Excursions Aboard the African Queen

  • Kiwi Cam McLeay has restored the boat to its former glory.

    Kiwi Cam McLeay has restored the boat to its former glory.

  • The boat offers rides along the Nile river.

    The boat offers rides along the Nile river.

  • The iconic African Queen steamboat used in the 1950s silver-screen classic has been restored in Uganda.

    The iconic African Queen steamboat used in the 1950s silver-screen classic has been restored in Uganda.

  • A shot of the African Queen from the 1950s.

    A shot of the African Queen from the 1950s.

Click image to view full size

More than six decades after it appeared as the titular steam launch in the silver-screen classic The African Queen, the nine-meter riverboat is afloat once more in the waters of the Nile. New Zealander Cam McLeay, owner of Uganda’s Wildwaters Lodge as well as a whitewater-rafting company called Adrift, bought the rusting vessel three years ago from its previous owner, who had discovered it in 1984 in Murchison Falls National Park, one of the film’s shooting locations. McLeay and fellow Kiwi engineer Gavin Fahey have since returned the African Queen to ship-shape order, and she now looks much as she did when Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn were aboard in 1950. There were at least two boats used in the making of the movie, one of which was restored in the 1980s in Florida, where it  remains a tourist attraction. “But the fundamental difference is that ours has never left Africa, and is powered by a genuine steam-engine and not a diesel,” McLeay says. Based at riverside Wildwaters Lodge near Jinja, the African Queen is now available for two-hour excursions that take in quintessential Nile scenery and wildlife. –David Tse

This article originally appeared in the April/May 2014 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Full Steam Ahead”).

Share this Article