When is the best time to visit gorillas in Rwanda? In the heart of East Africa, lies Rwanda- the Land of a Thousand Hills and a home to hundreds of the 1063 endangered mountain gorillas, golden monkeys and several other wildlife species of visitor interest on African safaris. When you think of Rwanda safaris, gorilla trekking is what majority of tourists come to enjoy.
But, what leaves many travelers uncertain is when is the best time to visit gorillas in Rwanda? Gorillas in Rwanda can be visited at any time of the year, but the dry season is the best time for tourists to see these unique apes in the wild. The dry season is also referred to as the high/peak season and each year, Volcanoes National Park where mountain gorillas in Rwanda live experiences 2 phases: the long and short season.
Dry seasons Rains ease during the long dry (mid-May to September) and short dry (mid-December to mid-March).
Jun–Jul Baby gorillas are named during the Kwita Izina ceremony.
The long rains Although often wet from mid-March to mid-May, travel is still possible.
Weather & other considerations
Rwanda is one of the countries covered by the East Africa Tourist Visa and for those also visiting Kenya and Uganda on the same trip it is a cheaper alternative. The visa costs US$100, is valid for 90 days and is multiple entry – it is available upon arrival or from embassies abroad. If acquiring the visa before travel, your first port-of-call must be the country through which you applied for the visa.
What is the Best Season to Travel
Long Peak/High season
June, July, August, September are the longest dry months of the year and also peak months for gorilla safaris in Rwanda Volcanoes National Park. These are the best months of the year when gorilla trekking is enjoyable because the park records low or no rains and the floor, steep slopes remain relatively drier while vegetation isn’t dense. The temperatures rise up to 30 degrees Celsius during day, but considering the nature of gorilla habitats, rains can still be experienced even during these peak months of the year.
Short Peak/High season/months
December, January, February are short dry/peak months of the year in Volcanoes National Park. Like June to September, December, January, & February also make it easier to access the park for gorilla trekking. The favorable weather conditions during these two seasons make it easier to locate mountain gorilla families though sometimes, these great apes are forced to move long distances to find for what to feed on.
There are 2 phases of low/off season/months of the year. They are also open for tourists on Rwanda safaris to see mountain gorillas, but the challenge is that the park records its high rainfall amount during this period. Because of heavy rains, the ground and steep slopes can be slippery, the vegetation becomes dense.
Long and short wet/rainy/low/off season
March, April, May- these are the longest wetter months of the year in Volcanoes National Park. Gorilla trekking is possible during this period, but rains often interrupt it. The short wetter months of the year in Rwanda Volcanoes National Park run from October to November. These are best for tourists interested in birding safaris in Rwanda.
Gorilla trekking permits in Rwanda
Obtaining gorilla permits in Rwanda during peak or low season is possible. However, tourists intending to see mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park are advised to book for their gorilla permits in advance especially during the peak or high season/months of the year. High number of trekkers visit Rwanda during the peak season for mountain gorillas trekking unlike during the low or off-season.
Each of Rwanda gorilla permit is issued to tourists at US Dollars 1500 per person. Gorilla permits are available all year-round but, you must have your permit reserved at least 2-6 months pre-visiting Volcanoes National Park for actual gorilla trekking.