The Best Time to Visit Rwanda : Rwanda is a hidden gem and a very rewarding safari destination in Africa located in the Eastern region, this country is small in size which makes it to be one of the smallest countries in Africa. Regardless of its size, the country has become a top tourist destination mainly because of its reputation for safety and stability, the vibrant Kigali city – Rwanda’s capital which has risen from the traumatic history to a cosmopolitan of modern culture and several national parks.
Among the fine safari destinations in Rwanda (Rwanda national park) is volcanoes national park a famous Rwanda safari destination where tourists get to come face to face with the critically endangered mountain gorillas.
While planning to visit Rwanda for a safari, the first question to ask yourself is the best time to visit Rwanda, The best time to visit Rwanda is during the long dry season from June to October – in this period the conditions are best for hiking and tracking mountain gorillas which are easier to spit. However it is important to note that Rwanda is truly a year – round destination with pros and cons every season as detailed below.
Weather in Rwanda
Rwanda is situated close to the equator and because of its proximity, the country lacks a conventional spring, summer, fall and winter. Instead temperatures remain relatively constant through the year, though they can vary from destination to destination depending on the altitude. Kigali city experiences average low of around 60 degrees and average highs of around 80 degrees on any given day.
Rwanda’s weather is categorized into two that is dry and rainy seasons with the long dry season (which is also the peak tourist season in Rwanda) lasting from June to October, the short rainy season is experienced from late October to November. This is followed by a short dry season from December to February and the long rains from March to May.
During the dry season, prices for accommodations tend to be higher, also mountain gorilla permits and safaris/tours sell out months in advance that is why you need to book your safari earlier.
Note: Gorilla permits are always the same price: USD 1,500 per person .
Best Time to Go Gorilla Trekking
Gorilla trekking is the prime reason to why many tourists visit Rwanda, this adventurous and once in a life time activity is done in Volcanoes national park which is protected in the Virunga Mountains chains and is one of the only 4 national parks in the world offering this experience and is often considered to be the best place.
Gorilla trekking involves hiking through cloud forests looking for the habituated gorilla groups/ families which can be a challenge as it takes several hours to locate to gorillas, in the dry season that is June to October the conditions are easier as the trails are less slippery. Though Volcanoes national park receives rain through the year, chances of a dry hike are much greater in the dry season.
Note: Mountain gorillas are easiest to spot at this time of the year with less foliage to obstruct your viewing.
Regardless of the season, group sizes are limited to 8 people per group so there is no risk of a overcrowded experience.
In the dry season, permits must be booked well in advance due to limited supply and high demand.
Long Dry Season (June to October)
The long dry season is a peak tourist season in Rwanda, this season experiences least rainfall in any season, for example in Kigali city, the average number of precipitation days is 2 in June and one in Jily with rainfall becoming more likely as the season progresses, The Best Time to Visit Rwanda.
Note: if you are heading to Volcanoes national park, expect rain at anytime of the year, this is because the rain is dominated by rainforest. However the terrain is less muddy and slippery in this season and you will easily encounter mountain gorillas and golden monkeys which are the main inhabitants of the park.
The dry season is also a peak wildlife viewing season in Akagera national park – the only savannah park in Rwanda, in this season plains game tends to gather around water sources and sightings are more prolific.
If you are planning to visit any of Rwanda’s national parks in the dry season, your safaris/ tours and accommodations should be booked in advance. In this season, gorilla permits are in high demand so you should book them in advance.
Events to Check Out in dry season
- While planning to visit Rwanda, events to check out include
- Liberation Day:held on July 4th to commemorate the victory of Rwanda Patriotic Front over the Habyarimana regime in 1994, this marked the end of the Rwanda genocide of 1994. Libration Day is commemorated wit government sponsored events, concerts and military Parade and presidential address and a soccer game between Rwanda and Uganda.
- Rwanda Film Festival:Held in Kigali city every year to promote the country’s film industry known as Hillywood. This event is known as one of Africa’s most important film events.
Short Rainy Season (late October to November)
Rwanda experience short rainy season from late October to November with an average of 17 precipitation days per month in Kigali and significantly more in Volcanoes national park which is rainforests. For gorilla trekking, this rain makes trekking conditions very unpleasant with plenty of mud causing the steep trails to become more slippery. However, rain is less relentless that it is during the long rainy season, this period is a good time to travel for birders as migrant bird species start to arrive in the 3 major parks of Rwanda that is Akagera national park, Nyungwe Forest and Volcanoes national park. Many resident bird species are in breeding plumage which is the best time if you are looking for the best photogenic moment.
Short rainy season is also good to travel if you are looking for lower tour and accommodation prices and great availability of permits, if you are tracking chimpanzees in Nyungwe Forest national park, the wet season is the best times to visit Rwanda. Chimpanzees are more sedentary and they are easier to spot.
Events to check out in the short rainy season
- Kwita Izina – hosted at Volcanoes national park every year in September, Kwita Izina is a cultural naming ceremony held for the gorillas born in the park over the past year. This festival includes traditional singing, dancing, conservation events and art performances.
Short Dry Season (December to February)
Rwanda experiences short dry season from December to February with decrease in rainfall compared to November, it is not as dry as the June to October period. However it is still a great alternative to travelers who cannot visit Rwanda during the long dry season as it features good hiking conditions, abundant sunshine on between periods of rain and lightly cooler temperatures that the long dry season.
The cooler temperatures results into a reduced risk of malaria, although prophylactics are still recommended in all seasons while visiting Rwanda. In this period it is to secure a gorilla trekking permit, however travelers should remember that December is a popular month to visit Rwanda and accommodation is often charged at a premium rate. This season coincides with an influx of local and foreign tourists as a result of the festive vacation period.
Long Rainy Season (March to May)
Long rainy season in Rwanda is experienced from March to May as long rains set it with rainfall which is relentless in Mountainous areas, though gorilla trekking is possible in this period of the year. It is best to avoid April as it is so wet that the trails can become unnavigable and photography is difficult.
The advantage of visiting Volcanoes national park in this period include availability of permits, cheap accommodation, fewer visitors and often shorter hiking times since the gorilla tend to stick to the lower slopes at this time of the year.
With the short rainy season, this is a good time for birding to across Rwanda and is one of the better periods for tracking chimpanzees in Nyungwe, in Akagera national park, the rains give the savannah landscape a verdant beauty that may not be present at other times of the year.
Events to check Out in Long rainy season
- Kigali International Peace Marathon – historically held in May or June, this festival attracts athletes from all over the world to Kigali the capital of Rwanda.
- Genocide Memorial Day – Held on April 7th , in this period Rwanda enters a national mourning period for the victims of the Rwanda Genocide. This festival lasts until Liberation Day on July 04th.