A Day Out at the Source of the Nile
Balifunaki entertainers.

A Day Out at the Source of the Nile

Next time you go back home, take time out and be a tourist.

By John Isingoma
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First published: December 14, 2005

I am sure that you know that the River Nile is the longest river in the world. It is 4,180 miles long (6484 kilometers) and of course, this river has its source in Uganda.

The Nile, which gets its name from the Greek word "Nelios", meaning “river valley”, has the unique feature of being the only river in the world that flows from south to north. The river's average discharge into the Mediterranean Sea is about 300 million cubic meters per day, making it one of the greatest rivers in the world.

I visited on Sunday 4th December 2005.

At around 7 o’clock in the morning I was in the old taxi park in Kampala. In the 14-seater Jinja bound matatu (taxi) that I boarded, there were only three people. One of the passengers looked worried that the matatu may not fill but after 30 minutes, the matatu was full and we left Kampala for Jinja where I was to find the source of the Nile. The journey should have taken me about one hour but anyone familiar with today’s traffic in Kampala would not be surprised to hear that the trip lasted for a good two hours.

Being tarmac all through, the Kampala-Jinja road is good by Ugandan standards. I only encountered some ruts and murram sections when heading to the exact spot of the source of the Nile.

And at Ushs 3,000 (approximately 2 US dollars) the price for the matatu is not too bad. An additional Ushs 1,000 for a boda-boda (motorcycle), or a special hire vehicle for Ushs 3,000 brings a return trip from Kampala to about Ushs 12,000(approximately 7 US dollars).

As I arrive at the sanctuary of source of Nile, I am greeted by a beehive of activities. This seems to be due to the fact that my visit coincides with a tourism expo. The occasion was organized to promote the Ugandan tourism industry. From busy restaurants and food “joints”, bars, sellers of locally made items such as necklaces made from beads, hats made from bark cloth, stalls for the leading tour cites to fishing and tour companies running some promotions. People are playing games, there is music, bird watching and drinking.

First to catch my attention was a group that I later learnt consists of orphans. The group is called Balifunaki, loosely translated as ‘what can they achieve’. This group according to Mohammad Balikowa, the group leader, has been entertaining the “source visitors” for six years. The proceeds, which total to at least 30,000 Ushs per week, go to the school fees and the upkeep of the orphans’ families.

Balifunaki plays local instruments and sings local songs in Lusoga and Luganda which are local languages spoken in central and eastern regions of Uganda. In front of them there is a poster asking for donations from passersby. On the same poster are words “photos 5,000 and video 10,000”. “This means that visitors can take pictures and videos of and with the group for a payment of 5,000 shillings for pictures and 10,000 shillings for videos,” explained Balikowa.

The group was playing close to the shores of Lake Victoria, where a collection of boats readying for the journey to the source of the Nile grabs my attention. I am told that the source of the Nile is ahead and I am shown a place in the lake where water seems to be bubbling out of the ground. I rush and pay 2,000 shillings to Elisah Mwesigwa, the ride guide.

Renny Mutai, a Kenyan tourist at the source.

The ride to the source takes 15 minutes and during the time Elisah proudly recites some known facts about the great Nile. At the exact spot believed to be the source of the Nile is a small island, the size of an average office, about 7 by 5 meters. It is here that we stopped and watched the source.

Disembarking on the island.

“Look carefully, do you see water jetting out of the ground? That is the source of the Nile. If you look more closely, the water of the lake is dark and has waves while that of the river is clear and gentle. Those features mark where the river begins and where the lake (Lake Victoria) stops”, Mwesiga eagerly explains.

True to his words, there is visible water jetting out of the ground. The water on one side is dark and has waves while from the spot where water is coming out towards the direction where the Nile flows, water is clear and indeed gentle.

Block marking the source.

It is recorded that John Speke, a re-known explorer of the 19th century, first discovered this source of the Nile in 1862. At the source there is a block, which Speke erected to be a mark at the source of this great river that serves more than 100 million people who live along it and its catchments area.

My next stop after the ride to the source of the Nile was the Rumours restaurant at the tip of the shores of the lake where I enjoyed a bottle of mineral water while watching fishing activities and the gentle waters of the river.

As I sipped my water slowly I took a look around at the majestic beauty and wondered how many of my country mates take time to witness the beauty nature has to offer within our borders. We should take time to see what we are blessed with. Perhaps this appreciation will help us view our country in a light that is positive to its development.

By John Isingoma
more from author >>
First published: December 14, 2005
To learn more about Ultimate Media Consult go to www.ultimatemediaconsult.com.

John Isingoma is a member of Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd. A social scientist by training, Isingoma is the Executive Secretary at Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd and after years training and practice in the media has become a dedicated writer and researcher.