Get yourself on a quad bike Safari, you’re in 4-a-wheelie good day out!
Have you tried quad biking in Uganda?
The format of the quad bike Safari is a real giggle!
After a wonderful Aussie welcome from Shirray, Herbert guided us through the safety procedures and warned us against: racing, running over kids, killing goats, the usual! Jinja’s quad biking safari setup is very professional with lots of highly visual printed information on quad biking day out “Do’s and Don’ts.” It’s tempting to race of course (but I knew Shirray and PK would never let me back if I did!)
Quad biking adventure part one –“get your kit on!”
Anyone can ride a quad bike and no previous experience is necessary – all training, guiding and safety equipment are provided by All Terrain Adventures.
It doesn’t matter what you wear for your quad biking Safari either, but I’d wear something light and loose, like leggings or a tracksuit. All Terrain Adventures provide quad bikers with big baggy all-in-one overalls. They also provide the Ugandan uniform favourite: gumboots. Alternatively, you can wear your own shoes – but forget wearing flip-flops or sandals (or need I say – stilettos?)
The pièces de résistance are the (compulsory) helmet and goggles – Biggles style! These guys have thought of everything: we even had branded bandanas to cover our mouths. (It becomes difficult to see who’s who once you’ve got all your kit on!)
Cameras were placed in protective plastic bags and the rest of our stuff was safely stowed away in the ATA office. Then you only have one choice to make: dust? or mud!!
You’ll get dirty as hell, whatever the season. In the dry season you’ll get dusty. In the rainy season you’ll get muddy. All part of the fun!
Quad biking adventure part two –“anyone for a round of mini-golf?”
The practice session saw us do a couple of laps around the training circuits including a circuit that runs through the Big Game Mini-Golf course – part of the All Terrain Adventures enclosure – that includes life size statues of the Big Five and other animals such as ‘an African Tiger.’
Herbert was the safari guide for our drive-yourself quad biking adventure. During the practice, more guides were on hand to show us how to handle the quad bikes, change gear, direct us, pull us back onto the track (!) They took plenty of photographs for us too, leaving us to concentrate on the serious business of scaring the hell out of ourselves.
Kids from the neighbourhood stood watching us race round the mini-golf. SAFETY TIP: this is not a good time to wave at the kids. You will need both hands on the handlebars!
After a few laps, and posing for more photos, Herbert led us out for the start of our quad bike Safari and freedom (to drive into a Bush in Isla’s case!)
Quad biking adventure part three – “Come! We go!”
I felt very proud of myself driving the quad bike. As a boda boda drove past, I kidded myself I’d graduated to being one of them. It felt quite good to be in charge of a bike in Uganda for once.
A quad bike Safari is a really fun way to visit a typical Ugandan village. You won’t see any cars. You may only see one or two bicycles. What you will see are people planting crops, harvesting, spreading millet out in the sunshine to dry. We watched a lady slowly walk past with a huge jackfruit on her head. Another lady was carrying a huge bundle of firewood.
Off we went on our quad bike Safari through the villages around Bujagali, smiling and waving at the kids. (They couldn’t see our smiles through the bandanas of course and if you’re following in the cloud of dust behind another quad bike, which you probably will be, it’s not a good idea to have your mouth open anyway!)
A couple of the kids ran after us and tried to jump on the back of my quad bike. Herbert wasn’t having any of it. He was constantly looking out for us.
Quad biking adventure part four –“Eat my dust!”
We came to an abrupt halt in front of a piece of red and white tape strung across the marram road in front of us. Was it the scene of an accident? Was there some kind of drama ahead? We waited for a couple of minutes and watched as a new electrical pole was erected. (It’s good to know that even in ‘the back of beyond’, safety measures are in place when few people are watching).
Back on the road a few minutes later, Herbert prepared us to go down a long, steep, rutted track towards the River Nile. It was very exciting and a test of our newly acquired skills. Navigating the ruts required concentration. Catch a hump of earth too fast, or at the wrong angle, and you might throw yourself off. I can’t imagine how crazy that section of track must be during the rainy season!
From Bujagali Falls to Lake Bujagali …
As our quad bike Safari continued along the shores of the Nile, Herbert told us the history of Bujagali Falls and pointed to where the famous rapids used to be. I visited Bujagali Falls – once “a spectacular series of cascading rapids which Ugandans consider a national treasure” – in 2010. In those days, the going rate to watch a young boy negotiate the Falls in a Jerry can was just 5,000 shillings (just over £1 / $1.50). The 2013 rate is a whopping ten times that amount! It’s a highly dangerous occupation, one that now takes place 15 km downstream, on the other side of the new Bujagali Dam.
Uganda’s famous grade 5 white water rafting has changed little really and still remains the best in Africa. If you’ve never done the white water rafting in Uganda before, you will notice very little difference on the new course, below the new Bujagali Dam. I’ve rafted both sections of the River and I couldn’t tell the difference. (Both are equally scary – but you can’t visit Uganda without trying white water rafting at least once).
Of course ‘Lake Bujagali’ – as it is affectionately known now – is a much safer place for local people to do their washing.The rafting and adventure activity industries employ a lot of people along the banks of the River Nile in Jinja.
Before heading back to base, Herbert took us to a dusty trading centre, where we ripped off our bandanas and necked down an ice cold ginger Stoney soda. We’d had a fantastic couple of hours and were grinning from ear to ear. I was washing the dust out of my hair for days!
Did you know Jinja is “the adrenaline capital of East Africa”?
From the Nile River Explorers Camp two minutes away from All Terrain Adventures, you can go kayaking, grade 5 white water rafting, horse riding, fishing, bird watching, and more. The NRE Camp is a great base for a few days adventure activities, a visit to the Source of the Nile and Jinja Town – or to just chill out and enjoy the view (and the great value food). I’ve stayed in the Safari tents overlooking the river a number of times. It’s a lovely place to lose a couple of days.
DISCLOSURE: This blog is based on my personal experience. I was lucky enough to be given a free night’s stay at NRE Explorers Camp in return for this blog post. For more information about guest posts, read the Muzungu’s Terms and Conditions.