Best Time to Visit Gorillas
Best Time to Visit Gorillas: The best time to visit gorillas is said to be during the dry season; however, gorillas can be tracked at any time of the year. Most trekkers prefer to track gorillas during the dry season because it is much easier to hike through the dense vegetation in most of the forests where these gorillas live.
Gorilla trekking is an activity that involves visitors moving in the dense tropical forests in search of the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Once a group of gorillas has been located, visitors will spend one hour in the presence of the endangered mountain gorillas taking photos, learning about the gorillas among others.
Although there are four subspecies of gorillas that exist in the world today, mountain gorillas are the most tracked gorillas. Mountain gorillas are only found in four national parks in the world- Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga national park in Uganda, Virunga national park in DR Congo and Volcanoes national park in Rwanda. Bwindi Impenetrable national park in Uganda is the only gorilla destination that harbors half of the world’s mountain gorillas.
Visitors interested in gorilla trekking will have to first purchase a gorilla trekking permit which will allow them to visit the habituated gorilla family in any national park. Gorilla trekking permits vary depending on the country where you are going to trek the gorillas from for example a gorilla trekking permit in Volcanoes national park costs USD 1500 dollars for all foreigners and is the highest gorilla trekking permit of the three countries. However a single gorilla trekking permit in Bwindi national park and Mgahinga national park costs USD 700 for the Foreign Non Residents and a gorilla trekking permit in Virunga national park costs USD 400 for the Foreign Non Residents and USD 200 during the low season. Democratic Republic of Congo is the only destination that offers a cheap gorilla trekking permit in the peak season and a discounted permit during the low season so as to attract more visitors.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda can be done throughout the year because the country is blessed with pleasant and conducive climate which is characterized by two rainy seasons with the short rainy season in the months of October to November and the long rainy season in the months of mid-March to May. Uganda also experiences two dry seasons with the short dry season in the months of December to February and the long dry season in the months of June to September.
Peak season / High season
This is also known as the dry season during the months of June to September and December to February. This is the best time for gorilla trekking activity because during these months there is little or less rainfall in the forests. This is however the period when most visitors choose to travel for gorilla trekking activity in Africa and other activities like hiking, natural walks, boat cruise among others due to favorable weather in Rwanda and Uganda. During the peak season or dry season, the forest grounds will not be wet, muddy and slippery like during the wet season hence the gorilla trekking trails will be passable and gorillas will be easily viewed due to short grass in the jungle.
Due to the fact that the gorilla destinations in Africa are on a high altitude or elevation and covered with dense tropical rainforests, it can rain any time of the day and will shine after it has rained therefore visitors to engage in gorilla trekking activity are encouraged to carry gorilla trekking equipment’s like the rain jackets, hiking shoes, warm clothes among others because it sometimes gets so cold especially early in the morning and at night.
Peak season which is also the dry season is the best time to visit the mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable national park and Mgahinga national park in Uganda and others gorilla destinations in Africa such as Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park in Congo. However during the peak season the gorilla trekking permits are usually competitive and get sold out quickly compared to the wet season hence visitors should book the gorilla trekking permits 4 to 6 months in advance before the trekking date so as to avoid disappointments.
The low season is also known as the wet season and this is during the months of mid-March to May and October to November. During the low season there is heavy rainfall and the trekking trails in the forests are always wet, muddy, and slippery-thus making gorilla trekking activities hard and difficult. During the low or wet season the lodges near the gorilla destinations offer discounts so as to attract more visitors and this is an added advantage for the budget travellers because the lodges will be affordable and not fully booked like during the peak season.
It is easy to trek mountain gorillas during the low season especially in Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla national park in Uganda because the gorillas will move to the lower altitude areas due to plenty of the food to eat hence making trekking easy.
During the low season the gorilla trekking permits in Bwindi Impenetrable forest, Mgahinga, Volcanoes and Virunga national parks will not be competitive like during the peak season. In addition to this, the national parks will not be so congested therefore the visitors will enjoy the jungle with fewer crowds.
During the wet season it usually rains in the morning and shines shortly and later rains again in the late afternoon. Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable national park, Mgahinga Gorilla national park in Uganda and Volcanoes national park in Rwanda is carried out daily regardless of the rains. It is also the best time for bird watching where you will get an opportunity to view migratory birds in the forest during the months of November to April.
What to pack for Gorilla Trekking safari during the Best Time to Visit Gorillas
Due to the cool climate and weather in Africa, you are recommended to pack various equipment on your gorilla trekking safari including;
- Gorilla trekking permit, this is a document that allows a person above the age of 15 years to participate in gorilla trekking activity. Under no circumstance will you be allowed to track gorillas without a valid gorilla trekking permit; hence it’s mandatory that you carry with you your gorilla trekking permit on the day that you are schedule to track the gorillas.
- Hiking shoes, these will help you during the wet season due to muddy and slippery grounds and during the dry season since it can rain any time in the jungle therefore the hiking shoes will help you to keep your feet dry.
- Garden gloves, the gloves will keep your hands cleans and free from germs because due to muddy and slippery grounds, you will be touching different plants in the jungle for support such as the thorny trees and bushes which might injure your hands.
- Long sleeved shirt and trousers, these clothes are used to give you warmth because it sometimes cold and also protect you from the thorny tree branches in the jungle.
- Insect repellent, this will help you from forest insects such as the tsetse flies and the safari ants.
- Camera, this is very important for visitors on a safari in that the camera it will be used to record all the moments and will also be used to take pictures for memories and showing people at home after the safari.
- Waterproof rain jacket, the jacket will help you in case it rains especially during the wet season to protect you and your items like the camera.
- Backpack, this is used to pack all the equipment’s that you will use during you gorilla trekking safari such as the camera, insect repellent, drinking water, packed lunch among others.
- Walking stick, this walking stick is provided at the starting point and you can bring your own walking stick if you want too. The walking stick will help you to trek on rough and slippery areas in the jungle.
- Porter, this is a person that will help to carry your back pack and also give you a push and a pull on the steep areas especially during the wet season when the grounds are wet, muddy and slippery. The porters are found at the starting point for gorilla trekking and are hired at an affordable fee.