Visiting Rwanda for gorilla tracking can be done all year round. The best time to travel to Rwanda is during the drier seasons, periods between December to early March and June to September. December to March is a long dry season for Rwanda, with temperatures going up to 29 degrees Celsius for some days while the months of March – Mid May, July to September, on the other hand, are regarded as the rainy in the country.
Overall Rwanda has a good whether throughout the year but the dry season is more preferable. The weather is generally good in addition wildlife viewing is also more common during this time. For tourists interested in visiting gorillas – this is also the best time for gorilla tours since there is a minimal chance of rain during the trek and a good hiking terrain in the rainforest. We still suggest your waterproof clothing even during these drier months, as this Equatorial climate is very unpredictable. This period is also a peak season; hence the prices can be higher on things like accommodation, car hire etc.
The gorilla trekking experience in Volcanoes National Park
Whilst a gorilla trekking safari is likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for you, the staff at Volcanoes National Park have been doing this for several years and run a very smooth operation, hence treks to the mountain gorillas are well-organised and clearly structured.
What it’s like on a gorilla trekking safari
On the day of your gorilla trekking, you’ll set off very early in the morning to track to the apes from the edge of the forest. Your driver/guide will take you from your lodge (see places to stay in Volcanoes National Park) to the park headquarters in Kinigi village. The guides here speak excellent English and are very good. They will be taking you to a specific group of ‘habituated’ mountain gorillas, which are used to human visitors, and known well by the guides.
You’ll be divided into parties of 8 and, after a briefing on safety and gorilla trekking etiquette, you’ll be driven to the start of the trail to reach your mountain gorilla group. Your guide will then lead you along generally clear paths up into the forest, in radio communication with the trackers that stay with the group so that they can be located. The altitude is over 2,500m, so although the pace is unhurried, the hike is tiring and can be steep in parts, taking from 30 minutes to a few hours. Don’t be surprised if you feel a bit breathless at this altitude – this is perfectly normal.
Most trekkers are a little apprehensive – a large silverback male gorilla can weigh up to 200kg, or three times the weight of the average man, but the apprehension usually vanishes when you see the group. Often the gorillas will be spread around a small area of dense vegetation. They’ll continue with their feeding and interactions, nonchalant about their visitors, though watching you with interest. Occasionally one, often a playful youngster, will approach you with curiosity – sometimes coming so close that you’ll have to move away.