The unexploited blue economy of Uganda

Apart from scattered activities on Lake Victoria in Jinja and Entebbe area, there is much on the shores of the lake.


BY: Aggrey Nshekanabo

Uganda gives credence to the monicker, Great Lakes Region to East African countries. It is the only place in the world where two lakes are conjoined by a canal; the 36km Kazinga Channel that joins Lakes George and Edward. The greater part of Lake Victoria, the second largest freshwater lake in the world is in Uganda. Uganda is home to the second deepest lake in the world, Lake Bunyonyi. Uganda too, is home to over 80 crater lakes, formed as a result of volcanicity. It is also home to the second longest river in the world, the river Nile.

Apart from scattered activities on Lake Victoria in Jinja and Entebbe area, there is much on the shores of the lake. What happens on Kalangala Island, one of the 80 Islands of Ssese is not even 1% of Lake Victoria’s Potential.

One would expect Cruise ships and several motorboats on Lake Victoria. Imagine a small 50-seater cruise boat plying Entebbe, Jinja Friday to Sunday! Where you depart Friday evening, arrive in Jinja on Saturday, tour Jinja and in the evening, jump on the boat and head back to Entebbe. That would be two nights and three days of fun on water.

Of course, the experience of Templar boat accident is still fresh in the minds of Ugandans. It was of course not cruise worthy in the first place but to see that many Ugandans could even dare board it in its wobbly state tells you that Ugandans are desperate for such experiences.

The River Nile is still virgin in terms of tourism exploitation. Save for the few wooden boats that ply the source of the Nile, there is not much in Jinja, which is touted as Uganda’s premier tourism destination and yet, this is the source of the Nile!

At the source itself, there isn’t much and it is a painful sight. I remember the former Minister for Energy and now Chairman of Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) showing me artistic impressions of the source of the Nile, complete with a café and restaurant about 4 years ago. For the week that ended February 2023, I took local tourists to the source of the Nile.

I am thankful there hasn’t been any reported drowning at the ‘touted’ source of the Nile. It is as rickety and dangerous to dare stand at that point. I would pay 10 dollars to access the point if the former Minister had built the place as per the artistic impressions. In its present state, I have to be begged and cajoled to step out of the boat.

It is unbelievable and yet true that downstream the Nile River, there are only 2 places where one can do Bungee jumping! For long, there has only been one point in Jinja near the defunct Bujagali Falls and the most recent (less than 6 months old) is at Kalagala Falls in Kangulumira, less than 2km off Kayunga-Njeru Road and about 30 minutes-drive from Jinja town.

Of course, there is intermittent white water rafting and yet, it is touted as the best in the world. Any simple search on the web on where to do white water rafting, Jinja is among the top destinations but then again, only about 10% of it is exploited. I have sent clients there from Sweden and they are still in awe and they wonder why we are not houting enough about this wonder. And it is inexpensive compared to the prices of similar experiences world over. There are several unexploited water falls between Jinja town and Kayunga. Apart from Busowoko Falls (which by the way became renowned because of the Nyege Nyege Festival), Kalagala Falls in its spectacular beauty is only known for African religion pilgrims!

My recent visit to Kalagala left me with a bad taste in the mouth. The guides are so ensconced in religion other than offering guided tours! In Israel, the guides are not even Christians and do not believe in the risen Jesus Christ. But they will give you a tour that you deserve.

The guides at Kalagala Falls will make the experience so scary.

Maybe we need an Israeli guide, mark the difference of Israeli from Biblical Israelite, to help these African religious site guides at Kalagala understand that they are first and foremost in the blue tourism economy and their beliefs or non-beliefs should not stand in the way of the tourists.

In short, they need polishing, and we will send travellers to Kalagala in droves. Other than exquisite pottery with the magical hands of Lwanga just at the gate of Kalagala Falls, there is so much to be done to exploit the beauty of this place.

Further downstream and through Lake Kyoga, nothing happens on the great Nile until Murchison Falls. Even here, there are not more than 5 boat cruise journeys a day to the bottom of the falls from Paraa crossing! Maybe when Isimba dam is finally completed, there may some water tourism exploits. One wonders why there is no white water rafting around Karuma Falls crossing from South to North of Uganda. After Murchison Falls, nothing significant happens on pre and Albert Nile or even on Lake Albert worth mentioning. It is a painful reality on these calm waters of the Nile.

Outside Lake Victoria and the Nile, there is a smattering of activities on lake Bunyonyi in Kabale and on the Kazinga Channel at Katunguru and Mweya Peninsula. The rest of the lakes are virgins awaiting possible suitors for a song. Mideocre

The writer is the team Leader at Naalya Motel & Kyambura Safaris Ltd.