When you think of the Nile, the meandering river through Egypt’s temple-dotted, desert landscapes probably comes to mind. But a 4,258-mile waterway is bound to flow through a huge array of ecosystems. As for the Nile, it begins in a very different environment, far from desert sands: among the lush forests of Uganda. As the river flows out of Lake Victoria, it is known as the Victoria Nile—or the White Nile for the color of its clay. The waters are calm and uneventful until they make a dramatic entrance into the Lake Albert region.
Here, the wide river is funneled into a 23-foot-wide gorge, creating a surging torrent of tremendous force that spills 141 feet. Murchison Falls, named for a celebrated 19th-century British geologist who once presided over the Royal Geographic Society, is one of the Nile’s most magnificent stretches, and you can see them up close during a scenic river cruise with your small group during Discovery Tours’ new Uganda Wildlife Exploration.
You begin your cruise downriver from Murchison Falls, then set off near the delta waters that split into finger-like rivulets on their way to Lake Albert. Hippopotamus, crocodile and numerous other magnificent creatures linger in or near the water against a backdrop of rich green forests of papyrus and other trees. Elephant might come to the river’s banks in search of a drink or a bath. Ugandan kob may sip from the shore. You might even spot the heads of Rothschild’s giraffe peering over the canopy. Watch the trees lining the shore for some of the 450 species of birds that make Murchison Falls National Park their home.
With unspoiled wilderness and primeval wildlife all around you, it is easy to imagine yourself in Victorian days setting out to search for the source of the mighty Nile. It is easy, too, to imagine The African Queen river boat drifting past, helmed by Humphrey Bogart, as it was here that parts of the 1951 Hollywood classic were filmed.
Then, the centerpiece of your safari cruise: Murchison Falls. You just might hear them before you see them, a roaring cascade forcing its way through a narrow gorge from 141 feet above. Its foamy rapids spill into the calmer waters that surround you, then join the more relaxed current and continue to Lake Albert. Pausing to take in their unbridled power, you feel the privilege of witnessing the Nile half a continent way from its more famous setting in Egypt.