Rwanda is genuinely one of the most beautiful countries in Africa. Fondly known as “the land of a thousand hills” due to its elevated and mountainous topography, it is a layered and multi-faceted destination that offers so much more than its population of mountain Gorillas, which it is most closely associated with. It is also a remarkable country to visit when one considers where it was a short while ago, and the tragedies that had unfolded on Rwandan soil in the not too distant past. How it has bounced back to become one of the leading luxury wildlife destinations in Africa is truly one of Africa’s success stories.
With a wide range of wildlife experiences, from the iconic and moving Gorilla trekking to the exhilaration and excitement of trekking chimpanzees – our closest relative – to bonafide Big Five game viewing in the Akagera National Park, Rwanda has something for everyone. Alongside some of the most scenic hiking and boating in Africa, as well as emotive memorials and community projects, Rwanda should be near the top of not just any wildlife aficionados’ list of places to go on safari, but an overarching destination of interest for anybody who is looking to experience the best that Africa has to offer.
The start of the new year represents a wonderful time to visit Rwanda. It falls within the short dry season, and the temperatures are warm but comfortable. Good temperatures are a running theme whenever you look at travelling to Rwanda, as they never drop too low but never become uncomfortably hot either. When it comes to deciding when to visit Rwanda, it’s worth making a decision based on rainfall and lodge availability, more so than temperature. Whilst there is always a chance of rain, January is usually dry, and has been for the preceding month or so, resulting in conditions under foot that lend themselves to good trekking. It’s also a great time to combine Gorilla or Chimpanzee trekking with a safari in one of Rwanda’s East African neighbours, which is a fantastic combination at this time of year, especially considering how good game viewing in destinations such as Tanzania and Kenya are during January. Overall, whether considering Rwanda as a standalone destination or in conjunction with one of her East African neighbours, January is an excellent time to visit Rwanda.
Whilst some spells in March will represent a good time to travel to Rwanda, the middle of the month is usually when the long rainy season begins. The long rains are characterised by heavy, persistent downpours, which can be unrelenting at times. That being said, the heavy rainfall sees the rainforests and flora flourish and burst with colour, making it one of the most picturesque times of year to be in Rwanda. The heavy rainfall results in the ground becoming slippery and muddy, creating conditions for Gorilla trekking that are less than optimal at this time of year. However, if you are looking at Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe forest, this is a great time of year as the figs and fruit in the forest ripen, and the chimps tend to be seen lower down the trees eating, and sometimes in larger groups too. The other major benefit to travelling in Rwanda at this time is that lodge availability is usually very good, and most lodges will introduce their lowest rates from the start of the month. With that in mind, if one is able to travel at the very start of the month, it can be incredibly rewarding as you are likely to catch the very end of the dry season conditions, whilst taking advantage of low season rates.
June marks the beginning of the long dry season, and sees the start of the peak travel season to Rwanda. It is for good reason too, as the weather overhead becomes clearer and conditions under foot become less treacherous. Having experienced heavy rainfall for a couple of months leading up to this point, the vegetation is lush, green and bursting with vibrant colour. Conditions for Gorilla trekking are ideal, and it’s also a fantastic time to explore Rwanda’s other areas of interest; especially the wildlife-rich Akagera National Park. Since Rwanda experiences her rainy seasons in conjunction with her East African neighbours, conditions across wildlife hotspots in Kenya and Tanzania at this time of year are fantastic from both a weather and game viewing perspective, so June is an excellent time to combine Gorilla trekking in Rwanda with a safari in one of her neighbouring countries. Due to its popularity at this time of year considering how good it is, availability at lodges as well as Gorilla permits can be tough to come by. With that in mind, it is essential to plan in advance if one is looking to visit Rwanda in June.
Safari season is in full swing as July rolls around, with lodges across the country running close to full occupancy as visitor numbers increase. Whilst one can never rule out rain with certainty, chances are high that the skies will remain clear and temperatures will remain moderate. As we are well into the peak holiday season, lodge availability and Gorilla permit availability becomes extremely limited, so it is essential to book in advance if one is looking to travel to Rwanda in July. With the ground having dried up from the wet season months, conditions under foot are perfect for Gorilla trekking. It is also a wonderful time to experience all that Rwanda has to offer, with Chimpanzee trekking and Golden Monkey trekking being superb at this time of year, and combine beautifully with Gorilla trekking to create a bonafide primate safari for the ages. When coupled with the option to visit the prolific Akagera National Park, or perhaps combined with regions in Kenya or Tanzania, July represents the perfect time to experience the very best of Rwanda, as well as the very best of East Africa as a whole.
As with July, August is one of the most popular peak season times to visit Rwanda, offering perfect conditions for wildlife activities, clear skies and moderate temperatures. With it being one of the driest months of the year, it is considered one of the best months for Gorilla trekking. However, it can’t be stressed enough how important it is to book in advance for this time of year. It is an incredible time to be in Rwanda, with lodges often fully booked and not a single Gorilla permit spare, so booking in advance is a top recommendation to avoid missing out. With it being a drier month, it is usually a great month for game viewing activities in Rwanda, as lower levels in waterholes and rivers result in wildlife congregating at the more limited water sources that remain at this time of year. Conditions under foot are perfect in the Nyungwe National Park, so this is another excellent time to combine Gorilla trekking with Chimpanzee trekking. If one considers how good it is to visit the Akagera National Park at this time of year, August is the optimal time to experience the best of the best in Rwanda.
As we start to come towards the end of the long dry season, it becomes a better and better time of year to travel to Rwanda. Whilst rainfall may increase a bit in September, It has now typically been dry with clear skies overhead for a few months, resulting in favourable conditions under foot, and a great time to go Gorilla trekking in the Volcanoes National Park. It can feel a bit humid in the rainforests, however, this shouldn’t be too much of a deterrent as Gorilla trekking is fantastic at this time of year. It is also an exceptional time of the year for wildlife experiences across the country, with game viewing in the Akagera National Park being particularly good at this time of year as the foliage is at its thinnest. It’s a particularly fascinating time to go Gorilla trekking as Kwita Izina – the annual Gorilla naming ceremony – takes place, which is a wonderful celebration of the newborn Gorillas. It’s also an incredible month for game viewing across East Africa, so it’s a great time of year to consider pairing a Gorilla trekking adventure with a safari in Kenya or Tanzania.
December brings with it the end of the short rainy season, and the start of the short dry season. Lodge rates remain low and availability tends to be fairly open over the first half of the month, so this is an excellent time to consider planning a trip as you can take advantage of this, alongside the clearer skies overhead. However, as we head towards the festive season, rates will go up and demand on lodge availability and Gorilla permits will increase dramatically, so planning in advance is essential if one is looking to incorporate Gorilla trekking into a Christmas getaway. As conditions are drier, it is a wonderful time of year to experience the wide range of other activities Rwanda is famed for, especially canoeing or hiking. Considering how fantastic game viewing is in Rwanda’s East African neighbours, especially in the Serengeti where the Great Migration is almost entirely back grazing on the short grass plains, it is a wonderful time to consider combining Gorilla trekking in Rwanda with a safari in neighbouring Tanzania, for a festive season East Africa safari extravaganza.
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