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Nile River Festival 2016

The Nile River Festival’s aim is simple; to celebrate the warm water, big rapids and perfect waves of the mighty White Nile with awesome people.

The NRF is a four day event which begins with an evening Big Air Ramp Competition at the NRE base camp; beer fuelled, aerial antics promptly kick off the start of the festival. The Irish boys were as always up for the “craic”, and led the charge on ridiculousness by somehow managing to fit four people in/on the same kayak down the ramp. Whilst there was an abundance of big tricks and crashes throughout the night, nobody quite wowed/shocked the crowd quite as much as Scott Robinson, who took the win with some big airscrews and panams, along with an “artistic” final lap (see photo above).

Day two marks the beginning of the white water events with a gruelling 40km endurance race through big rapids and long flat pools, ending with an obstacle course and obligatory funnel at the finish line. Competitors have to race with a partner to act as safety for each other during the race, and your time doesn’t stop until you both cross the finish line; this rule makes choosing a partner that wants to go at a similar pace essential. My team mate was the infamous Yusuf Basiwaldra, potentially Uganda’s best kayaker right now, and all-round powerhouse on the water. Our pace and race strategy was pure and simple, balls to the wall; we went as hard as we possibly could and led the race for a long time, but sadly by the time we got to around the 35km mark, we both had nothing left when Koa and Nasa began a late charge for the lead and we couldn’t hold them off. Koa and Nasa took a well deserved win and it was truly impressive to see them somehow still have something left in the tank after sprinting non-stop for two hours. Myself and Yusuf finished in second place and were the only team in the top 5 to run Itunda as part of the race.


Taking place on my favourite wave, and with a scoring system that rewards kayakers that go big and take chances, the Nile Special Freestyle Comp. might well be my favourite freestyle event in the world; competitors pleased the crowd with huge tricks, old school moves and the quintessential wipe out, which on Nile Special can be quite spectacular. I finished in 1st place, with Sam Ward just behind me and young up and comer Jonny Williams in third place.

Check out some of my training rides below:

The NRF concludes the Hendri Cotzee memorial race at Itanda Falls. Itanda is one of the biggest and longest of remaining rapids on the Nile, and with a tight move at the bottom to get to the finish line, it makes for a great race course. I put down a safe and solid run in the prelims, which was sadly not quite enough to make the finals against the local boys who run this rapid almost daily. The stop watch is cast aside for the top five that move on and the finals are all about style and pleasing the crowd. Sam Ward took the win with a great run down but it was Sadat Kawawa in second place who shocked everyone by dropping into the meat of the biggest hole on Itanda and somehow managing to surf out.

My race partner Yusuf had solid performances in all of these events and was crowned NRF Champion, with myself in second, and Sam Ward in third. Palm’s Lowri Davies also took home a well deserved win in the women’s category, with Aminah Nakiirya in second.

With the impending dam already well under way; we are rapidly facing the last few years of Nile River Festivals, be sure to get yourself to Uganda in January 2017 to enjoy this unique event before it’s too late.

See you on the water,


Photos by Marcus Farnfeild, Martyn Kirby and Haley McKee.