Wildwaters Lodge, Uganda: A white-water rafting adventure on the Nile

On paper, a private boat transfer sounds like a delightful way to start a holiday on an exclusive island resort. And if the property was in, say, the Maldives or the Seychelles, I'm sure it would be. However, when it's on an island surrounded by three class six rapids in the middle of Uganda's raging White Nile, the trip takes on a rather more intrepid feel.

Adding to my concern is that the boat in question is actually a wooden canoe whose engine is a young staff member with a paddle. After carefully loading my luggage into the front, he instructs me to sit in the middle "for balance" and then launches us into the ferocious current.

The island is only a few hundred metres away but to reach it he has to paddle across the approach channel to a treacherous class six rapid called Kalagala Falls. The rapid is too dangerous to be rafted commercially, which I'm guessing means our canoe probably wouldn't fare too well in it either.

Of course, he's made this crossing hundreds of times and we arrive intact, gliding up to the wooden jetty of the aptly named Wildwaters Lodge.

While the journey serves as an exhilarating introduction to the property, it also highlights what an extraordinary accomplishment it was to build. All the construction materials for the lodge – including its three-tonne generator – had to be ferried across in exactly the same way.

The resort's 10 villas are dotted around the circumference of the six-hectare island so they all have mesmerising views of the Nile. My room is located just upstream from Hypoxia, another violent class six rapid that emits a steady roar as the river is forced either side of a large rock. I find the constant background noise comforting but for guests that don't, there are quieter villas on the opposite side.

The decor is stylish but rustic, with wooden floors, a spacious stone bathroom and a vaulted thatched ceiling. There's a vast four poster bed, a separate day bed and a large outdoor terrace with an indulgent clawfoot bath.

Given you can't just stroll down the road for dinner, the lodge operates on a full-board basis, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner in an open-sided thatched restaurant. There's also a bar, a small library, a communal sundeck and a plunge pool. Needless to say, they all have spectacular river views.

The food is unexpectedly good, particularly dinner, which is a lavish five-course affair served among a sea of flickering candles. Where possible the menu features seasonal produce and on both nights of my stay the locally caught tilapia fish is the highlight.


While you could easily while away your stay relaxing on the island, the region is famous for its adventure activities. Rafting is the big drawcard and Wildwaters' sister company, Adrift, offers several trips, from family-friendly floats to exhilarating class five flip-athons.

Other options include a horseback ride through a local village with Nile Horseback Safaris (run by affable Aussie TJ and his Kiwi wife Natalie), a half-day kayak safari with Kayak the Nile and an entertaining ATV tour with All Terrain Adventures (owned by another Aussie/Kiwi couple, Shirray and Peter).

Currently, most of these activities are based in or around the bustling backpacker town of Jinja, a 45-minute drive from the resort. However, in August many of them will relocate to a new adventure camp being built by Wildwaters' parent company on the mainland opposite the lodge. Called Kalagala Falls,  it will offer stylish, tented accommodation for families and backpackers plus an activity centre with bungee jumping, zip lining and jet boating.

Wildwaters will get a touch-up, too, with new lighting, interpretative signage and – for the ultimate rock star arrival – a helipad. Now that sounds like the way to start a holiday.

Rob McFarland travelled as a guest of G Adventures and Wildwaters Lodge.






Qatar and Emirates fly to Entebbe. From Entebbe, it's a three-hour drive to the resort. See qatarairways.com; emirates.com


Wildwaters Lodge, Kangulumira, Uganda. Rates start from $US255 per person (based on two people sharing) and include return boat transfers and three meals a day. See wildwaterslodge.com