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Guide to the Rapids

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Donald (Grade 4)

DonaldDonald is the entrance rapid to Bujagali Falls and throws a tricky challenge to all rafters.  At the entrance to Donald, the river rapidly gains momentum and drags rafts towards The Thing, a huge, spectacular Grade 6 rapid mid-stream above Bujagali Falls.  A large flow of water rushes headlong into a mid-river island and the boats need to work hard to avoid being swept into this island.  A good line in this rapid is not terribly exciting but a mistake here can be very dangerous.  The rapid was originally called Donald Duck until Adrift removed the hefty branch of a low overhanging tree under which the rafts were forced to run.  Everyone onboard needed to duck their whole body to avoid a painful, high speed, encounter with the branch at head height.

Bujagali Falls (Grade 4)

Bujagali FallsThis is the best known of the major rapids on the Nile simply because it is the most accessible. The hydro-power project which will soon drown this rapid takes it’s name from this spectacular set of cascades which is the home to friendly witchdoctor Jaja Budhagali.  Like all rapids on the this section of the Nile, large forest-covered islands divide the river into channels and the Eastern channel offers the safest rafting lines.  At high flows, the Adrift boats hug river-right (the right-hand side of the river as you face downstream) and drop dramatically into a large breaking wave at the bottom of a fast moving ramp of water.  Hundreds of people regularly gather here to watch the rafts in action.  At low flows, river-left offers a dramatic, near vertical drop down the ten shilling tight-rope.

Easy Rider (Grade 3)

EasyriderAs the name suggests, this is a classic roller coaster ride where the rafts race down a slick tongue of water then explode over a series of large crashing waves.  As with all Nile rapids, the grading is deceptive and the rapid is surprisingly large but offers a wonderful ride.  Most of the river races right of a single mid-stream island and the Adrift rafts enter the rapid on the river left of this channel.

Total Gunga (Grade 1)

total-gunga-aerial-largeUntil August 2007; this was one of the world’s legendary rapids (Grade 5).  Home to the G-spot (a huge breaking wave notorious for surfing rafts) and a series of massive standing waves, crashing holes and a maelstrom of whitewater; this rapid leaves a lasting impression on all rafters and in particulars on guides who have worked on the Nile.  We take our hat off to what was one of the best rapids the Adrift crew have ever rafted.  As a result of the coffer dam blocking the river-left channel around Dumbell Island, Total Gunga has now all but disappeared forever and will remain submerged behind the Bujagali Dam which is due to be completed in 2011.  ‘Gunga’ is a New Zealand slang term roughly translating to mean ‘down the guts’.  On the first descent of the river in 1996; despite the intimidating size of this rapid, Dave Tofler chose to guide the first raft right down the middle in the heart of the maelstrom.

Big Brother and Silverback (Grade 5)

Big BrotherThis rapid got it’s name from Zambezi River.  Adrift guides Andy Copestake (NZ) and Colin Hill (UK) took time out from their Omo River rafting season in 1995 and kayaked this section of river as part of the Adrift reconnaissance of the river.  As seasoned Zambezi River guides, they were shocked and surprised at the sheer size of the rapids and felt this rapid in particular was the ‘Big Brother’ of the Zambezi rapids.  Silverback is the massive, hard hitting fourth wave in the this series of towering Nile waves.  Since the coffer dam was created in August 2007, Big Brother is now carrying over twice the volume of what is would naturally and is HUGE and POWERFUL.

Point Break (Grade 3)

Point-breakThis rapid used to be known for it’s downtime (the time you spend under water when you fall out of the raft).  However, lower flows on the Nile in recent years have thrown up some wonderful standing waves on river-right of this rapid and the rafts now head in this direction for the best ride.  This is a nice way to change down gears after the power and ferocity of Big Brother.

Wakisi Island (Lunch Island)

Wakisi islandWhen Adrift introduced rafting to the Nile commercially in 1996, the rafts were such a curiosity that lunch stops became crowd pleasers for local villagers.  Hundreds of people would surround the rafters as they tried to enjoy their lunch on the banks of the Nile.  Adrift soon purchased a tiny island from one of the local villagers, set up shelter and seating on the island and this has now become home the world-famous Adrift lunch.  Each day, fresh avocados, juicy pineapples and succulent tomatoes combine well with cured ham, cheese, potato salad and fresh bread to satisfy the meanest of appetites from an active morning on the Nile.

Swim time

Swim-timeImmediately after lunch, the Nile meanders swiftly downstream toward a large flat pool.  The swirling currents and small waves in this section are perfect for swimming in your lifejackets.  Relax, put your feet up and watch the world go by as you float down the Nile supported by your lifejacket (High buoyancy personal floatation device).

Overtime (Grade 5)

Overtime entryOn the first descent of the Victoria Nile in 1996, Cam McLeay christened this rapid after watching Dave Tofler and his raft crew get swallowed in the 4.5 metre vertical waterfall at the heart of this rapid.  Not only do raft crews have to work overtime to get their boats in position at the top of the waterfall, if they don’t they can pay the price by flipping in the drop.  This is the most challenging rapid on the Nile for rafters and the most dangerous.  Unlike most of the other rapids, we are running a small volume channel of the river that is littered with shallow rock shelves and curiously placed boulders.  DD is the centre channel of the river and here and them massive gradient of this particular rapid simply make the main channel far to wild for rafting.  This is heart-in-your-mouth rafting at its very best.

Retrospect (Grade 4)

Overtime and Retrospect AerialNamed after New Zealand’s Kawarau River where there is a rapid of the same name, Retrospect does not look like much from above.  It is not until the raft sits on the brink of a steep ramp that drops into a menacing looking wall of whitewater at its base do rafters get an appreciation of the power of this rapid.  You can almost hear the gasps above the roar of the whitewater as startled paddlers look down at what lies ahead of them.

Bubugo (Grade 3)

BubugoShort and sweet.  Again the Nile slips quietly between heavily forested islands and disappears with a sound not unlike a jet aeroplane leaving only wisps of spray as an indication of where it went.  A beautiful glassy wave guards the top entrance to the rapid and is a favourite surfing spot for our safety kayaks.  The rafts can’t catch this wave and instead roll over a couple of other smaller waves before dropping into a large crashing wave a the base of the rapid.  It is all over quite quickly.

Super Hole (Grade 3)

Super HoleThis is a part of the Bubugo rapids and is one of the best waves on the river for novice river boarders.  Surfers can leap from a nearby rock and don’t even have to kick against the current if they time their jump well.  Once on the wave, they can ride it back and forth with ease; there is no need to kick and they simply steer the board by tilting it from side to side in the direction they want to go.  The wave is perfect for multiple riders, it is constantly changing and is very similar to riding an ocean wave except it is there 24 hours a day for every day for each year.

Itanda and the Bad Place (Grades 6 and 5)

The Bad PlaceThe one day trip finishes on a high at one of the most spectacular rapids you will ever imagine.  The Nile drops dramatically here as if there is suddenly a race to reach the ocean.  The river plunges over a rock shelf and then rolls upstream in a series of gigantic waves, one of which is called the Cuban.  The upper section of the rapid remains the domain of the kayakers and many of the Adrift safety kayakers will finish their day on a high by providing their visitors with a spectacular show of world class kayaking.  The upper section of Itanda is simply too large to raft, so all of the rafts are lifted from the river by the Adrift porters from the local village and carried around the upper section of the rapid.  While on terra firma, the Adrift guides give the options for the Bad Place.  For those who choose to drop into the giant hole near the base of Itanda rapid, there is a slim chance of the boat emerging upright at the other end.  The Bad Place is probably the largest hole rafted commercially in any part of the world and is famous for surfing rafts wildly and spilling the occupants of the raft into the wild Nile.  The rapid got its name after Troy Bentley (NZ) bravely ventured into the roaring hole in his kayak.  Troy is known for being particularly laid-back but emerged shaken after a thorough beating and exhaled the words… ‘Man, that is a Bad Place’.

The Other Place (Grade 6)

Don’t go there.  This is a nasty ‘frowning hole’ river left of the main current at Itanda.  It is seldom visited with good reason.

Vengeance (Grade 4)

VengenceDespite the ominous name, Vengeance is a delightful rapid squeezed between a couple of mid-river islands several kilometers below Itanda.  This is the first rapid you will encounter on the second day of the 2-day trip.  Thousands of giant fruit bats find adjacent Malubisi Island a favourite roost and a wonderful surf wave rolls from beneath an overhanging tree on left shore.  Choose the right of the channel and the rafts bounce nicely through a large wave and then into a roller coaster in the lower part of the rapid.  Go left here and you could be in for the ride of your life.  Unfortunately, the eddy below the surf hole is rather elusive otherwise you could spend hours here riding the wave.

Hair of the Dog (Grade 4)

Hair of the DogThis used to be the ‘morning shower’ of the two day trip (when we camped on one of the nearby islands) and hence the name.  This is another classic Nile rapid, where the river laces it’s way around dozens of islands and then explodes in a series of huge standing waves.  This is one of the most spectacular sections of Nile.  Large comorants leap from rocks to catch their breakfast, the Nile dances between huge granite boulders and rafts race downstream as if anxious to be on their way again.

Kulu Shaker (Grade 4)

Kulu ShakerNamed after a veteran Zambezi guide who worked with us for many years.  On one our first 2-day trips, Kulu was taken quite by surprise by the size of the waves here and spent most of his first trip beneath his upturned raft in this rapid.  Kulu Shaker gives us some nice options, we can tackle some thumping standing waves in the middle of the river or go for a soft option river-right in the channel with children on board.  Either way, the ride is fantastic fun and is particularly beautiful.  The rapid finishes in a swirling eddie at the base of a steep forest covered bank.   Look out for the troops of red-tailed and vervet monkeys that call this part of the river home.

Nile Special (Grade 4)

Nile SpecialThis rapid has become world-famous in the kayaking community for it’s surf wave.  We pull our rafts ashore here, bring out the boogie boards and give you the chance to ride the wave yourself.  For many people, this is some of most heart-pounding few minutes of their lives as the Nile races beneath their boogie boards and they carve the board left and right across the front of their wave.  Unlike most waves that are surfed throughout the world, Nile Special is there 365 days per year so the surf is always up.  The water temperature on the Nile has made this rapid in particular a mecca for whitewater kayakers. In the plastic rodeo boats, they cartwheel, roll, loop and whoop much to the amusement of both spectators and others watching.

Malalu (Grade 4)

MalaluAs if one wave wasn’t enough, Malalu rolls upstream in a powerful wall of whitewater and offers a wonderful finale to a Nile rafting experience.  The wave is perfect for riding on a surfboard, boogie board or even in a raft.  Try it with a friend.  There is plenty of space on the face of the wave to put several boards on at the same time and weave back and forth across the wave which is a huge amount of fun.  The Adrift kayakers are always on hand to help you back to the eddy of you are too tired to kick your way back yourself.  The fins we give you are ideal for moving yourself around the river but they are only as good as your legs are strong.

Weleba (Grade 2)

WelebaAs if the Nile is drained by all of the explosive rapids it creates upstream, Weleba is the final dance before the river takes some leisure time in Lake Kyoga.  Beautiful islands break up the Nile in several channels so typical of the classic rapids of the Nile and the river rolls and races between them.