Climate and Weather in Rwanda

Rwanda’s climate, like much of central Africa can be defined as “hot and wet”, meaning the country receives abundant sunshine and rainfall. The country stays green throughout the year and has earned the tag “Country of Eternal Spring”.

Rwanda is located close to the Equator  (121km (75miles) south of the Equator) and therefore receives direct sunshine throughout the year. This should make it unbearably hot, but on the contrary the daily temperatures in Rwanda average at about 21oC (70oF) during day and can drop to as low as 16oC (61oF). This is because of the high altitude due to Rwanda’s landscape being mostly highlands covering the central, north, west and south of the country. The country’s east is a contrast to the rest of the country having a relatively less hilly landscape and more plains in the Akagera National Park. The eastern is therefore relatively warmer.

Rwanda’s weather seasons

Rwanda experiences four weather seasons as follows:

The long wet/rain season (February to May)

The long wet or rainy season from February to May experiences a lot of rain. It is the wettest season in Rwanda. During this time there are more frequent rains (than the short wet season), and for some time it will rain every day. The cloud cover is heavy and the temperatures drop considerably especially in the north of the country near the Virunga mountains and in the south around the mountain rainforest of Nyungwe.

The wettest month in Rwanda experiencing more frequent rains is April. During this month the country experiences nearly daily reasons from morning to evening. The month also coincides with the remembrance (“Kwibuka”) of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, the darkest time in Rwanda’s history. A lot of people still have fresh memories of the genocide and during this remembrance period they do breakdown emotionally, with some experiencing depression. Daily rains combined with the somber mood in the whole country is probably the worst time to be in Rwanda as a visitor.

If you are planning a gorilla trekking trip to Rwanda, the long wet season is one of the time least advised for the trip because of the muddy trails that make the trek more challenging. On the other hand however, during this season the gorillas move to the lower altitudes of the mountains that are a bit warmer and therefore gorillas may be easier to find.

The scenery in Rwanda is at its best during the wet season as the landscape is all lush green and the heavy rains clear the clear blue sky.

The long dry season (June – September)

The long dry season is from June to September, hence comes right after the long wet season. During the dry season Rwanda experiences more sunshine with little rainfall, and in the middle of the long dry season it is common to have long dry spells with no rainfall for several days or weeks. The dry season does not mean there are no rains, as there will be sporadic rains once in a while. These rains also tend to cover small areas, it is normal to have a downpour in one locality while it is blazing hot in the next locality.

In the higher altitudes such as in the Volcanoes National Park, and in the mountain rainforests of Nyungwe, there are more occurrences of sporadic rains, however they are usually downpours lasting a few minutes or couple of hours. The less hilly east of the country goes several weeks without a drop of rain during the long dry season.

The long dry season coincides with the summer in Europe and America and it is the time to take vacations. This is also the most recommended time to track the gorillas in Volcanoes National Park and chimps in Nyungwe National Park, and do a safari trip to Akagera National Park.

Short rainy season (mid-September – November)

The short rains start towards the end of September until November. This is not as wet as the long rainy season and the rains mostly start in the afternoon. It is common to go days without rain during this season.

Short dry season (December to January)

The short dry season is also not as the long dry season and experiences more sporadic rains especially in the mountains and rainforests.

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