The Best Time to go Gorilla Trekking – Hints and Tips from the Experts

 

Trekking to see mountain gorillas is a breathtaking bucket list moment for many. You can make the absolute most of this once in a lifetime opportunity to encounter the gentle giants by knowing the best time to go gorilla trekking. Here we share our years of knowledge, to ensure you get the very best out of your trip!

Where do Mountain Gorillas Live?

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First off though, it’s just as important to know exactly where you can find mountain gorillas, and therefore where it is possible to go gorilla trekking.

Numbering around 1,000 individual animals in the wild, making them one of the most endangered creatures on the planet, mountain gorillas live in just three east and central African nations. All offer gorilla trekking trips to see their habituated populations.

Because of security concerns, most travelers opt to go gorilla trekking in Uganda or Rwanda. They are considered much safer destinations than the third option, the eastern extremes of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The gorillas live in thick jungle areas of these countries at high altitudes, along the line of lakes which forms the Great Rift Valley.

Typical Conditions Experienced on Gorilla Treks

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Geographers will tell you that the areas the remaining populations of mountain gorillas live – Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park predominantly – comprise part of the greater Congo rainforest.

Rainforests are so called for a reason. It can rain a lot. Whatever time of year you choose to visit the mountain gorillas of Uganda and Rwanda, you should be prepared to see at least some rain. It’s always recommended to pack high-quality waterproofs to protect you from head to foot!

What Months Are Best for Gorilla Trekking?

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That said, there is certainly more rain at some times of year than at others. Most consider the dry season to be the best time to go gorilla trekking. As you might imagine, this makes it the most popular time of year to travel, and the permits required to go on a trek can be hard to come by.

If you’re dead set on traveling at a certain time of year, we’d recommend getting in contact with us as early as possible. For one thing, permits are sold on a first come first served basis. You might be lucky, but generally last minute vacations aren’t an option. Permits can sell out a year in advance during the most popular months!

So booking at least six months ahead of time, an ideally a whole year ahead will help you to avoid disappoint. When it comes to making last minute bookings, you’ll always have to check carefully with a local tour company such as ours to confirm the continued availability of permits. A permit will cost $700 per person per trek in Uganda, and $1500 in Rwanda, making Uganda the first choice for many!

What Climate Can You Expect Gorilla Trekking?

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There are two dry seasons in Uganda and Rwanda (the traditional best time to go gorilla trekking as we’ve already seen). They last from mid-December until early February and then from June until September.

The period from June through to September is by far the busier when it comes to travelers looking for the best time to go gorilla trekking. September also sees Rwanda’s annual gorilla naming ceremony for young born that year. A host of celebrities are often involved.

The dry season is also an excellent time to consider going on safari in the region, since the animals of Queen Elizabeth, Kidepo Valley and Murchison Falls national parks (among others) congregate around the remaining water sources and are easier to spot. Birdwatching is also at its prime now, as food is easy to find.

Expect temperatures in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest of around 11-24°C (52-75°F) at these times of year.

Gorilla Trekking During the Rains

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At the same time, there’s no month of the year when gorilla trekking should be ruled out entirely, and those who head to Uganda or Rwanda during the low season can have a much more exclusive experience because of the lower number of visitors.

The rains are at their heaviest between March to May and in October and November. However, Uganda no longer lowers the prices of its gorilla trekking permits during some portions of the rainy seasons. This is no longer an added incentive to visiting during the wet seasons.

Rain even during these times of year isn’t a constant threat however, and you won’t face days of endless rain if you visit either country during these months. Instead, it tends to fall as showers lasting one or two hours before clearing again. You won’t ever have a gorilla trekking trip cancelled because it’s raining. What’s more, temperatures are all but identical to those experienced during the drier months of the year.

Groups of tourists visiting the gorillas also tend to be smaller during the wetter months. So while groups usually consist of eight travelers plus rangers during the dry season months, rangers usually only lead groups averaging three people at quieter times of year.

Dry Season versus Wet Season Gorilla Treks

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The difference in the actual hiking between the best time to go gorilla trekking and other times of year are minimal. Those joining a gorilla trekking expedition need to be prepared for walks of up to six hours, when it comes to both basic fitness and the kit you’re wearing.

One unexpected potential benefit of visiting Uganda and Rwanda’s mountain gorillas outside of the peak months of June, July and August is that gorilla families can often be found at lower altitudes in the hills.

This means travelers can hope for shorter ranger-led walks to find where the gorillas are situated on any given day – although your stay with them will remain no longer than the one hour allowed by your permit. On the flip side, tracks do get muddy and sometimes challenging because of the rains. Those particularly worried about slipping in the mud may want to choose another time of year.

When is the Best Time to Go Gorilla Trekking?

Although the best time to go gorilla trekking is closely linked to the dry and wet seasons in Uganda and Rwanda, there are several things to consider when thinking about the best time to visit for you. These include the type of experience you’re looking to have, alongside any other activities, such as safaris, you might be keen to undertake while in the region.

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