What is the best time for gorilla trekking in Rwanda? Best time to see gorillas?

What is the best time to visit Rwanda for the gorilla tour? What is the best time for the gorilla trekking? What is the best time that will give me the best chance to see the gorillas?

These are common questions from tourists planning a gorilla trekking trip in Rwanda and Uganda. Gorilla trekking is number one on the list of top things to do in Rwanda.

What is the best time that will give you the best chance to see the gorillas? And the answer is simple:

ALL YEAR ROUND the gorillas can be seen.

BUT THE WEATHER…

However, the weather can have an effect on the level of difficulty of the gorilla trek (but not on the chances of finding the gorillas), and therefore you may choose to do the gorilla trek when it is easier to trek (or hardest to trek, for hiking fanatics) because the gorillas live in the rugged mountains densely covered in vegetation presenting a challenge for trekking. And of course, the mountains are easier to trek in dry conditions than in wet conditions.

There are two weather seasons in Rwanda, the WET/RAINY season (March – May & Sept – Oct) that sees frequent rains, and the DRY season (June – August & Dec – Feb) which sees more sunshine and less rains.

The most preferred time for the gorilla trek is during the long dry spell from June – August and a bit of September. The mountains do not receive frequent rains and so the trails are dry most of the time. There will be some occasional rains though. This can be taken as the best time for the gorilla tracking in Rwanda.

The wettest period is from March to May, with rains experienced almost on a daily during the peak rainy month of April. This is the least favorable time for the gorilla tracking adventure.

During the wet season however, the gorillas tend to leave the high elevations of the mountains because it is too cold and will retreat closer to the warmer altitudes towards the base of the mountains. During this time the gorillas may be easier to find 😊. The irony!

BEST TIME WITH NO CROWDS

Don’t want crowds??? There are fewer people tracking the gorillas during the wet season hence you have a more intimate encounter with the gorillas. We call this time of the year the low season because of low numbers of tourists. A number of lodges discount their prices (low season prices) and therefore it is the best time for the gorilla trek if you want to save.

VERDICT:

The gorilla trekking can be done ALL YEAR ROUND

How difficult or hard is the gorilla trekking in Rwanda?

How difficult or hard or challenging is the gorilla trek? Will I manage the trek? How far shall I trek to find the gorillas? How long will it take to find the gorillas? What if I sprain or injure my leg while on the trek, what happens?

As a tour operator organizing gorilla trekking tours in Rwanda (and Uganda), these are some of the questions, or I should I call them concerns, we normally receive from clients asking to book a gorilla tour in Rwanda and Uganda. And since the mountain gorillas live in mountains (the Virunga Mountains), the level of difficult of the trek is a big concern especially for those that have no or little experience in hiking or climbing mountains.

So below I will try to explain the level of difficult you should anticipate:

The gorilla trek can be easy, moderate, difficult or even extremely difficult… It depends on; first your fitness levels 😊, and second the mood…eeh sorry, I mean the movement of the gorillas that day and their general location across the mountains. There are more than 10 habituated gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park for tracking by tourists and every morning before the trek groups of not more than 8 tourists are assigned to each habituated gorilla family.

Every gorilla family has a different location across the mountains, however the location is not static as the gorillas move, but still they do not cover a big distance & on average can cover just 1km in day under normal circumstance (though, still 1 km on a mountain is not a small distance). But under some abnormal circumstances the gorillas may travel very far, e.g. when attacked by another gorilla group or errant lone males wanting to take over the family forcefully, so the dominant male gorilla who is the leader of the family can flee his family as far away as possible.

The gorillas make new homes every day and therefore have a different location every day. The park has trackers who keep with the gorillas till they make new nests to spend the night, and so the general location of the gorillas at the start of the day is known. Alternatively, the trackers go out early in the morning and basing on where the gorillas were last seen the previous day, they track down the gorillas’ nesting location before they wake up and will stay with them as they start the day & relay the information of their movement to the park authorities at the head office. So, the park authorities have an idea of the general location of the different gorilla families and going by this the park may have an idea of how long it could take to find each family.

Going back to the allocation of the groups to tourists before the trek, the park authorities will give priority to older tourists in assigning them to gorilla families that are closer to the base of the mountain or may be easy to find.

Therefore, as an individual who may be worried about your fitness, you can request to be allocated an ‘easier’ group.

I deliberately put ‘easier’ in quotes because, as I did say, the gorillas do not have a static location, so what started out as an easy trek can fast turn into a hard trek depending on how the gorillas decide to move. They can move up the mountain so you have to climb to catch up or keep moving along the sides or even come down closer to the base and near to the trailhead and could be found in a matter of minutes.

On the other hand, the younger and more adventurous tourists can request for a harder trek. Tip: if you are the extreme adventurous type, in Rwanda ask for Pablo, notoriously hard-to-track group in Mt. Karisimbi (tallest of the Virunga volcanoes) but be ready to come back from the mountains at night fall 😊

PORTERS HELP!!

Porters are available for hire at $10 and you are encourage to take at least one even when you feel energetic and fit enough because the altitude could get the better of you. Porters will carry your daypack and other times so that you are as light as possible. Porters can also give you a push or pull in certain situations.

What happens if you sprain or injure your leg during the trek??

Well, this is possible and happens sometimes, unfortunately. Since you are trekking on uneven mountain terrain you can miss a step or slide and strain an ankle. When this happens, the park cannot give up on you. A stretcher shall be improvised using tree branches and you shall be carried by able bodied porters for the rest of the trek.

If however you feel that you are no shape to attempt trekking even one meter, you are still not left out as you can request for this specialized stretcher that you sit on comfortably and are carried to and from the gorillas. It however costs an extra fee and is booked in advance.

THE WEATHER AFFECTS

Ooh, weather too can affect the level of difficulty of the gorilla trek. During the rains the trails get muddy, of course, and the trek therefore gets more difficult. The two rainy seasons in Rwanda are from March to May and October to Mid-December. These are the months when it is most difficult to trek in the mountains. On the other hand, however, the gorillas are easiest to find during this time. This is because, due to the lower temperatures up the mountains, the gorillas tend to the get to the lower zones to escape the cold temperatures uphill.

ALL IN ALL

FITNESS is key or plan for THE STRETCHER