Trekking mountain gorillas is highly thought of as an experience of a lifetime, but knowing the best time to trek these endangered animals is essential.
Best Time to Visit Uganda & Rwanda
Uganda and Rwanda can be visited all year round, with temperatures barely changing throughout the seasons. However, a safari in Uganda & Rwanda is at its best during its two dry seasons between December and February and between June and August, when conditions are particularly good for trekking to see mountain gorillas and chimpanzees. Game spotting in national parks is also good at this time, as well as between February and March and from September through to early October when large numbers of wildlife can be seen at waterholes. Uganda is also fabulous for bird spotting all year round. Visit Uganda Wildlife Authority website for more details.
Best time for Gorilla Trekking
Uganda’s mountain gorillas are trekked in the tropical rain forests of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, both located in southwestern Uganda. In Rwanda, mountain gorillas are seen in the Volcanoes National Park in the northeast of the country. Mountain gorillas in both countries are trekked all year round, but knowing the best time to travel for gorilla safaris is very helpful as each season has it’s own advantages and disadvantages.
Uganda and Rwanda are blessed with climates made up of two rainy seasons, the short one in October and November and a longer one from mid March to May. The remaining months are dry although the current variations in weather patterns make it difficult to forecast the seasons.
This is in the months of January, February, June, July, August, September and December where there is less rainfall and sometimes even no rains at all. Most travellers choose to travel during this season because of the dry weather and it is because of this that there is a high demand for the gorilla permits at this time. This means travellers have to book their permits well in advance and pay 30% of the total cost as booking fee.
The dry season is perfect for trekking mountain gorillas, the mountain gorillas are found in the temperate weathered regions with raised landscapes, this means the climate remains cool all year round – perfect weather for length treks.
Naturally mountain gorilla trekking in high season is expensive, a permit in Uganda costs 600USD compared to 450USD in the low season – A luxurious experience for travellers on a budget. On the other hand a gorilla permit in Rwanda is 1500USD.
This is the best time for people travelling on a budget, many people have enjoyed travelling to see the gorillas throughout the low season. During this time, gorilla trekking permits are offered at a discounted rate reduced at 450USD for non-resident travellers. The low season is known for its heavy rains between the months of March, April, May and November, and it is this rainfall that discourages many prospective travellers.
Lodge costs in the low season are also more favourable than during high season, since the occupancy rate is low, low prices are set to attract budget travellers. To add to all the discounted rates and with less people trekking mountain gorillas in the low season, the few who trek are allocated to different gorilla families, which provide them with closer and more exclusive interactions with them.
However despite the advantages during this season, rains make gorilla trekking difficult. The grounds become slippery and muddy, together with the showers and droplets, and can make for an uncomfortable or interesting experience for less experienced walkers.
But despite the rain the trek will continue! There has never been a whole day lost to the rain. This means that the sun shines shortly after the rain has fallen, enabling trekkers to continue with the activity – albeit slightly wet!
In both Uganda and Rwanda, mountain gorilla trekking is done every day not minding whether it’s raining or shining. For all the years that gorilla trekking has been done, no single day has ever been cancelled because of bad weather.
Trekking Uganda’s mountain gorillas in low season is pocket friendly as travellers are saving 150USD – however, this is not the case in Rwanda. The cost for Rwanda’s gorilla permit is 1500USD whether in low or high season.
We hope you are encouraged to venture to Uganda or Rwanda for one of the most life altering experiences you can have, despite the season, mountain gorilla trekking is a one for the bucket list!