from Uganda all the way to Mediterranean Sea after passing through several countries like South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia and finally Egypt. Using a speed boat, tourists can go to the point where the river begins its journey to the sea. John Speke was the first European to discover the source of the Nile in 1858.
The site where Speke stood and first spotted the source has been turned into a park with beautiful garden that are perfect for relaxation and marveling at the river Nile. It is one of the most visited places in Uganda. One needs to take a boat to go up to the exact place considered the source of the Nile.
Visiting the monument of Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi is considered to be one of the greatest and most charismatic leaders of the 20th century. He is also considered to be the father of the nation of India and is remembered for the great role he played during India’s transformation into a democratic nation. Gandhi is also remembered for his work in Africa and one of his last wishes was to have some of his ash sprinkled on the river Nile. A guide can give more details about Gandhi and his work of activism especially in South Africa. Don’t go without taking a photo with the famous monument. You should also read about the best places to visit in Nairobi.
Visiting markets, churches and old Indian buildings
As an industrial town, Jinja has always had a large Indian community. These communities came here as traders as early as the 18th century and after the construction of the Uganda railways. Visitors can go and see the old Hindu temples and other estates owned by the Indian communities. After visiting these temples and other old architectural buildings, you should also go and visit the main Jinja market to see how local folks do business and go about with their daily activities. You might even want to buy some fresh fruits or souvenirs from one of the numerous craft shops. After completing this article, you might find the one about things to do in Mombasa interesting.
Visit the rural village
A tour of Jinja and Uganda in general is incomplete without a close encounter with the local people. A visit to one of the villages allows you to experience how Africans in the rural areas live their lives. You can choose to camp near a group of village houses or live with one of the families for a day/night. While with a local family, learn how to cook local food like Matooke or work with the men to make the local potent gin known as “Waragi”. A guide should be with you to act as an interpreter.
Go for a Quad biking adventure through the forests, villages, farms and the banks of the river Nile. You do not need to have any experience in order to take part in Quad biking. The Quad biking companies provide free practice sessions for participants. During the briefing and training session, participants are warned against overtaking and riding at very high speeds. It is important to be away of kids and animals crossing the roads. Quad biking in Jinja is very adventurous and by the end of the day, you would have learnt a lot and seen how the rural people live their lives.
Though not as intense as white water rafting or Bungee jumping, Horseback riding is a great way to experience the Nile River and the countryside. The horses are healthy and owned by an Australian expatriate. Like Quad biking, this activity takes you through the banks of the river Nile and villages of Uganda enabling you watch the locals go about with their daily lives. Prepare to see excited young children following you before disappearing back to their homes. The horse ride also offers opportunities to view beautiful forests, valleys and hills around the river banks. You do not need to have any experience with horses to take part in this activity. All participants are escorted by professional and experienced guides.
Kayaking and Canoeing
These are just some of the numerous activities that can be done on the river Nile. Kayaking and canoeing offer travelers opportunities to not only experience the great Nile River but also the surrounding villages, local people, farmlands and birds. These activities offer more effortless and quiet experiences compared to whitewater rafting. All participants are trained before embarking on these activities by experienced instructors. The participants learn the flow of the river, back and forward paddling, basic strokes, rescue and capsizing skills. More experienced Kayakers can choose to go to river sections with stronger current and rapids. The company supplies the kayaking/canoeing and safety and equipment. The cost of kayaking starts from $125.
Like horseback riding and Quad biking, Mountain Biking in Jinja is organized to allow visitors explore the river Nile and nearby villages. This activity is very challenging physically considering the unpredictable terrain and routes taken. The activity takes between one and three hours through village farms and the banks of the river.
There is an option of biking at the Mabira Forest Reserve located 20 kilometers away from Jinja town where participants are carried by car to the starting point. While at riding through this dense forest, take time to marvel at the beautiful trees, plants, butterflies and monkeys. The Mabira track also leads to hidden local villages, sugar and coffee plantations.
By the end of the activity, you would have an idea of how the rural peasants go about their daily lives in Uganda. The cost of maintain biking ranges between $30 and $40 and includes lunch or a picnic at the forest. All the available mountain bikes are of high quality, robust and imported from Europe. The guides are experienced and know how to repair a bike in case it breaks down.
Visiting Mabira Forest
Mabira forest is the largest natural lowland tropical forest in central Uganda. It’s about 2 hours drive from Kampala past. The forest is home to over 200 species of birds and about 5 of primates. The forest has become a popular place for camping.
Launch Cruise along the River Nile
The construction of a Dam at the former Bujagali Falls formed the Bujagali Lake that is perfect for boat cruises. This activity can take half a day and is a great time to mingle with others, party and enjoy beautiful moments with close friends. There are both day and night boat cruises which all offer opportunities to eat and drink while marveling at the river Nile and its creatures like bats, monitor lizards, monkeys, otters and birds. Those who love fishing can cast their lines to catch large Nile Perch. Apart from Launch cruises downstream at the Bujagali Dam, boat cruises are also arranged close to the source of the Nile.
Uganda is known as a one best places for birding in the world – Jinja and the particularly the Nile river are no exception. Birding tours are arranged by companies in Jinja for both inexperienced and seasoned birders. The companies provide binoculars, recording devices and a book for identifying the species. Birding is done using boats by the river banks, the numerous islands and close to the source of the Nile.
Bird are most activate in the morning hours and in the evening as they prepare to roost. Birding tours take at least two hours but arrangements can be made for full day Bird watching for seasoned birders. Those who opt for the full day birding experience can expect to spot at least 40 bird species in a day. Birding for two hours costs $40 while the Full day birding tour costs $90.
Fishing on the Nile
Jinja has some of the best fishing spots in Uganda and in the Nile Perch; the River Nile has one of the largest freshwater fishes on earth. It is possible to catch Nile Perches weighing over 150 kilograms. Fishing is arranged throughout the day. The best time for fishing on the Nile is in the morning but afternoon trips have also been known to produce amazing catches. Fishing is open to both experienced and first-time anglers. Full day fishing starts in the morning and ends late in the evening with breaks for lunch. For the full day option, anglers need to move packed lunch. The companies arranging the activity provide all the necessary fishing gear, bottled water, safety and camping equipment. Apart from the Nile Perch, the other notable species are the tilapia, cat fish and yellow fish. Anglers are required to release all the fish in the water except for those that won’t recover after being caught. The fishing techniques used include spinning, bait fishing and trawling.
Visiting the Ssezibwa Falls
The Ssezibwa Falls are located along the Kampala – Jinja highway. The local Baganda people consider it an important cultural site where the spirit of their ancestors still rest. Tourists love the place because of the crystal clear water falling from a steep cliff into the nearby forest. Visiting the place isn’t all about the falls.
The scenery is beautiful with lush green forests that act as sanctuaries to birds and small primates. While at the falls, do not forget to visit the local snake cave where people still perfume rituals to appease their ancestors.
Tubing the Nile
This is another of those amazing adrenaline raising activities that makes Jinja such a great place to visit. The activity involves drifting along the river Nile on an inflatable tube while sun bathing, marveling at the birds, beautiful islands, green forests and local people washing by the river banks. The companies offer both single and tandem tubing in either calmer water of the turbulent rapids of the Nile. To guarantee the safety or participants a group of safety Kayakers escort the crew.
|Languages spoken||Luganda, English, Kiswahili|
|Currency used||Uganda Shillings (UGX)|
|Area (km2)||767.7sq Km|