THE BEST TIME FOR GORILLA TREKKING
TOURISTS TEND TO STAY CLEAR OF THE RAINY SEASON. BUT THIS IS WHEN YOU HAVE THE GORILLAS TO YOURSELF. ALBEIT IN THE MIST.
The gorillas (and the mist!) are present all year round, with a great record of sightings; the rain only serves to keep tourists away. The best time for gorilla trekking is, therefore, totally up to you. Often it is more to do with permit availability, as they sell out over a year in advance in peak months. The dry seasons – more comfortable for trekking – are mid-December to early February, and June to September. Don’t be completely put off by the rains of November and March-May, as you will have the forests and mountains to yourself, the guides and the gorillas.
GORILLA SAFARIS, MONTH BY MONTH
January and February are usually fairly dry, with Rwanda, Uganda and DRC all experiencing good conditions for trekking at a time of year often thought of as low season.
March, April and May form the rainy season in these countries, as well as in Cameroon and the Republic of Congo. Mountain gorilla permits in Uganda and DRC may be discounted in April and May.
June, July and August are the best time to go gorilla watching especially if you’re planning to combine travels in Tanzania thanks to the wildebeest migration taking place over the plains of the Serengeti. Do book as far in advance as possible at this time though; permits can sell out as much as a year in advance.
September and October are the best time to go gorilla watching if you’re also planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, across the border in Tanzania, as conditions are ideal for both activities.
November is another soggy month – but again, Uganda and DRC often lower the price of their permits.
By mid-December it’s eased off to light showers and if you’re looking for an alternative Christmas holiday, then you could do at lot worse than heading to East Africa to go gorilla watching.
If you’re heading to the Central African Republic, December to May is the dry season, and the best time to track gorillas in the humid, swampy Dzangha-Sangha Reserve.
WHEN TO SEE GORILLAS
Paul Calcutt, at our supplier Natural World Safaris, is an expert on the best time for gorilla trekking: “There are two rainy seasons. One in November and one in March, April, May – and outside of those seasons are all good. March, April, May is a heavier rainy season, but having said that, I was there in May this year in the Kyambura Gorge doing chimpanzee trekking, and there was no one there except me and some guides because most tourists don’t come until the end of May when, traditionally, the rain stops. People do work in ‘calendars’ but of course weather doesn’t work like that. I think there is a lot to be said of going in the last few days of what is supposedly the wet season, because when I was there it was perfectly dry and there was nobody there”