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Rwanda’s climate consists of four seasons: ‘long rainy season’ (March–May), ‘long dry season’ (June–September), ‘short rainy season’ (October-November), and ‘short dry season’ (December-February). Temperatures don’t vary much throughout the seasons, with warm days and cool nights, particularly at altitude. If your main reason for visiting Rwanda is to track mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park in the north-west of the country, the best time to travel is during the dry period from June to September, although you can track gorillas throughout the year. The rainy seasons from March to May and June to September are the optimum times for tracking chimpanzees.
When is the best time to go Gorilla Tracking: You can track mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park in the northwest of the country at any time of year, although the best time is during the dry seasons from June to September and December to February. April is very wet and is therefore the worst month to track gorillas as the paths in the forest will be very muddy and slippery and the gorillas may try to avoid the rain, taking shelter and hiding under the canopy.
When is the best time to go Chimpanzee Tracking: You can track chimpanzees in Nyungwe Forest at any time of the year, although in contrast to gorilla tracking the best times are during the rainy seasons from March to May and October to November. At these times the apes are easier to locate - fruit ripens which brings the chimps down to the lower reaches of the forest canopy. During the dry seasons food is harder to find and the chimps often venture deep into the forest interior. There are no guarantees that you’ll see chimpanzees, however sightings are very common and guides are extremely skilful in tracking them.
January falls within the short dry season (December to February) and it is a good month to travel to Rwanda. There tends to be light cloud cover which helps to keep the temperatures moderate. Although this is the dry season you should be prepared for occasional light rain showers.
January is a great month to track mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park, however it is not necessarily the best month to combine a gorilla trek with chimpanzee tracking. Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe National Park is better in the wet seasons (March to June, and October to November).
February falls within the short dry season (December to February) so this is another great month to travel to Rwanda. As with January there is often light cloud cover which helps to keep the temperatures moderate. The start of February tends to be dry, however you may experience rain towards the end of the month as the wet season approaches.
This is a good month for gorilla treks, but it is not the best time for chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe National Park as this is better in the rainy season. If you’re keen to combine a gorilla trek and chimpanzee tracking we would recommend that you travel later in the month.
March sees the beginning of the long rainy season which lasts until mid-May or even early June. The rain at this time can either be persistent or short heavy showers. You can still track gorillas at this time of year, however you should expect muddy, slippery conditions in the jungle.
If you don’t mind the rain, March can be a good month to track gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park as well as chimpanzees in Nyungwe National Park.
The rainy season continues during April. You can still track gorillas at this time of year, although it is not the best time of year for this activity. If you do choose to join a gorilla trek in April you should be prepared for the wet weather and you should expect the paths in the jungle to be very muddy. The upper slopes of the Volcanoes National Park are colder during April than in previous months, and food is scarce, so the gorillas tend to stay lower where they can seek warmth and food. The gorillas may try to avoid the rain too, taking shelter and hiding under the canopy.
The long rainy season continues in May. Trekking through the dense forest of the Volcanoes National Park in search of gorillas can be difficult during May as the paths can be very slippery and muddy. As with April the gorillas may stick to the lower slopes at this time, where it is warmer and food is more available. The rain can be persistent, however this means that the vegetation in the rainforest flourishes and becomes lush and green.
Whilst it may not be the best time of year for gorilla trekking, May is a good month to track chimpanzees and monkeys in Nyungwe National Park.
June is the start of the long dry season which lasts until September and this is the most popular time to travel to Rwanda. June to September are generally the best months for tracking mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park, however we recommend that you book your trip well in advance as only 80 gorilla permits are available each day.
Game viewing in Akagera National Park can be fantastic in June, making it a great month to combine gorilla tracking with a classic safari experience.
July falls with the long dry season (June to September) and it’s the most popular time to travel to Rwanda. If you wish to track gorillas from June to September we recommend that you book your trip well in advance as only 80 permits are available each day. July is a great month to combine a gorilla trek with tracking golden monkeys and seeing wildlife in Akagera National Park.
August is another popular month to track mountain gorillas. The weather tends to be dry, although there is still a chance of rain in the Volcanoes National Park as the weather can be unpredictable in the Virungas.
Game viewing in Akagera National Park is fantastic during August as the lack of rain means that the land will be very dry and wildlife are likely to congregate around the park’s waterholes and lakes.
September sees the end of the long dry season, with rain typically starting in the middle of the month. The temperature remains the same, although there is increased precipitation towards the end of the month, and after three months of dry weather, September can feel quite humid.
September is still a great time for gorilla trekking. Although it rains more than in the previous months, this shouldn’t deter you from booking.
October is the start of the short rainy season (October to November). Unlike the long rains in March and April, the downpours in October are often in short heavy bursts, and there tends to be blue skies between the showers. You may experience the occasional thunderstorm which can be incredibly dramatic, especially if you get to watch from the comfort of your lodge.
If you choose to track gorillas in October you should be prepared for the wet weather and muddy, slippery conditions on your trek. However it is worth noting that this can be an excellent time to photograph gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park – just make sure you have waterproof bags and covers for your camera equipment.
The short rainy season continues in November. As with October you can expect heavy downpours although they don’t last for long and there tends to be blue skies in between the showers. The rains bring new vegetation to the Rwandan countryside and the landscape is particularly beautiful at this time of year.
The short dry season starts in December and lasts until February. There is often light cloud cover which helps to keep the temperatures moderate, however you can expect occasional light rain showers.
If you’re planning to trek gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park you can expect good conditions as the dry weather means that the jungle will be less muddy and the paths will be less slippery.