Isimba Dam

The Isimba hydropower project is well underway in Uganda and the unfortunate truth is that we will soon be losing some of the white water on this section of amazing rapids.

There is a lot of misunderstanding surrounding the dam, and it is hard for people to find out accurate information on what is happening, so we have set up this page up to provide kayakers with information about what is going on to the best of our knowledge.

Here are some facts and dates about the project and it’s impact on the white water:

  • Construction is well under way for the tallest version of the dam height options
  • Based on the original schedule, flooding of the rapids was scheduled for the 23rd of May 2018. This date was taken from the Ministry for Energy’s schedule, but we are not being kept well informed, so it may vary either way.

Latest News

4th Jan 2018: We are very sad to report that Malalu has now been lost to the dam construction. We received reports from some friends who went last night for a surf and found that the dam construction has constricted the river’s flow enough to back up that section so that Malalu doesn’t have a sufficient gradient to run any more.

We would like to assure you though that the rest of the river, including Nile Special should not be flooded until the original date of the 23rd of May 2018 at the earliest.

Here’s an image of the current dam construction, taken by Will from Nalubale.
Dam Construction

July 2017: Due to worker strikes and faults reported in the dam construction, we expect a delay of 4-6 months for completion. Therefore we expect flooding to push back to between the end of September 2018 and the end of November 2018. We are working to get further confirmation of these dates.

Please watch this video for more information:

What’s going?

The rapids that will definitely be flooded include:

  • Malalu
  • Mu2
  • Nile Special

  • Kula Shaker
  • Hair of the Dog

What’s staying?

The following rapids will definitely be left in place post dam:

  • Itanda
  • Kalagala
  • Hypoxia
  • Superhole
  • Real Deal
  • Babooga

  • Babooska
  • Retrospect
  • Chop Suey
  • Fairy Tale
  • Overtime
  • Dead Dutchman

  • Giggity Giggity
  • Pyramid
  • Jaws
  • The rapid below the Owen Falls Dam

There is uncertainty about the Vengeance and Novacaine rapids. Depending on which displacement map you look at they are either flooded or unaffected, hopefully we can update you more on this before completion because we are working on clarification with the construction company.

What does this mean for Kayak the Nile?

Kayak the Nile will continue to operate post Isimba Dam completion, utilising the remaining white water and the numerous lakes and calmer river sections.

What does this mean for the Hairy Lemon Island?

  • The Hairy Lemon Island will be completely submerged upon full flooding of the reservoir
  • Before the flooding is completed, teams of dam workers will be chopping down all of the trees in the flood zone, including those on the Hairy Lemon. This was scheduled for mid 2017, but fortunately they have managed to preserve them for potentially many months still, however there is a level of uncertainty about how long the Hairy lemon will be able to preserve their trees (hoping for Feb 2018 or later because the dam was scheduled for completion in May 2018 but has now been potentially delayed for 4-6 months)
  • The Hairy Lemon will be fully operational for as long as possible and open until the flooding itself, but will be under the process of deconstruction of the buildings and trees at least two months prior to flooding
  • There are great discounts available for long stay kayakers wanting to stay on the Hairy Lemon Island before it goes, for more information please email or contact us at Kayak the Nile


Malalu has sadly now been flooded and lost due to the progress of the dam project. The quarry on the river left may continue to operate for some time until the actual flooding occurs, so please be careful if you choose to head down to where the Malalu wave used to form.

Nile River Festival

The Nile River Festival will continue long after the Isimba Dam, and most of the festival in its current format is actually held on rapids that won’t be affected.

2018 will be the last time the freestyle part of the competition is held at Nile Special, but while the locations for the competition days may change slightly, the spirit and the spectacular show will go on. The ramp, Itanda race, and for the most part the endurance race will remain unchanged post flooding, and it’s likely we will add a freestyle throw down on one of the remaining features, and a big trick contest on the Cuban.

One thing is for sure, if you have never surfed Nile Special or you would like to surf it one more time you should get a move on and get yourself out here!

If you have any questions about any of the above, or anything to do with Kayaking on the Nile, get in touch below: