Best Time for Trekking Gorillas in Rwanda
Best Time for Trekking Gorillas in Rwanda, Gorilla Trekking Safaris in Rwanda volcanoes national park, best time to visit volcanoes national park Rwanda. While Mountain gorilla trekking can be done throughout the year in Rwanda the land of thousand hills, many tourists under taking gorilla trekking safaris to Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park often prefer encountering the mountain gorillas during the high season in the months of June to September and then December, January and February.
In Rwanda, the first rains start coming in late February through March, April and May and hence various travellers tend to avoid undertaking gorilla safaris to Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park for fear of getting muddy and all wet while tracking the gorillas. However, during these months, because of the rains there’s plenty of gorilla food down slope and it’s much colder on the upper slopes. So the mountain gorillas keep on the lower slopes where they find it warmer and get food easily. So if you track the gorillas during these months, most likely your trek won’t be a long one – many trackers find the gorillas after 2 hours hike and by 2:00pm local time they are back to their respective lodges.
The seasonality of the tourists on Rwanda gorilla trekking safaris also depends on the general weather back in the tourism generating areas. For instance during summers season in Europe, the number of gorilla trekking safaris to Rwanda increase and then in winter season, it safaris greatly lower or decrease.
Weather / Climate in Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park
The climate in the Volcanoes national park is typically damp, with daytime temperatures averaging 50°F (10°C).
Dry Season: June to September and January and February are the driest months and best for gorilla trekking, but be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms at any time.
Rainy Season: The long rains are from mid-march to mid-May, when many roads become impassible. It also usually rains in October and November.
What to Wear to Gorilla Tracking in Rwanda, Best Time for Trekking Gorillas
When planning for your gorilla trekking safaris to Rwanda to encounter the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat of Volcanoes national park, we advise you to come with a few things that are useful for you to attain your longa waited ultimate experience that involves trekking mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s mountainous Volcanoes national park.
Have a small backpack as it is useful to help you carry your water, packed lunch, camera and binoculars.
You need light weight hiking boots for this activity/strong waterproof walking boots due to nature and altitude of the forest. So get shoes that come above the ankle bone.
Take a light jumper and lightweight breathable waterproof jacket/trousers as temperature is variable and weather conditions can change any time in Volcanoes national park.
Lightweight long wool socks which are comfortable for a mountain tropical forest
A few long-sleeved shirts/trousers. Please ensure that you trek in your long sleeved trousers/shirts to avoid insects such as safari ants entering your trousers.
Sweater for cool evenings and chilly mornings due to nature and altitude of the place
Bush hat with a brim for sun protection. Please carry a hat to protect you from the strong sun rays if it is hot.
You may also need to carry some Sunglasses too with neck strap
Sun cream is also necessary
Video/photo camera, extra lenses and Reserve batteries. Photography is an important component of your safari and make sure that you have your camera ready, charge your batteries very well and if necessary, carry extra batteries as you will need to take many photographs in the one hour you will have with the gorillas.
Films and torch-LED models are light weight and have a good battery life
Insect repellants to protect you from Mosquito bites as volcanoes national park has mountains and a tropical forest so many insects are accommodated there in.
Garden gloves that will protect you from germs and other items that may scratch your hands.
Binoculars. Don’t forget that you are on safari and you want to have clear views of everything so during your trek in search for the rare mountain gorillas, you will have a chance to spot some other wildlife species like birds, primates and large mammals
A glove to grip vegetation and it’s also best to have different layers of clothes since the temperatures tend to change.
Energy Giving snacks. Gorilla trekking can take from 30 minutes to eight or so hours and that’s why a certain level of fitness is required. To add on that, we advise that you carry some energy giving snacks as supplements and lots of drinking water as you never know when you will return.
Hiring a Porter for your gorilla safari is a top tip -You will need a porter to give you a push on the way to the gorillas as trekking/hiking can take some time. You will pay some fee to a porter but it is worth it.
What to Expect during the Gorilla Trek (Actual Day), Best Time for Trekking Gorillas
After finalizing everything with your tour operator / agent and now your gorilla permit is ready, and you packed all the necessary gear like gloves, trekking boots, long sleeved wear, rain jackets, snacks and packed lunch, walking stick (if necessary), among others, this is what you expect on the trekking day.
Carry your passport with you as you head to the park headquarters for an early morning pre-tracking briefing by park officials. Your gorilla permits will be crosschecked with your passports to verify that you are the right owner of the permit. At this moment, you are expected to be ready with your packed lunch since no one is certain about the time you will take to see these gorillas.
A cup of tea/ coffee is served as you are being entertained by the local traditional dancers to give you a good start of a strenuous yet exciting day, before the ranger guide gives you tips on how to conduct yourself on this trek. After a quick briefing on safety measures and what to expect during the day, you will be grouped in groups of 8 people maximum and each group is assigned one gorilla family to trek. Rwanda has 10 gorilla families, hence 10 groups of 8 people each are the ones allowed to track on a particular day.
Assigning of the groups to trek highly depends on the fitness and age of the visitor. For example, those above 45 years and the ones with less fitness are assigned the ‘easy to find’ gorilla families which do not wander far away from the trail heads. However, even those with special interests about specific groups may inform their guides to help them negotiate with rangers before assigning the groups such that they may be assigned those specific groups too.
Being wild animals in their natural habitat, what may be regarded as easy to find may not necessarily be, as animals may wander far as they search for food and therefore, it is not a guarantee that they must be near or easy to find. Even those which are allocated to the physically fit and energetic tourists, that are always regarded as strenuous to track, may be easily tracked on a particular day which makes the total experience interesting and un predictable.
Each gorilla tracking group consists of a main guide and two scouts who carry AK-47 guns, one walking in front and another behind the group. The reason for armed scouts is for protection in the forest against wild elephants or angry, wild gorillas. The scouts are trained to fire shots into the air first in order to scare away the animals but this is only done on rarest occasions when all other options like hiding away from such dangerous animals have been done. However, we have never heard of any case where such animals attacked the tourists and the scouts had to fire bullets though on many occasions, they advise to hide or remain still until the animals go away. However, the policy of the National Park is to be safe rather than sorry.
Your group will also have a pair of trackers who will have been sent out in the early morning (prior to your arrival in the park) to find the location of your specific gorilla family and to assess where they may be headed. Trackers communicate the gorilla’s movements to the guide so that he can decide on the best approach to meet the gorilla family.
If you do not trust your fitness, please endeavor to let your guide know such that he may help you to hire a porter at the park gate. A porter is hired between $15 to $20 depending on what he is going to carry.
How easy it to Find the Gorillas, Best Time for Trekking Gorillas
The length of your overall experience and the amount of time it will take to actually meet your gorilla family is said to vary widely. It may take as little as 30 minutes to find your gorilla family and as long as 2-8 hours.
The forest is verdant, humid and somehow light and there are no discernible trekking paths. The terrain is full of hills and steep volcano slopes where you will be required to pull yourself up steep grades by grasping onto branches, plant roots, bushes and more. Follow the lead of the guide as to the best path and form to take. If you need a break, let your guide know. It is also advisable that you carry with you some energy giving snacks and bottled mineral water to quench your thirst and give you more energy.