Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bujagali Memories

In late 2011 the headwaters of the Nile River were flooded in preparation for the launch of the Bugagali Dam.  The area has become the reservoir for the new dam which began operation in February 2012.  This past weekend we had our first opportunity to see the headwater region since the flooding.  The water has risen several metres taking with it a number of rapids that used to be a part of The Nile including the famous grade 5 rapids Bujagali Falls.  At the moment things look slightly awkward as the rising water has engulfed the area.  Trees that once grew from the islands are now merely tree tops slowly succumbing to their new environment.  The immense sound of the water crashing can no longer be heard making the area very peaceful.  The reservoir now known as Lake Bujagali has the potential to become a hotspot for birding and sport fishing.  Looking down the river the Bujagali Dam can be seen in the background along with transmission towers and cables that disappear into the horizon to help supply the nation with much needed electricity.  Although Bujagali Falls no longer exists we recalled the good times we've had and will cherish for years to come.

Our first encounter with the mighty Bujagali Falls was in 2002 on a raft.  It was the first time either of us had been rafting and we obviously weren't meant to stay in that raft for long!  As we manoeuvred through Bujagali our raft bounced around before being lifted high into the air and overturning, leaving us swimming through the rapids looking for the fastest way to get back into the raft.


At the time we didn't realize that camping next to Bujagali Falls and falling asleep to the roar of the cascading water would be a limited time offer.  This was the first place that we ever camped in Uganda so obviously the place holds special memories.  We will never forget waking up to the calls of the African Fish Eagle, the cool crisp air and the mist over the river.

Lastly, how can we forget those daredevils that would delight tourists by "rafting" the falls clutching onto the handle of a 20 litre plastic jerry can.  Anxious spectators wondering if this was safe would contribute money and then watch as the skill full swimmers would throw themselves to the mercy of the river.  Jumping into the water and then plunging over the falls, disappearing underwater and then popping up slightly downstream.  Proud of their feat the daredevils would come running back with  toothless grins, I suppose there was the odd encounter with a rock, but they never bothered to mention that and were eager to do it again.

That wasn't the only entertainment at Bujagali Falls.  Every morning people from the surrounding villages would come in droves to watch kayakers and rafts full of people traverse through the feisty water erupting in cheers when they were successful and watching with slight terror when rafts would flip. For many, this appeared to be a highlight of their day.

Bujagail Falls, thanks for the memories!!

Please note that although you can no longer raft Bujagali Falls, the opportunity to experience Grade 5 rafting on The Nile is still possible below the Bujagali Dam.  We're only wondering if this means we have to pluck up the courage to raft The Nile again.

1 comment:

  1. I've rafted below the dam a couple of times now, and a novice certainly won't notice any difference. The white water there is still as scary as hell!
    As for the boys with the jerry cans, who used to ask for coins in exchange for going over the grade 5 rapids for tourists, I hear at least one died 'on the job.' a safer bet is for them to become a trained rafter work in one of the lodges or other activity providers. One raft company manager told me that the rafters are paid the equivalent of popstar wages! so the community certainly see the benefits of tourism.