Water-bicycles ride tourism wave in Uganda

Image: Havy Tours & Travel

Uganda's Ministry of Tourism has launched a water-bicycling venture in a bid to promote marine sports tourism in the country.

The government worked alongside Kevin Byaruhanga, director of Epic Escapades and Havy Tours & Travel, to launch a water bicycle business in the city of Jinja in Eastern Uganda in early February.

“I choose Jinja particularly because it is one of the most-visited places in the country by tourists and has most water-sports like tubing, water rafting among other activities.”

Kevin Byaruhanga, Epic Escapades and Havy Tours & Travel

Byaruhanga explained that he was in Zanzibar when he came across water bicycling and decided to approach the Ministry with a plan to bring a fleet of water bikes to Uganda.

Simon Kaita, the Jinja City tourism officer, said the area is recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic and it was hoped water bicycling will attract more people to the area.

How does a water-bike work?

Riding a water-bicycle is even simpler than a conventional bike because you don't have to keep your balance, as it is build like a catamaran with two floats that make them incredibly stable.

Otherwise the design is almost identical to a land bike - consisting of a carbon-aluminium frame with a saddle, handlebars and pedal system. Its big difference is that with pedaling, instead of moving a wheel, you turn a propeller that allows you to navigate the water at a speed of up to 10 knots, about 16 kilometers per hour. To brake, you just peddle backwards.

Image: Havy Tours & Travel

Tourism offers great opportunities for emerging economies and developing countries like Uganda. It creates jobs, strengthens the local economy, contributes to local infrastructure development and can help to conserve cultural assets and traditions, and reduce poverty and inequality.

However the growth of tourism can put ecosystems under pressure and threaten wildlife. That's where eco-tourism like Jinja's water bikes come in. Noiseless, great exercise and with no impact on nature - water-biking encourages tourists to establish a new relationship with water that is fun and environmentally friendly.