Nile River Festival 2017


Nile River Festival
26th-29th January 2017

Welcome to Africa’s largest and longest running whitewater festival.

The Nile River Festival is a four day event that makes the most of some of the biggest rapids in the world and celebrates all that is awesome about the River Nile, here in Uganda.

Every year, the NRF draws some of the best athletes from around the world to compete for the overall champion title.

For event updates, check our Facebook event page.

Contact us with your questions or scroll down for more information


Ben Holland Memorial Photo Competition

Sponsored by:


In association with:

                               NRE logoHairy Lemon logo


Big Air Ramp: A fun event with subjective judging. Competitors launch themselves off the big air ramp, throwing massive moves to impress the crowds & judges.

Extreme Endurance Race: A mass start at the Bujagali dam with competitors racing in pairs all the way to the NRE rafting take-out some 30km downstream of the start line. 

Hendri Coetzee Itanda Fall Memorial Race: A grade 5 white water race like no other. 

Nile Special Freestyle: A freestyle event run using our unique rules that reward technicality, big air and combination moves



Thursday 26th January:

2:30pm – 4:30pm Registration at the Nile River Explorers Campsite – all competitors must register and pay for all events on this day.

5pm Competitors meeting: Anyone competing in an event must be at the meeting

5.30 onward…

IMG_3924EVENT 1 Big Air Ramp 
Big air kayak ramp event and opening party

8 – 9pm Continued registration

6pm til late Party at NRE

Friday 27th January:


(30km Bujagali Dam to NRE rafting take-out)

10am Race briefing at NRE campsite, all extreme endurance race competitors need to be there.

10am Truck leaving from NRE campsite to take spectators down to the finishing line.

10.30am Truck leaving NRE to go to Silverback with the competitors.

11.30am Race starts.

1.30pm (approximately) First competitors expected to arrive at the finish line.

4.00pm Truck leaves the NRE takeout for those going back to NRE (we recommend staying at the Hairy Lemon)

6.00pm til late Party at the Hairy Lemon

NRF14_Oleg_Kolmovsky-59Saturday 28th January:

EVENT 3 – Hendri Coetzee Itanda Falls Extreme Race

9:30am Trucks leaving NRE to go down to Itanda.

9:30am Competitors and spectators at the Hairy Lemon depart for Itanda via Nile Special

11:30am All competitors should be at Itanda Falls ready for the briefing.

12.00pm Hendri Coetzee Memorial Itanda Falls Extreme Race.

5pm (approx.) Everyone heads back to NRE campsite when event is finished 

8pm til late Live music, partying and jelly wrestling

NRF14_Oleg_Kolmovsky-52Sunday 29th January:

Event 4 – Nile Special Freestyle competition

(The timings of this particular part of the schedule are likely to change to account for water levels and number of competitors)

A vehicle will be leaving NRE at 9:30am on Sunday to take any competitors and spectators, to the Nile Special wave

12:00pm Competitors meeting at Nile Special. All competitors need to be at Nile Special. Event will be split into prelims and finals.

12:30pm – 4:00pm Nile Special Big Air Freestyle Event.

4.30pm Prize giving at Nile Special

6pm til late Last party at NRE

The schedule is subject to change and may change at short notice!

Flying to Uganda?

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Get a quote from Brussels Airlines – they’ll take your kayak for free in addition to the standard luggage allowance of 2x23kg bags!

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Location and accommodation

The Nile River Festival is based out of the Nile River Explorers Campsite. There is a whole range of accommodation options available here, from camping through to private en-suite rooms. Please book directly with the campsite, and book in advance of arrival to avoid disappointment. The campsite will be very busy, lively and it is likely to get fully booked up.

We recommend staying at the Hairy Lemon on Friday, January 27th. It’s an ideal location, very close to the end point of the Endurance Race and just downstream of the Nile Special freestyle event. (All those choosing to do this will be responsible for booking their own accommodation). Transport from the island to view the freestyle event will be available for guests. 

For directions to our base, please view our location page.

You can see where each is event is taking place in the above schedule and on the map below. Spectator transport will leave each morning for each day’s event from the NRE campsite. 

Looking for transport from Kampala to Jinja? The Pineapple Express is a great option!


Spectators and party goers are more than welcome to come along to all of the events and watch the show.

Check out the schedule above to see when and where each event is happening. See the spectacle of kayakers throwing themselves off a huge ramp into the Bujagali Lake on Thursday, cheer competitors across the obstacle course finish line at the Nile River Explorers take-out with a tasty BBQ on Friday, marvel at the aerial tricks being thrown on the Nile Special wave on Sunday and watch in awe as paddlers race down the mighty Itanda Falls on Saturday.

You don’t have to be a kayaker to get involved:

  • There’s a photo competition open to anyone who attends the festival! The Ben Holland Memorial Photo Competition is held at every NRF in memory of our friend, Ben, who lived on, worked on, and loved the Nile river. There’s a cash prize for the winner.

A small fee of 5,000 per journey will apply for each transport (i.e. taking the shuttle from NRE to watch the Freestyle at Nile Special) to contribute to the overall cost of moving everyone around.

Spectators will just need to pay for their own food, drinks, accommodation etc as with any other time, this will be paid directly to the various establishments. 

There will be a cash bar and music at the NRE opening party, Nile Special and Itanda!


(Subject to change)

A free NRF t-shirt is included with any event entry.

Event 1. Big Air Ramp – 15$USD or 15,000ugx for UG citizens. Includes: the opening party, entry into the big air ramp comp, a free beer.

Event 2. Extreme Endurance Race – $20USD or 20,000ugx for UG citizens Includes: Entrance into the endurance race, transport to Silverback from NRE campsite, transport back at the end of the race for those who want it, a free beer / soda through a funnel to finish, a meal at the takeout and entry to that night’s party.

Event 3. Nile Special Freestyle – $20 or 20,000ugx for UG citizens Includes: Entrance into the freestyle competition, entrance into the Saturday night party at NRE, and transport to/from the river and a free beer/soda.

Event 4. Hendri Coetzee Itanda Falls Memorial Race – $20 or 20,000ugx Ug citizens Includes: Entry to the Itanda race, free beer. For this day only, entrance fee to the Itanda Falls site have been waived. 

Entry to all 4 events 70$USD or 70,000ugx for Ugandan citizens.

OVERALL WINNER – The overall winner of the Festival will be worked out as a total from events two, three and four. It does not include the ramp event.

  • The winner from each event will get 50pts, 2nd place 49pts, 3rd place 48pts etc.
  • The totals will be tallied up after each event.
  • The overall winner of the Festival will be the competitor with the most points at the end.
  • In the case where multiple people are tied on points at the end, then the best result will split the tie… e.g. a 1st, 3rd and 5th will beat three 3rds.