African elephants © Johan W Elzenga, Shutterstock
Please note There has been a serious deterioration in security in South Sudan since these pages were compiled, and some of the practical information here will now be out of date. In particular, many areas are currently not safe to travel. You are advised to contact your embassy and local agents prior to travelling.
Nimule National Park was established under British rule in 1954, and the park extends 540km2 along the border with Uganda, with wildlife moving freely back and forth, and straddles the White Nile River. It is probably the most easily accessible of South Sudan’s national parks, due to the proximity of public transport and also the fact that, unlike Boma, it can be reached even during the rainy season.
Try to arrive at the park offices (on the right as you enter the park) when they open at 08.00 to get ahead of groups coming down from Juba, and also to maximise the time you have out and about before the day gets hot. At the offices you need to buy your park permit, which can also be prepaid at the Ministry of Tourism in Juba and also collect your ranger: having a guide is compulsory so that you do not get lost and stray into landmined areas.
The beautiful Fola Falls, turbulent rivers and huge elephant herds found within this national park make it an ideal spot for both adrenaline and animal lovers.
The ranger will take you down to the river where you can hire a local boat (SSP200) to take you across to Opekoloe Island. This is the best place to spot Nimule’s elephant herds, as well as hippos, crocodiles and the abundant river birdlife. Disembarking from the boat and continuing on foot, the ranger, adept at spotting tracks and creatures slinking silently and largely camouflaged through the undergrowth, should also be able to point out zebra, bushbuck, warthogs, baboons and Ugandan kob, as well as the occasional jackal, hyrax, vervet monkey or leopard. If you have time, ask your ranger to take you to the Fola Falls, an impressive, narrow passageway through which the White Nile flows. Daring fishermen cast their nets for catfish and other tasty treats, bravely running the gauntlet of crocodiles and hippos as they do so.
(Photo: Leopard cub © Leon Marais, Shutterstock)
White-water rafting trips are the latest tourist addition in South Sudan, and rafting the White Nile in the Nimule National Park is an understandably popular weekend excursion for Juba expats. African Rivers run regular trips during the dry season, collecting rafters on Friday at lunchtime from Juba and driving them down to Nimule in a customised truck. Rafters camp in the park that night, and then start out early the following morning with three sets of Grade 4+ rapids in quick succession (this is not a trip for the faint-hearted and you must be able to swim). It’s an exhilarating start to the journey, and whilst the later rapids are less challenging, the adrenaline remains high, in no small part due to the fact that crocodiles and hippos shadow the raft like hungry sentries for much of the time. Expect to finish each day soaked to the skin and utterly exhausted, but also falling in love with the wilderness and beauty of the place, and wondering how incredible South Sudan could be as a tourist destination one day if only politicians and wannabe politicians, both domestically and in neighbouring states, would leave well alone.