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Travel

Like a Duck, I Walked, Slept on Nile River

Jinja.
Standing on a board and paddling in Jinja. You can also hire a SUP hammock. PHOTO | COURTESY 

I find Jinja appealing because of the quality of life, but also because entertainment, accommodation, food and activities are relatively quite affordable, making it perfect for the luxury, mid-range and budget seeker.

Said to be the source of the River Nile, which is the longest river in Africa and arguably in the world, the river offers serenity, scenic views and world class rapids.

Being an avid thrill seeker, I decided to try something new; stand-up paddlingboarding (SUP).

Thankfully, the river was calm and the wind minimal. After having gone down a grade four rapid cheekily dubbed “condolences” in a kayak, it’s flat water here on for me. My ultimate goal is to be able to stand and paddle, but I start off seated as I get comfortable and more confident with my board.

The next step is to get on my knees and after only about a minute, I start to feel the burn, particularly in my legs. This is turning out to be quite the workout! I spot a group doing vinyasa yoga, flowing from one pose to the next with such ease that I can’t help but be envious. This part of the river is a little busy today. There is a speed boat filled with birdwatchers.

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The Nile River attracts an array of freshwater birds like the cormorant, grey crowned crane, herons and egrets, and the kingfishers who are always a pleasure to spot and listen to.

Finally it is time to try standing. Per instructions from my guide, I make sure I am at the centre of the board then lay my paddle flat across the front (so it will be easy to lift when standing).

One leg comes up first as I try to find my balance, then follows the other, then I lift up the paddle and come up to a standing position.

The board is surprisingly more stable than I thought it would be, but standing on a board on water is still such a strange sensation and my legs start to shake the board and next thing I know, I fall into the water.

That was inevitable. Repeating the process, I’m actually able to stand and even paddle. A trick is to look at the horizon for balance, and I also find that short strokes work best for keeping the board moving and in a straight line. The board has enough room to paddle with a friend, child or dog which would be quite fun. After about 40 minutes, we decide to wind down with something relaxing and therefore hire a SUP hammock, which I’ve actually never seen anywhere in Kenya. It is a thing of wonder; three SUPs rigged together with two hammocks tied to either end. We get comfortable, and a guide on a kayak gently pulls us along.

Time spools out. I barely even lift my head to look at the otters swimming past. The sun starts to set. Our gin and tonics are instinctively topped up. If ever an activity deserved to be called blissful, it would be this.

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