Overview

Placed just north of the Equator around Lake Victoria, Jinja is famous for being the “adrenaline capital” of the entire East Africa. Once in Jinja, you’ll never have time to be bored. It is one of the best destinations for backpackers who want to experience white water rafting, having operators that offer options going from kayaking lessons to body surfing. You can even go mountain biking, quad biking, horseback riding and bungee jumping. Not to mention that the town in itself is an architectural wonder, full of crumbling yet fascinating colonial buildings. If you come from Kampala, you can see the Owen Falls Dam forming an impressive gateway of the town which will leave you in awe. Be sure to take your sunscreen with you, because you’re in for some fun.

roaring rapids of the jinja Nile river

Highlights

  • +White-water rafting over the Nile, enjoying the grade 4 and 5 rapids that it offers.
  • +Going on Nile horseback safaris and visiting the local villages, sugar plantations, and tea estates.
  • +Experience kayaking on the Nile.
  • +Keep an eye out for terrain adventures such as quad biking and mountain biking.
  • +Visit the impressive Bujagali falls, which is about 10 km away from central Jinja.
  • +Go see Lake Victoria, which is the source of the great Nile River.
  • +See cultural attractions such as the Swaminarayan Temple and be impressed by the structures.
Interested in visiting the Jinja?
Take a look to our hand-picked tours that go there!

About Jinja

Somewhere along the road which is 80km east of Kampala, on the Kampala-Nairobi route, lays the location of Jinja. Overlooking the river Nile, Jinja was formerly the industrial heart of Uganda, but now it is the second largest commercial city. The Owen Falls dam that was built in 1950 helped Jinja grow on a large scale and enabled tourism as well.

It’s an exceptional place for tourists looking for all sorts of activities and accommodations. The trips are rather convenient because a drive from Kampala is relatively short and you have various scenic stops on the way. You can see the flora and fauna of the Ssezibwa Falls and the Mabira Forest, which will definitely not fail to impress the eye of every viewer. Jinja is also a very active place since you can opt for activities such as kayaking, bungee jumping, boat riding, horse riding, white-water rafting on the surface of the Nile and even mountain biking (among others). This is why Jinja will never be a boring place for anyone looking for an adventure and a blast.

Furthermore, aside from the fact that it’s the perfect place for adventure, it’s also the best place to sit back and relax, and just enjoy some quality time with your friends. For example, the Bujugali Falls are the best place for a picnic or if you want to crash at the local bar.

You can also find the Nile’s source in Jinja. Lake Victoria ‘feeds’ water for a river that goes for 6500km towards the Mediterranean Sea, passing Egypt and Sudan as well. Once at the lake, tourists usually stop for a boat ride and explore the local area. Cultural local dance performances are also held there, so make sure you don’t miss them.

Aside from the elements of nature, Jinja also holds various industries that helped develop it. The Kakira Sugar factory is something you might want to see, and that also applies to the Breweries. If you want to visit the breweries, you can arrange any visits ahead of time and you’ll be provided passage. The Jinja landscape is more than stupendous, and you can also witness sugar cane and tea plantations.

Weaver Birds - Jinja, Uganda
jinja Sugar Cane plantations, local giving a friendly salute with his panga
Nalubaale Power Station jinja
The vivid green of the tea plantations – one of Uganda’s major export crops.

Getting There

You can get in by matatus from Kampala to Jinja, or you can take the coaster from the same direction. There is an average of 30 passenger coasters and 14 taxis which can get you from Kampala to Jinja. Since Jinja is part of the East African Highway, it is linked to Mombasa and even Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda. Some of the activities even offer free transportation from Kampala, and once in Jinja, you can go around shopping by foot or by taxi.

When to Go & Weather

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  •   Good
  •   Fair
  •   Poor

Since Jinja is close to the Equator, the temperatures there are usually high. Being a tropical region, the temperatures are rather high, so be careful to bring your sunscreen with you. It is best recommended to go there between June and September and between December and February. The reason for that is because the other two seasons (March to May and October to November) are often met with heavy rainfalls which can make traveling around inconvenient.

Weather Climate

Since it’s close to the Equator, the climate is usually of an equatorial one. This means that there is no actual dry season and that all of the months will have more or fewer precipitations. While the temperatures between one day and the following can be very similar, the changes between day and night can be very drastic.
Jinja is placed under the category of Tropical Rain Forest. The average temperature is around 22.8 degrees Celsius, with the warmest month being January. Temperatures around that month are an average of 23 degrees Celsius. In opposition, the coolest month is June, with a temperature that is about 21 degrees Celsius.
When it comes to precipitations, the average of the year is 1140.5 mm, with the most precipitations being in April (with about 194 mm and the least in January (56 mm). April has an average of 9.4 days of rain while July has 3.9.
If you want to find out more about the weather climate in Jinja, you can visit the following websites:

 

This beautiful view of the Nile is taken from the Haven River Lodge. To the left, you can just see the Grade 6 ‘Retrospect’ Rapid!

Additional Information

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History

The name “Jinja” actually comes from two languages, the Basoga, and the Baganda. The people speaking these languages live on both sides of the Nile in that area and the word adopted means “rock” in both languages. Migration can be hindered throughout the entire Africa simply because rivers like the Nile blocked the passage. However, the language of the two tribes was always similar and the Basoga was always influenced by the Baganda. The place where the tribes lived was called “The Place of Flat Rocks,” or simply, the place of rocks. The Baganda called the place “Ejjinja” which was later adopted in the Basoga dialect as “Edinda”. Later on, the British established a town and adapted the name into today’s “Jinja”.

There was a lot of migration in the first millennia BCE which aided to the growth of Jinja. Bantu speakers have migrated into the Great Lakes region from West Africa and they started introducing agriculture into East Africa. The areas they resided in weren’t previously occupied by farmers, which is why they worked the soil and continuously searched for other areas to farm until they found Jinja.

Later on, they started using ferries as transportation over water. Fishing became their trademark, and Jinja turned into a village of fishers. The town had the benefit of being away from any other trade routes and thus it flourished. After being founded in 1907 by the British, it became an administrative center for the Busoga’s region Provincial Government Headquarters. On the early plans of the town, you can see a pattern with a number of streets, with a Collectorate building at the pier’s head. Busoga square and Bell Avenue separated the living areas from the north’s commercial land, and a marketplace plus a bazaar were built at the intersection.

The industrial place progressed little by little until in 1972, when Jinja had become the most industrialized place in Uganda.

Wildlife & Flora

Since Jinja is a tropical area, the flora and fauna will be according to the weather. You can either go for an exploration of the village or go on safaris in various places through and around Jinja. There are multiple opportunities once you get here. For example, you can opt for a safari at the Mabira Forest and be stunned by the natural wonders in the form of a tropical rainforest. The reserve is known to be the greatest in Central Uganda, and it’s very alive with a variety of birds and monkeys, not to mention that there are a lot of trails that can be used for trekking. There are 312 different tree species there, 287 types of birds, 218 kinds of butterflies, 97 moth families and 23 other kinds of small mammals. So, you will definitely not get bored if you choose this amazing safari.

You can also find similar beautiful scenery of vegetation and wildlife at the Ssezibwa falls. The falling water there creates a beautiful and breathtaking view, which is only complimented by the vegetation growing around the falls. Steep undulating rocks are found where the water falls, and the place is full of various kinds of birds. This is one of the best places for birdwatching.

The area also has an impressive cultural meaning to the Baganda region especially. One myth says that the Ssezibwa River was born from a Woman going towards Kavuma Bukunja. It’s a heritage site for Baganda basically because of this legend.

And this isn’t where Jinja fauna stops. Going over to Lake Victoria, you can witness a lot of fish of different sizes. The Silver Catfish is one of the most known along with the Victoria Robber. In 1940, they attempted to introduce the Nile Perch in the lake. While it was considered a failure before, it now stands at the top of the food chain. Flora is also rich in the Lake Victoria region. Some plants there are only able to thrive because they are in or around water, aided by the heavy rain falls in the rainy seasons. The most common types of plants there are the Common Reed, Spiny Sedge, and Common Couch.

Jinja is also packed with gardens with unique tropical flowers and small animals which you’ll be in awe of.

Ecology

There are a lot of groups out there that try to protect the spaces of Jinja. Most of them concentrate around Lake Victoria, like the Lake Victoria Fishery organizations which try to conserve the fauna.

There are also various environmental conservation organizations such as the Aster or UWEPO which plan to protect the flora of Jinja and bring about beautiful gardens.

Interesting Facts

  • Jinja is one of the largest towns of Uganda able to produce hydroelectric power from two dams, Owen Falls and Kiira.
  • Jinja connects with Kampala and Mombasa through railways that can spread over miles.
  • The “Nile Special”, which is said to be the best beer in East Africa, is made in Jinja breweries.
Interested in visiting the Jinja?
Take a look to our hand-picked tours that go there!

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