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Isimba Dam Construction Threatens Adventure Tourism

The Isimba dam site was previously used by companies promoting adventure tourism activities and trips from Bujagali. But reports show that the ongoing construction at Isimba Falls has blocked the 39 km route for which tourists would pay at least $125 for day\'s excursion.
Juma Kalikwani Kayaking

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Adventure tourists visiting Jinja for white water rafting and kayaking have gradually reduced with the construction of the 188 megawatt dam at Isimba falls along River Nile.

The Isimba dam site was previously used by companies promoting adventure tourism activities and trips from Bujagali. But reports show that the ongoing construction at Isimba Falls has blocked the 39 km route for which tourists would pay at least $125 for day\'s excursion.

Adventure tourism was, prior to the construction that started in August 2014, the third most popular trip activity for leisure tourists coming to Uganda, the 2013 World Bank Economic and Statistical analysis of Tourism in Uganda showed. 

The report showed that adventure tourism attracted 25 per cent of the over one million non-residents who visited Uganda in 2013. The most popular trip activities were wildlife safari accounting for 39 per cent of tourist visits and gorilla tracking at 26 per cent.

But Viola Namanya, a tour and travel consultant at African Expedition Safaris said the number of rafters has declined from an average of 70 rafters to only 10 bookings since the commencement of the construction. This, she says, has translated into an income reduction for the company from approximately 122 million shillings per month in rafting, accommodation and travel payments to 18 million shillings.

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Juma Kalikwani an international rafter and Kayaker, but also a native of Itanda village in Jinja was one of the local pioneers of white water rafting in Uganda at the upper Nile. He said the developments would push kayakers out of Uganda to countries like Zimbabwe where rafting is done along river Zambezi.

He said the alternative is to shorten the route which would be less adventurous and interesting for tourists.

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Simon Kaita a tourism officer in Jinja municipality says the effects on rafting sport will affect other sectors in the country.

“If rafting is done away with, then you take away many other businesses too. People come to Jinja for rafting, rapids viewing and kayaking. They have maybe two, three days or a week. They stay in Jinja, go to the shops in town or into the villages with funds for food accommodation, medication, transport,” Kaita said. 

Lincoln Myeera, a manager at the tourist centre in Jinja says most of the tourism in Uganda is supported by nature tourism with about 70,000 people coming into Uganda.

Myeera says that with a growth of 20% annually of the tourism sector in Uganda, government could have saved some of the falls and rapids, but also constructed the 188 and 250 megawatt dams at Isimba and Bujagali respectively.

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A government report from the ministry of Tourism shows Tourism employs more than 500,000 people and contributed 4.9 trillion Shillings to Uganda\'s gross domestic product in 2013.

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