Jinja – The Adventure Capital of East Africa

Jinja, Uganda’s second largest city has built itself an interesting reputation as the fun and adventure capital of East Africa. One of the oldest towns in the region, Jinja has a lot going for it, with outstanding physical features, tens of events and a bustling business scene

Jinja - Uganda's leading business destination and and adventure capital of East Africa

The East African country of Uganda doesn’t make it to the list of the must-visit locations for leisure and business in the region.

However, with an abundance of natural resources including mountains, rivers, lakes and some of the widest array of undiscovered wildlife in Africa, the country should be on your next itinerary whenever you want to move beyond the beaten paths of Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda – and one amazing place to visit is Jinja.

Located some 85 kilometers to the east of the capital city Kampala on the major highway to Kenya, Jinja – often referred to as the Adventure Capital of East Africa – is full of life, thrill and places to discover for all manner of traveler.

The source of River Nile, Africa's longest river is in Jinja. The river continues to be a fulcrum from which development around Jinja is anchored

Adventures and more

Already a famous location for local people – including huge droves of those from Kampala, who are looking for a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the capital, mainly during the weekends and holidays – and international travelers alike, Jinja’s attractions are primarily around its biggest attraction, Lake Victoria.

Jinja is located on the shores of Lake Victoria and has the unique profile of hosting the source of River Nile, Africa’s longest and most economically important river. 

Founded in 1907, it is one of the oldest cities in East Africa and the second largest and the second busiest city in Uganda. The town has always drawn in visitors over the decades, who are attracted by its unique tourism, agriculture and fishing and other business ventures.

For fun activities, Jinja is unlike any other city in East Africa. From bungee jumping, white water rafting, fishing, kayaking, boat cruises, bird watching, visits to museums and islands, to bike riding or just lounging at the city’s lodges and hotels, Jinja has it all. 

With vast lush vegetation around the town, including the famous Mabira forest plus the many islands that can be accessed easily by boat, Jinja is a bird watchers paradise.

The city has also become a haven for festivals of any kind – including food and drink festivals – of any size, shade and craze. 

For the young at heart, do not miss the 4 days of wild celebration that is the Nyege Nyege Festival, the underground music fest that takes place in September every year, drawing artists and revelers from across east Africa. 

To add a splash to Ugandans love for food, there are tens of food festivals focused on ice cream and cake, pork, fish etc. that you should give a try.

A visit to Jinja is, however not complete without getting to the source of the Nile – what is considered by many as a life changing experience. 

For the culturally inclined, take some time to visit the Kyabazinga Royal Palace, which houses the King of Busoga, who are the majority ethnic community in the vicinity of Jinja.

The new Nile Bridge in Jinja has opened the town to more investors. The proposed Ninja-Kampala highway will improve access to Jinja, adding to its more than a century's business hub in East Africa.

Business in Jinja

Having made its name as an industrial city, Jinja and Uganda went through trying times in the 1970s to the late 1980s due to the civil wars that swept the Great Lakes region of Africa, when vital businesses and tourism virtually collapsed.

Improvements in infrastructure spend around Jinja, which includes the revamped iconic Jinja Nile bridge, the planned Kampala-Jinja Expressway and the three recently built hydroelectric power stations, Bujagali, Kiira and Isimba continue to place Jinja at the forefront of the economic resurgence of Uganda and the region.

Jinja’s history as an industrial and tourism hub is on the mend, considering the many businesses that call Jinja home.

Already a centre for various businesses, Jinja has seen the entry of new businesses in the hospitality, food, beverage and milling processing, banking, retail and real estate and service industries in the last 10 years to tap into the city’s rising population and its access to eastern Uganda and yonder, including Kenya.

The city hosts some of the most iconic brands in Uganda, including Uganda’s premier brewing company Nile Breweries, the maker of the Nile Special Lager beer, which opened its first brewery on the edge of River Nile in 1951 and continues to brew its popular beers using the Nile’s waters nearly 70 years later.

Kakira Sugar, which has operated its sugar cane business through the good and bad times in Jinja since 1930, is another historical giant located in Jinja.

Others include Bidco Uganda Limited that refines cooking oil from its facility in the city’s outskirts, plus other factories processing packaging materials, textiles, bread, personal care products, steel and other building materials, grain, confectionery, tobacco and many more.

The town has seen an up rise in grain trading and processing activities with a number of maize mills set up in the city in recent times to tap into the increase in agricultural activity.

Another major infrastructure project by the government of Uganda in Jinja, the 182 acres Jinja Industrial & Business Park is set to upgrade the city’s industrial heritage significantly.

Already, the solar bus company Kiira Motors has begun the construction of its facility at the Park, with plans to be the leader in providing sustainable mass mobility solutions in Africa.

The initial phase of the plant has a target of producing 5,000 solar buses per year.

Kakira Sugar is one of the oldest businesses in Jinja. The company has vast sugar plantations and factories plus touristic sites.

WHERE TO EAT

SURJIO’S

Surjios is a guesthouse and pizzeria located at Kisinja Road in Jinja, Uganda. It offers amazing pizza and Italian cuisine

THE BLACK LANTERN RESTAURANT

The Black Lantern Restaurant is located near Bujagali in Jinja. It prides in providing the best ribs and is a hot spot for lunch and dinners with outdoors setup and cosy rooms

RUMOURS AT THE SOURCE OF THE NILE

Rumours is located at the source of the Nile, Jinja and is also the gateway to Samuka Island, a key attraction hotspot.

AASWAD FOREVER RESTAURANT

The Aaswad Forever Restaurant is located in the Main Street of Jinja. It offers Indian and Asian vegetarian friendly and vegan options for lunch and dinner.

WHERE TO STAY

BRISK HOTEL TRIANGLE

The Brisk Hotel Triangle is a low budget hotel with amazing lake view of Lake Victoria. It offers an outdoor pool and views of the lake from most of the property

LIVING WATER RESORT

The Living Water Resort is located on Speke Memorial Road in the Njeru locality, offering accommodation, a terrace and a garden. The property is 200m from Speke Memorial and a 3-minute walk from Source of the Nile viewpoint.

MADA HOTEL

Formerly called Jinja Nile Resort before it was taken over by the Mada Hitel Group, the hotel is located some 4.3 km from the city centre and is the biggest hotel in Jinja with a bed capacity of 190.

Situated on the banks of the River Nile, Jinja it is set on over 30 acres of landscaped gardens.

WHAT TO DO

Jinja is an adventurous' paradise with activities including White water rafting, Tubing the Nile, Bike riding, Golf playing, Sailing and boat riding, Bungee jumping and Bird watching

WHERE TO VISIT

Source of the Nile – The Source of the second longest river in the world, marketed as a discovery of one of the first European explorer, is an internationally unique attraction.

Itanda Falls – The Itanda Falls are also found on the Nile, 18 kilometers north-west of Jinja town. The falls offer opportunity for bird watching (especially the weaver birds), camping and picnic outings.

Kyabirwa Falls – Located 8 kilometers from Jinja, the falls offer a good scenery and landscape for campsites that is not yet fully exploited. Potential also exists for bird watching and Ethnobotany.

Lake Victoria beaches – The lake’s beaches have been partially exploited for location of tourism developments, especially hotels. These beaches include the sites at Sailing Club, Tilapia Club and Masese.

Islands in Lake Victoria – These include Samuka, Ndaiga and LwabitookeI. However, only Samuka, has been exploited for tourism purposes.

Antiquities / Historical sites – These include Bujagali ancestral site, for Soga tribe ancestral spirits, at Bujagali falls; the current Busoga King’s palace at Nakabango; Mpumudde hill, the historical meeting place of the Busoga chiefs and the British colonial Governors and where King Kabalega, of the Bunyoro Kingdom died.

This feature appeared in the April 2020 edition of Africa Inc. magazine. You can access the full digital magazine HERE

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