When is the Best Time to see Gorillas in Uganda & Rwanda?

Mountain gorilla trekking can be enjoyed any time of year, with sightings in both Rwanda and Uganda during every calendar month. Mountain gorillas are a resilient bunch. These magnificent mammals can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and weather patterns so their movements are largely unaffected by the changing seasons. The best time to go gorilla trekking will likely have more to do with the availability of trekking permits (and your schedule, of course) than anything else.

There are, however, pros and cons to each season. Global warming has affected the planet’s weather patterns so much that it’s increasingly difficult to predict the beginning and end of the rainy and dry seasons. And it’s important to remember that the rain forests where mountain gorillas live are very wet, even during the dry season, so you can’t avoid rain completely. Be that as it may, there are still a few basic truths for every traveler to consider when planning to track gorillas in East Africa.

The climate, gorilla trekking conditions, and tourism seasons are more or less the same in both Rwanda and Uganda. Gorilla-trekking is a year-round activity, but we that find there are some important considerations when timing your trip.

In our experience, the overall best weather is during the two dry seasons, which run from June-September, and December-February. You can still expect some rain during these periods, but conditions are generally more comfortable and the trails less muddy.

June-September is the driest and is the best time to go for the gorilla tracking in Uganda or Rwanda; with light showers during December-February.

The rainy seasons, from March-May and September-November, can be very soggy. March-May brings the heaviest rains, and the going can be tough especially in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, which is generally steeper, muddier and denser than in Rwanda. However, if you choose to travel during these months, you may have a privilege of tracking the whole gorilla family by your self.

That said, gorilla tourism remains open year-round. It will be much quieter during the rainy/off season and you might find some good deals.

The biggest tip is to time your visit for the “shoulder” period either side of the rainy season, when prices are lower, crowds are lighter and the rains might be easing off.

When to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda?

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda can be done year-round, however, rainfall is heavier in September-November and March-May, when paths can become muddy and difficult to hike.

That said, there is still a marked difference between the dry and rainy seasons. The weather is generally drier and hotter between June and September, and again from December to February. These are my preferred months to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda.

During March and May, and again from September to November you can expect more frequent and heavier rain showers. Muddy roads and paths can become tricky to handle.

Temperatures are fixed year-round between 21°C and 30°C, dropping to 10°C at higher altitudes. Although chilly at night, the exertion of hiking and climbing will keep you warm during the day.

The advantages to visiting in dry season are less muddy paths, easier hiking and clearer views of the wildlife. The disadvantage is that this is peak tracking season and therefore permit availability is lower. You’ll need to book well in advance.

Peak season & when to book

Peak tourism seasons are June to August and around Christmas and New Year. If you plan to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda during peak season or if you are in a large group, you should book six months or more in advance. The earlier you book the more choice you have on where you trek gorillas and where you stay. Last-minute bookings may be possible during low season or with smaller groups.

Aside from more choice in permit and accommodation availability, there are some other pros to visiting during rainy season not least that smaller group sizes allow a more intimate tracking experience.

If you have little time, it is, in theory, possible to see mountain gorillas in Rwanda in just one day if you fly in very early in the morning. However, it is strongly recommended to spend at least two or three days in the region. The altitude and exertion of the climb can be unpleasant when rushed, and it is worth spending some time acclimatising. And besides, there’s so much more to Rwanda than ‘just’ one hour with the gorillas.

When to go gorilla trekking in Uganda?

Since Rwanda almost doubled the price of gorilla tracking permits, it has become more difficult to secure gorilla permits in next door Uganda.

If you plan to travel during peak season or if you are in a large group, we strongly recommend you book six months or even a year in advance. Peak seasons are June to October and Christmas and the New Year. The earlier you book the more choice you have on where you stay and where you track. Last-minute bookings may be possible during low season or with smaller groups, but cannot be guaranteed.

Gorillas can be tracked throughout the year, however, rainfall is heavier in November and April/May. During those times, it can be very muddy underfoot. The upside is that permits are a little easier to obtain plus you may find fewer tourists on your trail, which we prefer.

Permit availability

Permits and accommodation during the peak summer months of June-August sell out a long way in advance. If you’re set on visiting during the peak months you may need to book at least a year in advance.

In conclusion

The decision on when to go for gorilla trekking rests entirely with the client taking into consideration time constraints, budget, overall fitness, convenience and many of the things discussed above. At the end of the day, the decision on when to go for gorilla trekking rests with the client taking into consideration time constraints, budget, overall fitness and convenience. Some clients even find gorilla trekking during the rainy season more adventurous despite the challenges.



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