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Uganda: 10 top Kisoro outdoor activities with local guide Julius

by Elisa Flitter Fever
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Before my visit to Uganda, I had no clue there would be so many fun and affordable outdoor activities in Kisoro. From this town in the southwest of Uganda, most gorilla tracking tours depart. Until I met local guide Julius Nkurunziza (born 1991), founder and owner of Big Dream Tours. Julius was born and raised here, so he knows the area like the back of his hand. An energetic Ugandan young man with a bright smile, who is more than willing to show you the top Kisoro outdoor activities. An interview.

A tour through the landscape around Kisoro 748x748
A tour through the landscape around Kisoro

Who is local guide Julius?

“I was born in a small family in the valleys of Virunga Mountains. As the first born son, I helped raising my siblings when my father sadly passed away. Following Ugandan tradition, my mother re-married another man and they got five more children together. I live on my own now, but we still see each other often. In my spare time I like gardening, cycling, hiking and reading.

As a person, growing up in such beautiful natural environment, I am very passionate about conservation and tourism. This passion began already when I was only a young teenager. In my early twenties, I realized that I wanted to chase my dream: to set up my own tour company and show travelers my beautiful region. So I got my diploma in Tourism & Hospitality Management and did several internships in tourism. For instance, I worked at hotels and as a tour driver.

This summer it is actually eight years ago that I took the first group of visitors to Lake Mutanda as a tourist guide. And I loved it ever since! This passion is burning in my soul and inspires me to do this work, because I really enjoy meeting different people. A true privilege.”

My dream has come true; I have been able to interact and learn about different lives of folks from all corners of the world.

Growing cauliflowers in the backyard Julius Uganda guide Kisoro activities
Growing cauliflowers in the backyard

Why visit Kisoro?

“Kisoro is a lively town with about 17,500 inhabitants. It has a great strategic location, trucked between Rwanda and Congo. The perfect base for gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park.

In Kisoro, we have beautiful people from the Bantu ethnic group, the largest in Africa with three tribes. Hutu, Tutsi and the Pygmies a.k.a. Batwa live together here in harmony, surrounded by a beautiful natural landscape. You can experience both the spectacular nature and these fascinating cultures in just a few days here.

Besides the gorilla tracking, there is also the possibility to go hiking on (one of) the three volcanoes around Kisoro: Muhavura, Mgahinga and Sabinyo. On the top, there is the three country border point. But there are many more top outdoor Kisoro activities, also suitable for people with a low budget, limited fitness and families with children (12 years and older).”

Kisoro has many beautiful places to see top outdoor activities
Kisoro has many beautiful places to see

What are the top Kisoro outdoor activities?

Julius: “As a local, I would recommend the following outdoor activities to any traveler who plans to visit Kisoro. These are private tours, so you will have me as your guide all for yourself. When you form a group of four people or more, you can get an extra discount.”

Contact your Kisoro local guide

Local guide Julius knows the best outdoor activities in and around Kisoro
Local guide Julius knows the best outdoor activities in and around Kisoro

1. Kisoro activities: Bafumbira village

“I love bringing travelers to this village, as it is a guaranteed success. After an uphill walk with great mountain views, you get to meet the friendly Bafumbira people. In the village you will see how they live. Learning more about their traditions, tools, skills, dance, instruments, food, etc. is a unique, authentic cultural experience.”

Trust me, visiting the Bafumbira people literally feels like a party!

Julius explains: “The Bafumbira people from Kisoro, the Banyarwanda people from Rwanda, the Barundi people from Burundi and the Ba Congo people from Eastern Congo share the same culture, the same language and the same ethnic group: Bantu. This ethnic group is divided into three tribes: Batwa, Tutsi and the Hutu. It’s a true example, how harmoniously these people live together in one peaceful community.

Whether or not you have always wanted to learn how to weave a mat or dress up as a Ugandan lady, just go with the flow. Smiles guarantees. You will get to see how they prepare their food and can taste too, if you want. The village people are super talented dancers and will show for example their traditional wedding dances. Enjoy!”

  • Duration: 3-4 hours
  • Cost: USD 30 per person
  • Suitable for families with small children: yes
Bafumbira tribe wedding dance Kisoro Uganda activities
Those Bafumbira folks are good dancers

2. Kisoro activities: School visit

“Like in most countries, Ugandan schools are open from Monday to Friday. There are private and governmental schools. I would recommend we visit a governmental school in Kisoro. For those who have the time, there is also the possibility to volunteer for one or two days. In any way, there will be plenty of time to interact with the head teacher and the pupils, and to play different games together.”

  • Duration: 2-3hours
  • Cost: USD 20 per person
  • Suitable for families with small children: yes
Hanging out with some Bafumbira kiddos
Cute Ugandan kiddos

3. Kisoro activities: Caldera view point

“A short walk from Kisoro to Sagitwe Mabungo Hill will provide an excellent view of Kisoro. From this view point, you will also be able to see all the three volcanoes of Mgahinga National Park. This is one of the best Kisoro outdoor activities for late afternoon or early evening. Enjoy the sunset views over gorgeous Lake Mutanda!”

  • Duration: 1-2 hours
  • Cost: USD 15 per person
  • Suitable for families with small children: yes
Exploring the Kisoro outskirts with local guide Julius
Exploring the Kisoro outskirts with local guide Julius

4. Kisoro activities: Coffee experience

“Who doesn’t like coffee?! From Kisoro, we can visit a local organic coffee farm. The history and benefits of coffee production are explained. What does a coffee bean on a tree look-like? What are some of the challenges a coffee farmer runs into? How is roast coffee produced?

You will get to experience how to make the freshest cup of coffee you have ever had, straight from the land! I do not want to spoil the surprise, but this farmer likes giving away free souvenirs… Of course you can buy extra packages, in case you want to bring the unique taste of Ugandan coffee back home, or as a gift perhaps?”

  • Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Cost: USD 40 per person
  • Suitable for families with small children: yes
Farm visit Kisoro outdoor activities 748x748rev
Julius can take you to the best local coffee farm

5. Kisoro activities: Lake Mutanda

“Lake Mutanda is a lava dammed lake of 22 square kilometers, so pretty large! The lake is dotted with 18 small islands. A visit to the lake will offer you the opportunity to see many bird species. Who knows we may be so lucky to spot the black and white African crow?

You will hear about the history of each different island, can go swimming and even zip-lining – unless you are afraid of heights? We can also have a small pick-nick and walk around a bit, whatever we want.”

  • Duration: 5-6 hours
  • Cost: USD 30 per person by canoe, USD 40 person by boat
  • Suitable for families with small children: yes
Boat ride near Kisoro outdoor activities
Boat ride near Kisoro

6. Kisoro activities: Potters village

“Potters village is child crisis center that was established in 2007. It is a home to little babies and children who don’t have anyone to take care of them. Especially premature and children younger than the age of four. Kindly note that this activity will only be possible when the administrator of the village approves.”

  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Cost: walk to there is free, contribution fee min. USD 10 per person
  • Suitable for families with small children: yes

7. Kisoro activities: Batwa community

“Batwa people have two nick names: pygmies and gorilla custodians. They used to live in harmony with the gorillas in the forests for centuries. In 1991, the Ugandan government decided that the forests of Bwindi and Mgahinga, and its animal inhabitants like the gorillas, were in the need of conservation. For the Batwa people this sadly meant that they were evicted from the forests.

Nowadays, no pygmies live in the forests any more. But they are friendly people that are very appreciative of anyone who wants to visit and support their community in the outskirts of Kisoro. A local translator will be present to help interact with any of the Batwa villagers.

Their circumstances are poor. If visitors would like to give something, donations like books, pens, clothes and shoes are more than welcome.”

  • Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Cost: 50 USD per person
  • Suitable for families with small children: yes
Visit the Batwa people when in Kisoro
Visit the Batwa people when in Kisoro

8. Kisoro activities: Twin Lakes

“Lake Chahafi and Lake Kayumbu are lava dammed lakes, known by locals as ‘the Twin Lakes’. They are located about half an hour drive from Kisoro, right at the border between Uganda and Rwanda. These lakes provide beautiful views of the surrounding volcanoes.

Here visitors can hear and see the most beautiful singing birds of Uganda. For example the Jacana, Swamp Fly Catcher, Malachite and Pied Kingfisher, Black Crake and the Yellow Billed Duck, to name a few. After a swamp walk we can have lunch at the lake. I would recommend to wear long pants and insect repellent at the swamp by the way.”

  • Duration: 6 hours
  • Cost: USD 40 per person (excluding lunch)
  • Suitable for families with small children: yes
Take a boat ride with Julius the guide from Kisoro activities
A boat ride with Julius
So many amazing views around Kisoro Uganda
So many amazing views around Kisoro

9. Kisoro activities: Local market visit

“Every Monday and Thursday there is a local market in the center of Kisoro. Of course we can go there and walk around! No need to be afraid, but I ca imagine that this may feel more convenient for female solo travelers for instance.

Any question you may have, things you want to taste on the market, I can help you with. I will even carry your bag if help is needed haha After the market visit, in case company is highly appreciated, I could join you for lunch or dinner.”

Kisoro lunch tip: Coffee Pot Cafe. Great spot for people watching and nice food!

Coffee Pot Cafe Kisoro terrace
Coffee Pot Cafe
Chicken sandwich with salad Coffee Pot Kisoro outdoor activities
Chicken sandwich with fresh salad

10. Kisoro activities: Motorcycle adventure

“This is one of the coolest, adventurous outdoor activities in Kisoro. You get to explore and see the beautiful landscape of Mufumbiro mountain ranges of Kisoro – from the backseat of a motorcycle! Your guide will be your driver and will take you places that you have never seen before in your life.

On this tour, three lakes will be shown: Chahafi, Kayumbu and Mutanda. You will also get to see the gorgeous Ichuya Forest. Spectacular views of Kisoro guaranteed. Wearing a helmet is mandatory.”

  • Duration: 8 hours
  • Cost: USD 50 per person
  • Suitable for families with small children: no

The best hidden gems of Kisoro? The beautiful hills of Busanza with waterfall, and the rich culture!

Lake Mutanda Kisoro activities
Lake Mutanda
Motorcycle adventure from Kisoro
Motorcycle adventure from Kisoro

Pick-up and/or drop-off

If appreciated, Julius can also arrange transfers from Kigali Rwanda international airport, Entebbe international airport and Kisoro airport. Please request such transfer at least two weeks in advance. Julius will make sure you will absolutely get a reasonable and realistic price.

Gorilla and Golden Monkey tracking

Next to Gorilla tracking, Golden Monkey tracking is also a popular outdoor activity from Kisoro. The Golden Monkeys live in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, app. 14 km southwest of downtown Kisoro. Their orange-brown color and glossy black legs and head are quite distinctive. And they love bamboo, so this is where they usually can be found.

Gorilla tracking and Golden Monkey tracking are exclusively organized by UWA, the official Ugandan Wildlife Authority. So this is not something you can do together with local guide Julius. Both of these activities are not suitable for small children.

For your information the UWA 2023 rates:

  • Golden Monkey tracking costs USD 60 per adult.
  • The longer Golden Monkey Habituation Experience costs USD 100 per adult.
  • Park entrance fee for Mgahinga is USD 40 per adult, half price for children.
Berggorilla Bwindi Impenetrable NP Oeganda gorilla tracking
Gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable NP

Where to stay in Kisoro

Most of my customers stay at Travellers Rest Hotel in Kisoro. This is where famous primatologist and conservationist Dian Fossey used to stay when she studied the gorillas during her trips to the area. Nice bar with fireplace, good food and lovely garden with avocado trees, on short walking distance from the city center.

It is smart to stay here for at least three nights. Then you can acclimatize and have the option to anticipate in case of a very rainy day. Besides, it would be a pity to miss out on the other top outdoor activities in and around Kisoro that I can show you, besides gorilla tracking.”

Travelers Rest Hotel in Kisoro hotelnaambord met gorilla erop

Julius, the best guide of Kisoro and surroundings, cannot be found on Viator, Get Your Guide or that kind of online booking platforms. So basically Julius is a hidden gem himself! You can thank me later haha Anyways, if you are planning to visit Kisoro, please contact Julius and have an amazing time! Say hi or give him a great big hug from me, when you see him.

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The landscape around Kisoro is gorgeous outdoor activities
The landscape around Kisoro is gorgeous

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Last Updated on 08/29/2023 by Elisa Flitter Fever

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