Although called the Bujagali Dam, it is located two and a half kilometres downstream from the falls. The water will back up to a projected depth that will submerge most of the islands and create a small tree-lined lake within the confines of the river banks. Water travelling through the Owens Falls / Nalubale Dams will pass through the new Bujagali Dam
approximately 7 hours later.
Since 1996, the area has come to be very popular for white-water rafting. Trips run by Adrift Adventure Co., Nile River Explorers and more recently Equator and Nalubale Rafting start from above Bujagali Falls. Clients have a some orientation time and then they hit the first big, safely raftable section by the east bank at Bujagali, where the adventurous are roller-coasted down a grade 4 / 5 rapid on their way through one of the most exciting and beautiful sections of white-water action in the World.
When the new dam is completed this section and 2 other major rapids (Kyabirwa Falls / Total Gunga and Big Brother / Silverback) will also be submerged under quieter waters. This does not mean an end to rafting on the Nile. Trips will to start downstream below the dam, through the exhilarating rapids that remain and extend over other rapids below the current finish point for 1 day trips, at Itanda Falls (home to ‘The Bad Place’).
Also in 1996, a Kenyan entrepreneur, Raj Shaa, partially developed the site down beside the river. For a number of years Speke Camp was used as a base by Adrift and since 2002 by Equator Rafts. Nile River Explorers developed a site by Chillington Gate. Budget bandas, dormitories and camping sites provided the first tourist accommodation for the area. Bujagali Falls remained a favoured picnic site (on Christmas day 2001 over 2000 people visited) and tour companies (particularly Overland Travel operators) started to overnight. Visiting Bujagali Falls became an important must-do for many Ugandan children coming in school groups to see an important part of their heritage.
In 1999, Speke Camp (which was at that time leased from the Jinja District council with some of the rent being paid to Budondo sub-county) changed hands and the current owner, Sudhir Ruparelia, took over the lease. The green clad islands are home or resting point to many species of bird, the foaming blue and white water is an oxygenated paradise for nile perch, tilapia, and tiger fish. Early mornings, the Nile valley shrouded in slowly lifting mist, fish eagles calling, a small flock of white egrets feeding on the lawns and bedraggled cormorants drying their wings on rocky outcrops, will stir every nature lover’s heart. The pounding rapids bring a rush of adrenaline to rafters and kayakers. Just a few minutes north of the equator, at 1150 meters above sea-level, with a lovely climate all year round, vibrant sunrises and sunsets reflecting orange and purple off the river and the hypnotic quality of the rushing water, Bujagali Falls is a superb place to relax and absorb the environment.
Down by the river’s edge, the roar of water lulls visitors and locals alike. Bars, restaurants and cafés providing shade, comfortable seating, music, food and drink have sprung up on the east bank. Accommodation has improved to international standards. Colourful flotillas of kayakers from all over the world provide occasional entertainment. Almost every morning raft trips pass over Bujagali Falls; close enough to see the whites of their eyes!
During the day the ‘Bujagali Swimmers’ will for a 5,000/= (@ $2.50) fee, allow themselves to be washed through the main rapid using only a plastic jerrycan for floatation. Local fishing boats can be hired for trips out onto the calmer waters below the falls. There are many opportunities for sightseeing, fishing and bird-watching. Budondo Cultural Group provides musical entertainment at weekends and a number of small craft shops and food stalls have sprung up by Chillington Gate. The intriguingly named ‘Avoid Morning Sex’ shop is one example of local entrepreneurship.