“True joy of nature is when every drop of water shines like a pearl.” – Anamika Mishra
I have been telling anyone who will listen how beautiful Uganda is and what a wonderful place it is for wildlife, adventure and relaxation. A few friends either because they believed me or because they wanted to shut me up came to visit in the last few months. It gave me the opportunity to do the touristy thing in Kampala and beyond. One such adventure was a trip to the source of the river Nile in Jinja. Before the trip all I remembered of Jinja was sugar cane and the waterfalls. So, I was looking forward to seeing the old industrial town again. Setting off mid-morning, we drove through the impressive Mabira Forest and miles and miles of sugar cane plantations along the main road. However before arriving at the source of the Nile we took a couple of detours, to Ssezibwa Falls and Lake Bujagali.
Ssezibwa Falls is a few miles off the main road to Jinja. The drive on the bumpy track leading to it is not the most comfortable but it is worth it. The falls which flow downstream and separate into two rivers are sacred to the Baganda people. Legend has it that a young lady from the area who was with child gave birth to the two rivers instead of twins. The Baganda believe that the spirit of the unborn twins still live on, and dwell in the two rivers. Some of them still come to the area to pay their respects and to make sacrifices.
Interestingly, the site is also considered sacred by Christians who use the rock by the falls as a place to come and pray and seek God and the water below the falls for baptism by immersion. How this came about is unclear but I can hazard a guess that it was the Kabakas who requiring a reason to continue visiting the site, after converting to Christianity, decided to christianise the place. I don’t blame them. Not only is the place beautiful, it is also tranquil even with the roaring waterfalls. It is a great place to escape the madness of the world, especially that of Kampala. And for the more active it is an ideal place for hiking and taking in views of the surrounding hills and valleys.
The lake lies where the falls that I remember from my childhood used to be. Several new dams have been built along the river so the area was flooded taking with it the waterfalls and leaving Lake Bujagali in its place. Despite my fear of water I agreed to go on a boat ride along the lake. The lake is the most serene body of water I have been on, it is so calm you can clearly see reflections of the surrounding landscape on the water.
There is a lot of wildlife along the shores and in the lake itself. During the boat ride we saw many different species of birds, a swimming monitor lizard, first one I have come across, some monkeys but no crocodile thank goodness.
Halfway along we came across Bujagali’s cave, the man after whom the lake is named. Apparently he is a well-known witch doctor in the area who does not treat physical ailments but specialises real life issues like sorting out your money problems, relationship complications and getting rid of bad luck. He practices his craft in the cave by the lake, as we drove past it’s opening I wanted to pop in to see him about a husband but unlucky or perhaps lucky for me he was not in residence on that day.
The Source of the River Nile
After Ssezibwa and Lake Bujagali the source of the Nile was somewhat disappointing. For start there wasn’t the peace and quiet as there was in the other two places. The path that led to the water was filled with shops selling arts and crafts with owners calling or even grabbing and begging us to come and buy from them. At the mouth of the river itself were men trying to get us to go on another boat ride to the “real” source of the Nile, this despite there being a huge plague nearby making the place as the source of the Nile. We declined multiple times but they would not let up so in the end we walked away to the see statute of Gandhi which was oddly out of place by the River Nile