Jinja, Source of The Nile

Hanning Speke claimed Jinja was the birthplace of the world’s longest river (see history below). Here the water spills out of Lake Victoria on its journey to the Mediterranean flowing fast from the get-go. About of water here is estimated to end up in Egypt.

There’s a landmark identifying the source and a few restaurants and bars, which can make for a nice place for a local sunset beer (Nile Lager). Exploring the source by boat (per person USh50,000) is one of the most popular options.

Jinja has been dubbed the adrenaline capital of East Africa because of its famous adrenaline activities like Bungee jumping, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, quad biking and canoeing experience. This destination is usually a great adventure for young adventurers that want to extend their holiday in Uganda.

Whitewater rafting on the Nile in Jinja

Whitewater rafting on the Nile

The Source of Nile History

On August 3, 1858, John Hanning Speke discovered the source of the Nile—in a sense. What remains unquestionable is the fact that this spot became the source of a historic feud between Speke and his expedition-mate, Richard Francis Burton, who were once united in a hellbent quest to pinpoint the same headwaters David Livingstone infamously failed to locate.

This small spot along the shoreline in Jinja, Uganda, marks the place where Speke “discovered” the Nile’s headwaters at Lake Victoria while his partner, Burton, convalesced separately at Lake Tanganyika. When the two camps reunited, Burton rejected Speke’s claim in favour of his own idea that Tanganyika was the source of the Nile River.

Jinja source of the nile

Nothing so dramatic at the actual source (water from the bottom of lake Vistoria comes out)

Burton refused to consider the matter anything but “unsettled” until Speke leveraged the British media to lay claim to the validity of his discovery. A vicious public battle ensued between the two men and continued to spread throughout the contemporary scientific community. It took the Royal Geographic Society stepping in to send Speke back to Lake Victoria to substantiate his theory, which he did in a manner some saw questionable, before the matter of the Nile’s source was declared settled (for a time) in 1863.

The rift between the two men, however, would never heal. Speke, now a hero of the Age of Explorers, published two books that made him look a braggart. Burton, meanwhile, refused to accept defeat.

A public debate between the two men was scheduled to take place at the British Association to settle matters once and for all, but on the day before the debate, Speke suffered an accidental, fatal rifle shot to the head while hunting. The popular assumption became that Speke’s death was a well-disguised suicide, motivated by a fear of facing Burton in public.

The source of all this tumult is marked by a modest sign that reads “The Source of R. Nile – Jinja – World’s Longest River” at Ripon Falls, a series of cataracts that are partially submerged due to dams constructed upriver. A small cafe and shops, as well as boat dock with tours for hire, are located adjacent to this monument.

Know Before You Go

The site is best accessed via boat, and boat trips to the marker are available. Camping and nature walks are available nearby. It’s also a great area for birdwatching.

On the Jinja side of the river, there really isn’t much to see. It’s more pleasant across the river on the western bank with the Source of the Nile Gardens and Speke Monument – a pillar commemorating where the British explorer first laid claim to the historic source of the Nile in 1858. In recent times the source has been traced anywhere from Rwanda to Burundi.

Jinja Highlights

  • Commonly referred to as the Adrenaline Capital of East Africa.
  • Adventure sports like whitewater rafting, kayaking and quad biking and horseback riding can be done in Jinja
  • A vibrant night life in Jinja. Several premium hangout spots for night owlers. Cafes and restaurants great for African safari travellers.
  • It is the second busiest commercial centre in the country after Kampala.
  • The average temperature throughtout th year in Jinja is 73.0° F (22.8° C).
  • Its where the source of the Nile river is found.
  • Jinja has a lot to offer its visitors in the way of adventure sports and activities.

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