Destination Spotlight: Jinja, Uganda

In 2015, I had the opportunity to spend a glorious few months exploring the country of Uganda. Located in eastern central Africa,  Uganda has been dubbed “the Pearl of Africa”, and rightly so. With always-green countrysides, miles of red clay, beautiful lakes, rich culture and inviting locals, Uganda is a hidden gem in Africa. With the best of both worlds in bustling city life and quiet towns, Uganda has many offerings for international travellers. If the busy streets of capital city Kampala aren’t your cup of tea, look no further than a retreat to the beautiful town of Jinja for both rest and adventure.

Jinja is located approximately 50 miles east of the capital city Kampala and sits on the northern shores of Lake Victoria, the second largest freshwater lake in the world. Jinja is home to the source of the Nile River, flowing north to Egypt. The Nile is historically known as being the longest river in the world. Along with beautiful scenic features, Jinja is home to the second largest economy in Uganda, with hydroelectric power through the Owen Falls Dam attracting industry to the region. Prominent business within the city includes Kakira Sugar Works, a sugar factory, and Nile Breweries Limited, Uganda’s premier beer brewery. 

Such a dynamic town held great appeal when my friend and I decided to escape the hustle and bustle of Kampala for several days of relaxation. One big selling point for Jinja is that it is also known as the adventure capital in Uganda. We loved the idea of having the option to relax and fill our adventure thrill. 

After a 2 hour taxi ride from Kampala, we arrived to a sunny and inviting Jinja. If you’ve never ridden in a Ugandan taxi, it is quite an experience! However, private hires are available for a fee if you’re unsure about riding with 14 other “new friends”. A boda boda driver (a Ugandan motorcyle taxi) escorted us from the hub of Jinja to the guest house where we were staying. A majority of the lodging available in Jinja comes in the form of guest houses, smaller family-owned resorts with a lower guest count and personal, more intimate care. However, traditional resort-style lodging is available if that is your preference. 

We made reservations at the Source of the Smile Guest House based on the recommendations of some friends. (you can visit their website here- http://www.sourceofthesmile.com). We were not disappointed with our stay. With comfortable, inviting rooms, a swimming pool, beautiful art hung throughout and hammocks in the shade, my friend and I were thoroughly able to relax and enjoy our stay. Source of the Smile offers free Wi-Fi, complementary breakfast and has contact with several prominent restaurants in the area to deliver lunch and dinner of your choice. With friendly staff, we repeatedly enjoyed breakfast with the owner, who has made this guest house one of the places to be in Jinja.

 Picnic lunch overlooking the Nile River.

Picnic lunch overlooking the Nile River.

Located right outside the heart of Jinja, we were close enough to enjoy the features of the town. One morning, we took a walk and discovered a brick ledge overlooking the Nile River. We took advantage of the lunch delivery options that day and brought along the most delicious spicy avocado BLTs to enjoy while exploring.  We perched on the ledge and watched crocodiles sunning and monkeys leaping from nearby rooftops. Other days, we chose to enjoy the moderate Uganda temperatures with walks into Jinja’s downtown.  Reminiscent of small town USA’s main streets, Jinja’s downtown is lined with cafés, restaurants and storefronts. Shops full of beautiful, handmade African crafts commonly attract Mzungus (Lugandan term for white foreigners). As avid coffee drinkers, my friend and I took advantage of the variety of coffee shops our favorites being the iced coffee at the Space Cafe and Flavours. We left as big fans of Jinja’s food and coffee. For an upscale dining experience, the Jinja Sailing Club was a fun option. We enjoyed a nice dinner on their outdoor patio seated on the Nile River. After dark, the water is dotted with the lights of fishing boats making fresh catches. 

 The view from the Jinja Sailing Club allow you to watch the fishermen bring in their daily catches.

The view from the Jinja Sailing Club allow you to watch the fishermen bring in their daily catches.

If you want to take advantaged of Jinja’s “Adventure Capital” title, there are many options available for you. Most common is the option to white water raft down the Nile. While weather didn’t allow us to participate that trip, friends that worked up the courage to try say that it was quite a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Other options include bungee jumping, ATV treks and boat rides. 

After spending time in Jinja, it quickly became one of my favorite places in the world. This quiet town with its potential for relaxation and adventure made quite the impression on me. I’m sure that it would do the same for you.

 

For more information about Jinja, Uganda or to inquire about our offerings, please contact us at info@bigadventures.us. We would love to help you plan your next big adventure to Jinja and beyond.