Whilst Uganda may be best known and famed for its population of mountain gorillas, it is worth noting there is so much more to this rich and varied destination. It is a country that is characterised by its diverse landscape, a variety of beautiful natural features and an all-encompassing wildlife experience.
Like its equatorial East African neighbours – Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania – Uganda’s temperatures remain moderate and consistent over the course of the year, however, it does play host to two rainy seasons and two dry seasons during the year. In some parts of the country, it is not unusual to have rainfall at any time of the year, and it usually doesn’t have a significant impact on the wildlife experience. That being said, it can play a part in overall visitor enjoyment, so is an important factor when considering the time of year you’re planning a trip to Uganda.
Whilst Uganda is an incredible destination, it is yet to develop the same level of tourism infrastructure as its neighbours; Rwanda in particular. There are fewer lodges of top quality to choose from, and the best lodges in the country tend to have a small number of rooms, so it is also recommended to plan well before your travel dates as the rooms at the best lodges in the country – at the best times of year to visit – are usually booked up several months in advance.
The year begins in the midst of one of Uganda’s dry seasons; the short dry season which runs from around the beginning of December until roughly the middle of March. The days are typically sunny and dry, and it is considered to be one of the best times of year to visit Uganda for wildlife viewing, as the thinner vegetation results in animals being easier to spot in areas like Murchison Falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park and Kidepo Valley National Park.
With it having been on the drier side since the start of December, conditions under foot are relatively stable, creating favourable conditions for Gorilla and Chimpanzee trekking in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the Kibale Forest.
It is a fairly popular time to visit Uganda, so planning trips in advance is recommended, as availability at lodges and Gorilla / Chimpanzee permits can be limited. It is especially pertinent as there are only a handful of top quality lodges in Uganda, each one having just a handful of rooms, so planning well in advance when looking to travel to Uganda in January is certainly the way to go.
February continues in much the same way as January, in that February still falls well within the short dry season, with daytime temperatures being warm and with it being mostly dry, with typically little rainfall. If anything, it is a better time for Gorilla and Chimpanzee trekking than January as the dry conditions have continued for a bit longer going into February, making conditions under foot more favourable. The vegetation and foliage is still on the thinner side, making for good wildlife viewing in all of the major national parks.
Booking and planning in advance continues to be a factor and certainly recommended, due to the quality of visiting at this time of year, and the spillover of visitors from Tanzania.
February is an excellent time to experience the Great Migration, and with Uganda being a relatively straightforward add-on to a Tanzania safari, many visitors will combine the two countries and so the demand on lodge and permit availability can be high. With that in mind, it’s always worth keeping Uganda in mind for primate activities should you already be planning a safari in Tanzania for the month of February, as it is the perfect way to create a well rounded East African adventure of note!
March sees the start of the long rainy season in Uganda, however, the rains usually start to fall some time between the middle and end of the month, so you can still get away with drier conditions if your visit is planned towards the beginning of March.
Whilst the period towards the end of the month brings about rainfall and more challenging conditions under foot for trekking in the forests of Bwindi and Kibale, travelling around the start of the month will see you experience the same drier conditions that you can expect in January and February. This results in early March being a great time for Gorilla and Chimpanzee trekking activities, with good conditions under foot. It is also the time of year with lower demand on Gorilla permits and accommodation, meaning lodge rates tend to start dropping and it can be one of the more cost effective times of the year to visit Uganda.
It is also a wonderful time of year for game viewing in Murchison Falls and Kidepo Valley, as the vegetation is still fairly thin and grass on the plains is low, making for excellent wildlife sightings. Kidepo Valley in particular experiences a different rainy season to the rest of the country, with it having been dry from September/October; the shortgrass plains are at their lowest in March, making it the best time of year for cheetah and lion sightings.
Once we get into April, we are now firmly in the middle of the long rainy season, with regular and sometimes heavy rainfall a common feature of Uganda’s conditions at this time of year.
Roads become bogged down in places, as well as slippery and bumpy, so getting around is not as smooth as at other times of the year. It can still be a very good time of year for trekking activities, though, as the national parks and forests are at the peak of their resplendent glory.
You can expect an abundance of lush greenery at this time, and the Gorilla treks tend to be shorter as there is a greater source of food at the lower, slightly warmer, slopes of the mountains. That being said, despite the shorter treks, conditions under foot become more challenging with the rains, and the associated slippery forest floor.
For birdwatchers, April is a fantastic time to visit as it’s at the confluence of two migratory seasons, with some species – having arrived in November – still around but starting to migrate back to Europe and North Africa in April, whereas other species start to arrive in April.
Overall – despite the rainfall being at its peak in April – there are still enough appealing aspects to travel in Uganda at this time of year, especially if you’ve had the iconic Gorilla trekking trip on your bucket list!
Whilst May does see the first rainy season of the year come to an end, that is usually towards the end of the month.
Most of the time during May, you are likely to encounter the same wet season conditions as you would in April. It is perhaps the least desirable month to visit Uganda, as the trekking activities are at their most challenging. In addition to the high possibility of heavy rainfall at the time, it would have been raining for weeks on end, making forest paths muddy and treacherous.
It is an incredibly beautiful time to experience the country, as the heavy rains would have brought about significant greenery and growth of plant life in the forests, but it does create thicker foliage which results in wildlife being tougher to spot.
On the other hand, Gorilla and Chimpanzee permits are fairly easy to obtain for this time of year, there is plenty of availability at most of the top lodges and rates are at their lowest.
Gorilla trekking is a year round activity, so May is a great time to visit if planning last minute Gorilla trekking adventure, or for those travellers who may be keeping one eye on their budget.
Change is in the winds as June rolls around, with it bringing the start of the longest dry period in Uganda, and some of the most appealing times of the year to visit.
With the rainfall having been fairly constant over the preceding months, conditions under foot are not yet optimal, but the forest floors have dried up a bit, making June a truly excellent time for Gorilla trekking and Chimpanzee trekking.
The only area to avoid during June is the Kidepo Valley National Park, which experiences a slightly different wet and dry season to the rest of the country. By the time June arrives, it would have been a couple of months into the wet season in Kidepo, the bushveld would have grown, game viewing can be a challenge and roads can become muddy and impassable in some places.
Outside of Kidepo, in other national parks across the country, game viewing can be excellent as the drier conditions result in wildlife congregating at known water sources, such as waterholes and rivers. Whilst the parks start to get busier and there is greater demand on permit availability and lodge accommodation, it’s still not quite at its peak.
Planning in advance is certainly recommended, however, you aren’t likely to encounter the highest number of other visitors in Uganda’s pristine wilderness settings. The combination of superb conditions for a wide range of the country’s attractions and not the absolute highest level of visitor numbers means June is a truly ideal time to visit Uganda.
July continues in much the same way as June when it comes to overall conditions, however, everything tends to improve slightly as we go deeper and deeper into the dry season.
July is the best month for game viewing in Uganda, and is the optimal time for seeing tree climbing lions in the Queen Elizabeth National Park. Conditions under foot on the forest floors in Bwindi and Kibale continue to dry out, creating optimal trekking conditions for Gorillas and Chimpanzees.
With it being the best time of year to visit Uganda, as well as falling in the usual Northern Hemisphere school holidays, it does tend to be busy at this time of year. With that in mind, there is an incredibly high demand on lodge availability at the top places and for Gorilla and Chimpanzee trekking permits, so planning a trip in advance is essential at this time of year.
Do not let the increased visitor numbers dissuade you in the slightest, though; for those who are planning their African adventure in advance and have had Uganda on their list, July is a fantastic time to experience everything this rich and varied destination has to offer.
The dry season is in full swing now, and August continues to bring the same favourable conditions overhead and underfoot that have been a feature of the preceding couple of months. Daytime temperatures are warm and whilst there is always a chance of rain in the tropical rainforests, skies tend to be clear for the most part.
With the forest floors having dried out and with less precipitation in the air, it’s the perfect time for Gorilla trekking and Chimpanzee trekking.
With it being such a good time of year for safari activities, falling at the same time as the Northern Hemisphere school holiday season, there is always an incredibly high demand on rooms at the top lodges, as well as Gorilla and Chimpanzee permits. This results in planning in advance being absolutely essential, as it is nigh on impossible to plan last minute trips for this time of year.
Aside from excellent conditions for Gorilla and Chimpanzee trekking, it is also a wonderful month for game viewing in Uganda’s national parks at this time of year. With the vegetation having thinned out and with cooler temperatures, wildlife is both easier to spot and more active than during the warmer months. Despite it being peak season, it is unusual for Uganda’s national parks and pristine wilderness areas to ever feel overly crowded.
Whilst planning in advance is essential, it is certainly the best time to plan your trip to Uganda.
Whilst September can sometimes bring the first bit of rain at the end of the dry season, most of the month is a continuation of the picture perfect dry season conditions that you’ll experience in June, July and August. With that in mind, it’s a fantastic time to visit Uganda and definitely recommended as an ideal time to plan your trip.
Whilst the conditions across the country are excellent, from the tropical rainforest settings of Bwindi and Kibale to the verdant bushveld landscapes of Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Park, it is the perfect time to combine several elements of the country for all-encompassing African adventure in Uganda. September also sees the end of the rains in Kidepo Valley, which is arguably the best national park in Uganda for game viewing.
Whilst the vegetation may still be on the thicker side as it’s right at the end of the rainy season, conditions overhead become clearer, making for a more pleasant and enjoyable safari experience. Game viewing across the country tends to be fantastic, as water levels are still quite low, attracting wildlife to known water sources. Overall, with there being such great conditions for Gorilla and Chimpanzee trekking, as well as optimal game viewing across the country, look no further than September as one of the best times of year to visit Uganda.
October is still a very good month to visit Uganda on the whole, however, one should be mindful that the rain does come in, usually towards the end of the month.
Whilst the presence of rain is essentially guaranteed, the type of rainfall that you’ll experience is less certain. It is not uncommon to have short bursts of torrential downpours, or the – sometimes more annoying – light but incessant constant drizzle. Despite the arrival of the rains, October is still an excellent time to take in the epic wildlife experiences Uganda is famed for. Along with the rains, more of the fruits and berries that Gorillas tend to eat starts to grow closer to the forest floor. The result is them spending more time near the undergrowth and closer to the bottom of the hills, which means that treks can sometimes become shorter at this time of year.
It’s worth noting too that October falls in shoulder season, with less of a demand on lodge availability, as well as Gorilla permits. With there generally being rooms available and Gorilla permits up for grabs, it’s a great time of year for planning last minute trips, as it is generally possible to put a fantastic itinerary together fairly close to the travel dates.
With that, rates can be lower than in the peak season months too, so with there being generally favourable conditions and the ever-present guarantee of seeing Gorillas, October can be a truly rewarding time to plan a trip to Uganda.
Once November rolls around, Uganda is well within the midst of its short rainy season. Heavy rain showers fall across the country, as the forests become ever more green and lush as the rain continues to fall.
Whilst the landscape itself becomes prettier and more attractive for photographers, the conditions under foot become wet and slippery, making for tougher than normal trekking conditions.
As with any time of year, you are essentially guaranteed to encounter the Gorillas and Chimpanzees for which Uganda is most closely associated, however, it may be quite wet in the forests and one should be mindful of the treacherous trekking conditions when planning to visit at this time of year.
Conversely, whilst conditions overhead and underfoot may be less than ideal, you won’t struggle for lodge availability at this time of year, and Gorilla permits are quite easy to come by. Lodge rates will also be at their lowest, so it’s a great time of year to consider for those who may have an eye on costs.
It’s also a wonderful month for keen birders, as plenty of migratory species will start making their way into Uganda and other parts of East Africa at this time of year, and conditions remain really good in the northern areas of the country; where you will find Kidepo Valley, Uganda’s best national park for game viewing.
Overall, November is an excellent time to consider travelling to Uganda for those with an adventurous spirit, who won’t mind getting a bit wet during their time on safari.
As we get into December, it starts to get dry again as we come to the end of East Africa’s short rainy season. It is not an exact science and one may still experience some rainfall at the start of the month, however, it usually clears up and becomes dry overhead by the time we get into the festive season date range.
With that, it is an incredibly appealing and popular time to visit as conditions become more and more favourable for trekking activities, whilst the forests retain their lush, verdant greenery from the growth experienced during November’s rainfall.
The upshot of all this is that Uganda becomes incredibly busy in December, not only with Western visitors, but it also a time when local Ugandans are on their holidays. There is a huge demand on lodge availability, Gorilla trekking permits and Chimpanzee trekking permits, so planning your trip well in advance is certainly recommended.
With favourable conditions for all trekking activities as well as in Uganda’s premier wildlife viewing areas, December is a spectacular time to visit, and certainly a great place to have in mind for those Festive Season African Adventure.
Having read through the above month by month guide, it will become clear that Uganda – like all of her East African neighbours – is an incredibly seasonal safari destination. Whilst some people may consider certain times of the year more appealing than others, there is something for everyone at any time of the year, and very few occasions where I’d firmly recommend against travel.
It is worth noting that the attraction Uganda is most famed for – Gorilla and Chimpanzee trekking – are year round experiences that come with a practical guarantee of seeing these incredible creatures in the wild. With that in mind, it’s certainly worth visiting at any time of year if seeing either of those iconic species is on your list when thinking about what you’re hoping to experience out of your trip to Africa.
With a wide variety of other national parks, incredible birdlife, immense natural beauty, varied landscapes and abundant wildlife, Uganda is a fantastic destination to consider for your safari.
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