Jinja lies in southeastern Uganda, approximately 54 miles (87 km), by road, east of Kampala. The town is located on the shores of Lake Victoria, near to the source of the Nile River. The nearby Owen Falls Dam regulates the flow of the White Nile and generates electricity. Jinja is the largest metropolitan area in Jinja District, and is considered the capital of the Kingdom of Busoga.

Jinja Municipality is the second largest town of Uganda. It was formerly a fishing village that benefited from being on long-distance trade routes. The town was founded in 1901 by the British as an administrative centre for the Provincial Government Headquarters for Busoga region. This was around the time when a lake steamer service operated between Jinja and Port Florence (Jinja), the port that in 1901 became the terminus of the railway from the coast.

Nearby towns and villages include Njeru (1.9 mi or 3.5 km; 2.2 mi), Buwenda (2.8 mi or 5.2 km; 3.2 mi), Kimaka (2.8 mi or 5.2 km; 3.2 mi), Mpumudde (2.6 mi or 4.8 km; 3.0 mi), Masese (2.3 mi or 4.3 km; 2.6 mi), Walukuba (2.4 mi or 4.4 km; 2.8 mi), Bugungu and Bugembe (4km)


Before 1906, Jinja was a fishing village that benefited from being located on long-distance trade routes. The origin of the name “Jinja” comes from the language of the two peoples (the Baganda and the Basoga) that lived on either side of the River Nile in the area. In both languages “Jinja” means “Rock”. In most of Africa, rivers like the Nile hindered migration, this explains the ethnic boundaries along the Nile as one moves north from the river’s source on the northern shores of Lake Victoria.

However the area around Jinja was one place where the river could be breached due to the large rocks near the Ripon Falls. Here, on either bank of the river, were large flat rocks where small boats could be launched to cross the river. These rock formations were also accredited with providing a natural moderator for the water flow out of Lake Victoria. For the original local inhabitants, the location was a crossing point, for trade, migration and as a fishing post.

This might explain why, despite this barrier, the two tribes have very similar languages, and the more powerful Baganda had an enormous influence on the Basoga. The area was called the ‘Place of Rocks’ or ‘The Place of Flat Rocks’. The word for stones or rocks in the language of the Baganda is ‘Ejjinja (Plural Mayinja), and in the Basoga dialect this became Edinda. The British used this reference to name the town they established – “Jinja”

People & ethnicity in Jinja

Jinja District is part of Busoga sub-region, which includes the districts listed below, and was home to an estimated 2.5 million people in 2002, according to the national census. The majority of the people in Jinja District belong to the Basoga ethnic group and Lusoga is the most widely spoken language.

Jinja as a tourism hub

Standing on the lush banks of The River Nile, Jinja is Uganda’s second biggest city. The town itself has a vivacious, multi-cultural feel to it, and tourists flock from all over the world to see where The Nile starts its long 6,500km journey north. Many go on to take up the challenge of the river’s mighty grade five rapids, which are now one of Uganda’s main tourist attractions.

Jinja became an economic boom town at the start of the twentieth century due to its strategic location close to the river and Uganda’s capital city Kampala, which is only 80km away. Its central position in Uganda’s industry was cemented in 1954 with the building of the Owen Falls Dam, providing it with cheap, accessible (if not very reliable), electricity. Within a few short years, the community had expanded to include many Europeans and Asians who were keen to settle in this bustling industrial hub.

Jinja a unique adventure tourism capital

Flat water canoeing, River boarding (Fishing, Swimming and bird watching), Kayaking,     Water Rafting, Bungee Jumping, Quad biking, Water sport, Rock climbing, Horse riding on the Nile, Paragliding, Cultural sites, Source of the Nile and Historic sites.

Tourist attractions in Jinja

Local attractions include white-water rafting, the “Source of the Nile”, and a large brewery. About 5 miles (8.0 km) north of Jinja is the site where the Bujagali Power Station is under construction, as of May 2009. When completed in 2011, the hydroelectric facility will provide 250 MW of electric power.

There is a private sailing Club on the shores of Lake Victoria. There is an animal sanctuary at Buwenge, 30 kilometres (19 mi) north of Jinja on the highway to Kamuli. Buwenge is also the location of the headquarters of Jinja District, in which the city of Jinja is located.

The 9 holes (18 tee) golf course was originally laid out in the mid-1920s; and famously had a local rule allowing a free drop of the ball if it came to rest in a hippo’s hoof print. The course has tremendous views of the Nile and Lake Victoria and the second green is within a ‘lob wedge’ of the source of the Nile.

Some of Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes were scattered into the source of the White Nile. There is a small memorial garden at the spot. There is an active Hindu temple near Jinja, which has a bronze bust of Gandhi. There is also a Buddhist temple.

About 25 kilometres (16 mi) south, in Lake Victoria, is Buvuma Island whose forests sometimes attract intrepid bird-watchers.

The town has several restaurants, cafes and hotels open to diners.

Plans are underway for the construction of a Zoo around the source of the Nile in Jinja. The Zoo will be the second in Uganda after the Uganda Wild Life Education Centre in Entebbe, about 100 km away.

Activities in Jinja include horseback riding, bungee jumping, water skiing, boat cruises, rafting, camping and quad cycling.

Jinja Economy

Agriculture thrives on the fertile soils, abundant water sources, and reliable rainfall. Other industries are metal processing, leather and paper processing, grain milling, sugar, some organic fruits, and coffee growing for export, and brewing for local sale. There is some local and export fishing on Lake Victoria. British-American Tobacco Uganda (BATU) closed its Jinja tobacco-processing factory in 2005, due to high taxes. The biggest local employer is currently the Kakira Sugar Works, a member of the Madhvani Group of companies. Kakira Sugar Works is one of the largest sugar factories in East Africa, employing over 75,000. The factory burns biogases byproducts from sugar manufacturing to generate 20 MW of electricity for internal use. The excess electricity is sold to the national grid.

The headquarters of Nile Breweries can also be found in Njeru, a suburb of Jinja, near the Source of the Nile, from which the brewery has been drawing its water for the past fifty years. Building of the brewery commenced in 1952 but was only completed four years later. Bottles of Nile Beer (now Nile Special Lager and still the company’s flagship brand) were first enjoyed by consumers back in 1956. In 2001, Nile Breweries Limited was fully acquired by South African Breweries Ltd. (SAB). A year later, in May 2002, SAB acquired Miller Brewing Company in the United States, thus forming SABMiller Plc.

In recent years, Nile Breweries’ investment in its people, brands and physical assets have given rich reward, both in performance and recognition. Volume growth and profitability have steadily risen, along with significant debt reduction that threatened the company’s ability to trade during the early part of the decade. This has encouraged further capital project investment.

Compared to other urban areas, Jinja’s economic recovery has been rather sluggish. Uganda’s economic boom that started in 1990s saw rapid expansion in Uganda’s capital Kampala, which is only 87 kilometres (54 mi) west of Jinja. However, recently 2010, the economy of Jinja has picked up steadily and many investors are now setting shop

In the past, factories chose Jinja as their base due to the proximity of the electric power station at the Owen Falls Dam. However, in recent years, it has become more convenient to locate businesses in Kampala due to the latter’s more vibrant economy. Furthermore, a significant number of the Busoga ‘elite’ have moved to Kampala to benefit from the social and economic advantages it has over Jinja. Another controversial reason is the improvement of the road infrastructure between Kampala and the coast at Mombasa in Kenya which is Uganda’s only route to the Indian Ocean and the country’s main trade route. The poor maintenance of this route during the 1970s and 1980s meant that most trucks carrying goods to and from the coast were diverted into the heart of Jinja on their way to and from Kampala. This supported a significant part of Jinja’s economy. Once the main road was repaired, these trucks started to by-pass Jinja.

The International oil refining company called Bidco maintains an oil refinery factory in the city. The palm oil fruits come from Bidco’s 6,500 hectares (16,000 acres) plantation on Bugala Island in the Ssese Islands Archipelago, Kalangala District, in Lake Victoria. The factory in the islands crushes the fruit and the crude palm oil is transported to Jinja for refining into edible oil and other products.

Hared Petroleum a petroleum company has also contributed to the growth of Jinja. It has a fuel depot and several fuel stations in the city. Excel Construction Company and Salini Construrori are also based in Jinja. These are some of the largest construction companies in Uganda. Salini Construrori is currently constructing the multi-billion dollar Bujagali Hydroelectric Power Dam project in Jinja on Bujagali falls

Jinja nightlife

Jinja boasts of a vibrant and robust nightlife. With dozens of bars including Bebes, Leo, Spot six, night clubs like Sombreros and Mayfair, casinos, including the Nile View Casino, one can be spoilt for choice while in Jinja.

Tourist activities in Jinja

Rafting as the main adventure, Quad biking, Village walks, Boat cruise, Birding & fishing trips, primate watching, Bungee Jumping, and Kayaking among many visitor activities

Jinja’s land marks

Jinja іs the location of the headquarters of the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization а subsidiary of the East African Community. Jinja іs also the location of the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jinja headed by а Catholic bishop, currently, the Rt. Reverend Bishop Charles Martin Wamika.

Historical monuments, temples and acathedralin Jinja

Whether you want to go river rafting or bird watching, you can find plenty of nature activities in Jinja, Uganda. Among the outdoor activities that you might find appealing include white-river rafting, a trip to the mouth of the Nile River or the “Source of the Nile,” a visit to the private sailing club along the Lake Victoria shore, and animal watching at the Buwenge animal sanctuary. You can also get beautiful views of the Nile River and Lake Victoria without getting wet with a visit to a 9-hole golf course in Jinja – the second green on the course is right on the lob wedge of the famous “Source of the Nile.” The “Source of the Nile” is also known for the small memorial garden where Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes were scattered. Gandhi admirers could also visit Jinja’s Hindu temple where a bronze Gandhi bust is housed.

Located in eastern Uganda, Jinja ranks next to the Ugandan capital city of Kampala in terms of commercial activity. Its shop facades speak of the rich Indian heritage of Jinja. Trading plays a large part of Jinja’s economy. With the improvement of roads and infrastructure in the 1990s, however, much of the trading that was conducted in Jinja was diverted to Kampala. Despite this, you can find a number of manufacturing industries in Jinja. One of East Africa’s largest sugar factories, Kakira Sugar Works, is in fact located in Jinja. Other industries that have chosen to locate in Jinja include metal and paper processing, grain milling, coffee growing, and brewing. The Nile Breweries headquarters is one of the local tourist attractions in Jinja. The brewery is situated right at the Source of the Nile. It is notable to point out that it is from the Source of the Nile where the brewery has drawn its water supply for the past fifty years.

Tourism destinations in Jinja

Jinja marks the point where Africa’s longest River Nile, starts its 6,400km journey to the north via Sudan & Egypt up to the Medditerrian Sea. It is worth paying a visit if you consider how many years it took John Speke to explorer the Source of Nile. The spot also boasts the Mahatma Gandhi monument, and important shrine visited by Indian communities in Uganda. Gandhi’s ashes were scattered through the Nile from the same place. On the western banks of the Nile, lies the Speke monument, the point where John Hannington Speke stood to watch the Nile on 28 July 1862.

Itanda Falls

Jinja has some of the world’s best white water rafting all year round at the point called the Itanda falls, situated 15km from the town centre. Itanda falls boasts of several campsites for rafters and visitors.

Rafting and Bungee jumping

The Owen falls Dam 831m long and 31m high dam was constructed in 1954. It is the major source electricity in Uganda. Coming from Kampala, the dam forms a spectacular gateway to Jinja town. As you cross the bridge, look down on the raging river below (Nile).

The mighty river Nile in Jinja offering the best white water rafting in the world and other activities like Kayaking, Bungee jumping, Quad biking along the Nile, Horse riding along the Nile, Fishing, Sunset cruises among others.

Jinja’s surrounding attractions

Samuka Islands

Samuka island retreat is a beautiful offshore resort located in Jinja approximately 20 minutes by boat ride from the source of the Nile. Samuka Island offers perfect accommodation in Jinja for both business and leisure travelers. This hotel in Jinja also offers bed and breakfast options for travelers intending to spend one or two nights in Jinja .Samuka island retreat is the perfect get away for honeymoon couples seeking a relaxing, peaceful and yet beautiful destination within Uganda. Speed boats to Samuka Island via the source of the Nile are available at the Rumours bar located at the source of the Nile.

Samuka Honeymoon Packages

Samuka island retreat is the most ideal destination for any honeymooner seeking a romantic getaway. Our honeymoon packages include accommodation for four nights in a decorated cottage:- Meals including breakfast, lunch and dinner, a visit to the source of the Nile use of the swimming pool, a visit to the source of the Nile, a return boat transfer from Jinja to the island.

Ssezibwa falls

It is an ideal place to visit both for individuals, groups and families and is right next to Ssezibwa Falls. Ssezibwa Falls Resort is a 45 minutes drive from Kampala along the excellent Kampala-Jinja highway after Mukono town. It is easily accessible by either a two wheel or four wheel drive vehicle, although at the moment, the murram road once you turn off the main highway, favours a high clearance four wheel drive as it can be very skiddy and muddy when it rains. However the road is being worked on.

At the resort you will be welcomed at the large parking area that the resort boasts by the friendly staff. One of the things that are impressive about the guides is how knowledgeable they are of the area. As soon as you have paid the pocket friendly entry fee you are given a quick run through the history of the place and the activities available there.

Ssezibwa means ‘it can’t be blocked’. It is a tourism and cultural site with a lot to see and do for nature lovers. It is 200 metres at the point where the water drops then it continues its flow and finally empties at Lake Kyoga.

With 135 bird species in the area, it a bird lover’s paradise for those who enjoy bird watching. The birds that can be seen include the Mourning Dove, African Harrier Hawk, African Pied Wagtail, Mouse birds and Sunbirds. An early morning guided walk with the knowledgeable guide gives you a chance to spot some of the birds available in this area. You can also enjoy a three hour forest walk which gives you the chance to learn about the many trees that can be seen in the surrounding area including their medicinal value. Primate and Butterfly viewing are still other activities available at Ssezibwa Resort with about 20 butterfly species to be seen there. You can also go for mountain biking and boat riding.

For the adventurous, climbing to the top of the falls and watching the water drop down from the bridge that has been constructed at the top is an activity you would not want to miss. The resort has large camping grounds which can accommodate both big and small groups. Since it is still under construction, camping is the only form of accommodation available. There is a restaurant which has available both local food and snacks. However these have to be ordered in advance so as to be prepared early.

Alternatively, if you plan to spend a full day at this excellent tourist attraction, you can pack your own food and drinks which can be enjoyed on the large camping grounds available.

Ssezibwa Falls Resort is next to Ssezibwa Falls which is a 45 minutes drive from Kampala, along the excellent Jinja-Kampala highway. After Kayanja trading center on the highway, turn right onto a murram road and drive for another 1.5km before you reach the falls. Activities at Ssezibwa Falls Resort include nature guided walks, bird watching, Primate walks, camping, boat riding and mountain biking. For day or camping tours to Ssezibwa Falls Resort

Mabira forest

It straggles the Main Jinja to Kampala highway. It is 54 km from Kampala and 20km from Jinja.

Mabira Forest has 200 kinds of tree species. At times you come across patches of grasslands, and in the valleys of Mabira Forest you will come across various papyrus swamps; there are streams and a peaceful waterfall.

This small forest is home to more than 300 species of mostly forest birds.

Mabira Forest is home to bush-pigs, blue duikers, red tailed monkeys, grey cheeked mangabees (a smaller species of mangabees has been discovered here)

Some activities to do in Mabira Forest are:

Nature Walks, Mountain Biking, Birding Walks, Relaxation, Guided Hikes.

A huge and beautiful African natural rain forest. Has an extensive visitors trail network with 10 forest trails catering for people of all time schedules and abilities both guided and unguided trails are available.

If you are not rushing to the west from Jinja or needing to get to Kampala in a hurry. Mabira forest is a pleasant stop over.

The only rainforest near Kampala is a place of natural wonders and is a good place to get away from it all and spend a night at Mabira Rainforest Lodge – simply a delightful treat…enjoys Mabira Rainforest, Enjoy Uganda…

Kagulu Hill

It was the first settlement area for Basoga of Bunyoro origin led by Prince Mukama. Although the cultural value of Kagulu extends to cover a wide area, the remaining and visible landmark is the Kagulu hill. The hill sits in between two roads that divide at the foothill leading to Gwaya and Iyingo.

The hill, although not yet familiar to many people outside Busoga, has breathtaking scenery that gives a clear view of almost the entire Busoga. Kagulu hill is unique in the attractions it offers. It is the only hill in Uganda that has been adapted for tourist climbing, with constructed steps to make it easy for visitors to access the top.

Sipi Falls

Sipi Falls is a series of three waterfalls in Eastern Uganda in the district of Kapchorwa, northeast of Sironko and Mbale. The waterfalls lie on the edge of Mount Elgon National Park near the Kenyan border.

The Sipi Falls area is the starting point for many hikes up Mt. Elgon. The most popular route starts in Budadiri and follows the Sasa trail to the summit and then descends down the Sipi trail back into the Sipi Falls. Hikes around the falls offer stunning views of the Karamoja plains, Lake Kyoga, and the slopes of Mt. Elgon. Individuals can organize trips through the Uganda Wildlife Authority or local private operators.

There are a number of lodges and backpackers / campsites in the area offering a range of accommodation for all budgets. With a cooler climate than most of the country Sipi Falls is a nice place to unwind, relax and literally chill out away from the hustle and bustle of the towns and cities. Being on the foothills of Mt. Elgon, Sipi offers a number of alternative activities to the mainstream river activities in and around Jinja. Rob’s Rolling Rock, a local outfit trained by Italian climbers offers abseiling along the side of the main 100m Sipi waterfall as well as climbing on 14 bolted sport routes with a range of difficulty. Other activities include hiking around the local area and visiting the local waterfalls.

The Sipi River is named after the ‘Sep’, a plant indigenous to the banks of the River. Resembling a type of wild banana, Sep is a medicinal plant; the translucent green frond with a bolt of crimson rib is used for treating measles and fever.

The Sipi Falls area is particularly famous for locally grown Bugisu Arabica coffee. Bugisu Arabica only grows at an altitude of between 1,600 and 1,900 metres. Coffee tours are organized through guides with knowledge of coffee farming, processing and roasting. Profits from this go towards community projects

Jinja’s Accessibility

Jinja lies in southeastern Uganda, approximately 54 miles (87 km), by road, east of Kampala. The town is located on the shores of Lake Victoria, near to the source of the Nile River. The nearby Owen Falls Dam regulates the flow of the White Nile and generates electricity. Jinja is the largest metropolitan area in Jinja District, and is considered the capital of the Kingdom of Busoga.

Nearby towns and villages include Njeru (1.9 n or 3.5 km; 2.2 mi), Buwenda (2.8 mi or 5.2 km; 3.2 mi), Kimaka (2.8 mi or 5.2 km; 3.2 mi), Mpumudde (2.6 mi or 4.8 km; 3.0 mi), Masese (2.3 mi or 4.3 km; 2.6 mi), Walukuba (2.4 mi or 4.4 km; 2.8 mi), Bugungu and Bugembe (4km)