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'African Queen' returns to Nile waters

JINJA, Uganda -- Sixty years after Humphrey Bogart steered her through crocodile infested waters, the African Queen is back plying the Nile.

Lovingly restored, the boat is operated by Cam McLeay, a New Zealand adventurer and Nile enthusiast, and took its first passengers for a ride in December.

“The African Queen belongs on the Nile. So it is so important to have the boat back home over 60 years after the film was made,” McLeay told AFP.

In 1950 Bogart and Katherine Hepburn flew into Uganda together with a huge team from Hollywood to shoot the movie of the same name.

The film told the story of a prim missionary and a gruff adventurer, the captain of the African Queen — two totally different characters — who in true silver screen fashion end up falling in love despite the odds.

Hepburn wrote a frothy account of the making of the African Queen, which was shot between Uganda and neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, subtitled “How I went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Houston and almost lost my mind.”

Based on a 1934 novel by C.S. Forester, the movie was set during World War I in German-occupied east Africa.

“There were actually two of these boats, one of them was in Congo and this is the Nile's African Queen,” explained McLeay, who recounts his love affair with the Nile.

“I'm very attached to the Nile. I've travelled the full length of the river, from the Mediterranean to the source in Nyungwe,” the father of three recounted. “I've been up and down the river for 16 years.”

Back in the 1990s he set up a rafting company in Uganda's Jinja area, and then had an eco-lodge built on an island in the river.

McLeay says he wants his projects to be sustainable — from both an economic and an environmental point of view.

Recreation of Past Times

He then started thinking about a river boat to do trips and sundowner cruises for tourists, showcasing the scenery and the very varied birdlife.

“Just on this section here, we have over 100 species of birds. It's just beautiful to be on the river here at the sunset on the Equator,” he told AFP.

McLeay learned of the existence of the African Queen when on holiday on Kenya's island of Lamu, where traditional Arabic-style sailing dhows with lateen sails are common.

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The African Queen boat motors on the Nile River in Jinja, Uganda on Dec. 21, 2013. Cam McLeay, owner of the African Queen, offers cruises on the Nile in Jinja. African Queen is a boat that was featured in a famous movie of the same name in 1951, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. (AFP)

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