There is probably no one activity or experience that you can point to and say that it truly captures the ‘spirit of Kampala’. Walter’s Boda Boda Tours, however, comes awfully close.
Wandera Walter is a 25 year old entrepreneur with a diploma in computer engineering, who has built ‘Walters Boda Boda Tours’ into a thriving business. The premise is simple: take a tour of Kampala with those who know it best – a boda boda driver. The result is far more sublime – an authentic taste of nearly everything that makes Kampala great.
Walter offers tours every day of the week with each tour lasting between four-five hours depending on the preferences and interests of the passengers. Most tours are guided by Walter himself and there are several tour types to choose from:
- City Tour – This is the most popular tour, takes 4-5 hours and hits all the highlights. It’s described more below.
- Orientation Tour – If you’re new to Kampala this is a great way to get the feel for different parts of the city.
- Lake Victoria Tour – Taking off from Munyonyo the tour takes canoes over to Aga Khan Island for a day of drinking coconuts, scouting out an island, and eating fresh Tilapia.
- Night Life Tour – This is a great way to safely find and navigate Kampala’s hot bar and club scene.
The City Tour gives you a great ‘feel’ for the city as you can only get on a boda. You cover many of the downtown highlights (Constitutional Square, Freedom Square, the Independence Monument, the Old Taxi Park, the Hindu Temple). And, you can take in the views from Hotel Diplomat and Cassia Lodge from the South of the City and Gaddafi Mosque in Old Kampala which provide a magnificent overview of the city from different sides. You can also choose to visit the Baha’i Temple, the King’s Palace and Lake, local markets, the Bugandan Parliament, and even a witch doctor.
Cost is 90,000 UGX ($35 USD) for one person, and goes down from there. Two people are 160,000 ($65), groups of three are 240,000 UGX and four are 300,000 UGX. If the prospect of a boda is a bit frightening or not your style you can have your ‘boda boda’ tour in a car and that’s generally 250,000 UGX and an additional 75,000 UGX for each additional person.
Safety is a primary concern and all drivers and passengers wear helmets. If you don’t have your own Walter will provide one for you. All the boda drivers speak excellent English, have licenses, and the bodas are checked for safety.
You’ll want to bring about 40,000 UGX extra to pay any entrance fees necessary and pay for lunch – the options include (in addition to your rolex snack) a few local joints, the best and cheapest Ethiopian to be found in Kabalagala, or a restaurant serving western food. Also be sure to bring some sunscreen as you’ll be in the sun for most of the day and closed-toe shoes are advisable.
Walter has had over 500 visitors in the past ten months with groups ranging from one person to groups of 10 most of whom have come through word of mouth. All of this touring has made him something of a Kampala expert and his enthusiasm for the subject is infectious. Even if you know a lot about Uganda’s tribes, languages, regions and history you are sure to pick up some information you hadn’t yet heard as well as a newfound enthusiasm for discovering even more.
Kampalans can launch a litany of complaints about bodas – that they aren’t safe, that they cause accidents, that they should be better regulated – and, at times, all of these things are true. However, after an afternoon seeing the city with Walter you can’t help but think that a tour on a boda is really the only way to get a glimpse into the city’s soul where you find the initiative, enterprise, humour, tenacity, and optimism which makes us love the place so much!
If you have a free day, are new to the city, or have visitors coming through Walter’s Boda Boda Tour is one not to be missed!