When is the best time to go mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda?

There has been an ongoing debate on what is the best time to trek gorillas or track gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda. Several arguments and opinions have been voiced in different avenues including online forums such as tripadvisor, lonely planet among others. The fact is that gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda can be tracked throughout the year and clients almost get the same satisfaction. This is because clients tend to avoid the rainy season forgetting that Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in an Equatorial Forest where chances of rain are very high daily. The same applies to Volcanoes National Park and Mgahinga National Parks in Rwanda and Uganda respectively which are predominately bamboo forests.

gorilla trekking best time to see gorillas

On paper, the best time to trek gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda is during the drier months of June, July, August and early September. During these months, these months experience less rainfall compared to months such as April, May and November. Its during these months that people prefer booking their gorilla treks making it competitive. Gorilla permits tend to sell out quickly and all those interested in trekking gorillas during this time/season should book their gorilla permits in advance.

gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest -

Mountain gorillas which are among the most endangered species on planet earth are located in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Virunga ranges which are shared amongst three countries such as Uganda (Mgahinga National Park) Democratic Republic of Congo (Virunga National Park) and Rwanda in Volcanoes National Park. And because these primates are highly endangered, clients pay highly to view or trek them. Because of the current price of gorilla permits which are at USD1500.00 in Rwanda and USD800.00 in Uganda, clients would love to maximize their experience when it comes to gorilla trekking and the best time to visit them.

Uganda being crossed by the equator has a modified equatorial type of climate with two rainy seasons and because of this people tend to associate drier seasons to be the best time to trek gorillas. This is true because when it is raining, it becomes hard to hike and trek in the impenetrable forest because of the heavy rains that make the trails too slippery. Roads to bwindi impenetrable National Park tend to become slippery and rivers flood making accessibility hard.

Which is the best month of the year for gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda

Gorilla trekking is a top activity by tourists visiting Rwanda and Uganda carried out all year round. Gorilla trekking in Uganda is carried out in only two national parks that is Bwindi and Mgahinga and Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and one of the main reasons as to why they are top tourist attractions is that they can only be found in three countries in the Virunga region and they are endangered species which leads to tourists paying a high price to come and trek the gorillas. You will however a gorilla need permit which needs to be booked in advance in order to gain access to the gorillas. The permits were introduced in order to reduce on the poaching and the number of people who visit the gorillas per session. In this article we are going to look at when to go for gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda to help you easily decide and plan your gorilla trip.

Best time for gorilla trekking in Uganda

Uganda is an all-year-round tourist destination for all visitors planning on visiting the country. Gorilla trekking is one of the most popular safari activities, and Uganda is the best gorilla trekking destination because it has half the population of mountain gorillas in the world. Uganda experiences two seasons, which are the dry season (peak or high season) and the wet or rainy season (low season). The dry season is always an expensive time to travel, whereas the low season sees some of the lodges close, making it an affordable time to trek the gorillas.

The dry season: two dry seasons are experienced in Uganda from June to October and January to February. This is the best time for gorilla trekking in Uganda and other national parks in the country. June and July are the busiest months for gorilla trekking.

The rainy season: Uganda has two rainy seasons, like most of the East African countries: the long rainy season and the short rainy season. The short rainy season is experienced from late October to around mid-December, and the long rainy season, which receives heavy rainfall, starts in late February until the end of May. There are frequent downpours, and although they do not last long, they always leave the trek routes muddy and slippery, and in most cases, hikers tend to miss out on the whole gorilla trekking experience during the wet season.

A month-by-month guide for gorilla trekking in Uganda

January to February

January: This is the beginning of the short dry season, with little showers of rain now and again. This is a good time to go gorilla trekking because the trek routes are clear and not slippery as compared to the wet season. Unlike the second dry season, which is also known as the peak season, there are few visitors in January, and the cost is reasonable.

February: February is similar to January in both Bwindi and Mgahinga, experiencing the same climate. Both January and February are good times to go gorilla trekking in Uganda and also take other general safaris around the country.

March to May

March: March is the start of the first wet season. This might not be the best time to go gorilla trekking in Uganda because the rains come in heavy, making it hard to hike through the dense forests. The routes are always muddy and slippery, the cost of the safari is low, and it is hard to find the gorillas because they also try to get shelter from the rain.

April: April is the wettest month in Uganda and the worst month for gorilla trekking. Most of the roads and some accommodation facilities are closed down due to the heavy rains, reducing the cost of the safari during this time for both gorilla trekking and general African safaris.

May: The rains continue throughout May, although they are not as heavy as they were in April. It is still a low season with reasonable costs, and for visitors who do not mind the rain, this is the best time.

Gorilla trekking is not off limits during the wet season because it will not rain the whole day and every day, and tourists also get a chance to watch the various migratory birds flying into the country.

June to September                                                    

June and July: this is the peak season in Uganda, which sees many tourists visiting the different parts of the country for a safari. June is the beginning of the dry season with little or no rainfall, which makes it easy to trek the gorillas in both Mgahinga and Bwindi National Parks. The cost of gorilla trekking, however, is high during this time, and the gorilla permits are in high demand, which is why you need to book them at least six or more months before your trek date.

August: August marks the end of the high or peak season and is the best time for gorilla trekking in Uganda. The hiking routes are easier to trek and navigate, and this still being the dry season makes it the best time to visit the country and check out other attractions.

September: September marks the end of the dry season, and during this period, the large crowds start narrowing down as light showers of rain start. Since the weather is unpredictable and it might still be the dry season, you will still need to book your permit in advance.

October to December

October is usually not a busy month, and the pricing during this period is reasonable as compared to the previous months. It is a good time to get that special gorilla trekking permit; however, be ready for the unpredictable bouts of rain. If you do not mind the on-and-off rainfall and slippery and muddy trek trails, then this is the best time, and note that other national parks are always open during this time.

November: The rains continue throughout November, increasing the green foliage in the national parks. This is a low season that has few visitors because of the less-than-ideal weather, but it is the best time for visitors on a low budget.

December: December marks the end of the wet season, with the rains easing off a bit. It is a great time to visit Uganda for gorilla trekking, and not only that, you get to see a variety of bird species, including migratory birds flying into the area.

Best time to see gorillas in Rwanda

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is a top tourist attraction that is carried out in the Volcanoes National park located in the Virunga region. This is the most sought after safari activity in the country and there is a high chance of seeing the primates while trekking. Rwanda experiences two seasons that are the dry and wet season and these determine the best time and month to visit Rwanda for the gorilla trek.

The dry season: also known as the peak season, there are two dry seasons experienced in the Volcanoes National park and these are the short dry season (from December to February) and the long rains (from June to September).

The wet season: There are two wet/rainy seasons with the short rains from October to November and long rains from March to May. The heavy rains usually come in around end of March and April and if possible, we advise that you avoid these months if possible.

A month-by-month guide for gorilla trekking in Rwanda

April to May: April to May in the Volcanoes National park receives some of the longest rains in Rwanda making it quite difficult to trek gorillas during this period. The good thing about this period is that it is a low season with costs on accommodation reduced and a good way to explore with the gorillas while on a budget. It is also a good time to spot the gorillas since most of them move from the higher areas with low temperatures to the lower slopes.

June to September: is a peak season and also the best time to go for a gorilla trek in Rwanda. It is the longest dry season experienced in the country and the reason as to why it is considered to be the best time is because getting to the national park is easy, spotting the gorillas is also easy and the trek routes within the national park are not muddy and slippery as it usually is during the wet season. This period is also referred to as the peak season and tourists are advised to book for their gorilla permits in advance at least six to three months before the trek date and booking for the permit in Rwanda means that you will have to at least pay 30% of the total pay of the full price of the permit.

October to November: This is also a low season with short rains unlike April to May and if you can brave the rains, it is a good time to visit the Volcanoes National park for gorilla trekking most especially if you love photography. The birds are always flying in during this period, other wildlife calving and the cost is low which cannot be said for the peak season. October is the start of the short rain season also known as the shoulder/low season. Although the short rains mean that the cost of the trek will be low, the weather on the hand might not be friendly.

December to February:  I like to think of this as a good season for gorilla trekking in Rwanda. The short dry season sees fewer crowds, the trek routes are easily accessible, and it is easy to get to the national park and a good time to go birding due to the presence of the migratory birds. December comes with the end of the short rains making it an ideal time to go for gorilla trekking because the rainforests have started to dry out making it easy to trek the gorillas but since the holidays are coming up, expect the national parks to be a bit crowded.  

The best months to go for gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda are from June to September and December to February.  The weather is however unpredictable, so you should expect a bit of rain here and there from time to time. The only downside about this period is that the crowds are big, accommodation is limited and expensive if you do not book in advance and it is generally an expensive time to go for gorilla trekking.

The worst months to go for gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda is during the rainy season from March to May with April experiencing the heaviest rains and from October to November.

You should also note that some tourists do not really mind about the months and have other factors they consider when choosing the best time to trek the primates. The most determining factor is the cost of the trip and that is why you will find that there are tourists visiting both countries during the shoulder season because they are on a budget and others travel at any given time irrelevant of the cost.

We have been organizing gorilla trips to both Uganda and Rwanda for a long time  and have experts who can help with any queries that you might be having about gorilla trekking and we will be able to help organize personalized tailored gorilla trips to Bwindi Impenetrable National park and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda and the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

In conclusion, Gorilla trekking in both countries can be carried throughout the year however the best time is during the dry season from December to January and June to September. The trek routes during this time are easy to use and not slippery as compared to the rainy season which makes it hard to trek with the rains and the slippery muddy routes. You can still however gorillas trek during the wet season also known as the low season especially if you are on a budget.

 

best time for gorilla tour in Africa

Encounter Africa safaris organizes gorilla trekking trips all round the year and we have recorded 98% success with all our gorilla tours since our clients are able to see gorillas on their respective treks. Whether dry or wet season, the success of any given gorilla trek goes beyond time/season to how you are prepared. You should have the right gear, be physically fit and if not, please hire services of a porter and you will be able to enjoy your trek.

Much as we emphasize drier seasons to be the best time to trek gorillas, global warming as changed everything and rain can come out anytime. There is no guarantee that if you come to Uganda for gorilla trekking in the mentioned month, you will not experience rain. Bwindi forest being a tropical rain forest, it can rain anytime any day so you have to prepare for all situations.

Kindly contact us for more the best time to trek gorillas or our affordable gorilla tours, so contact us via email or phone.

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