Rwanda - When and where to visit

When to visit

Rwanda can be visited at any time of year. The long dry season, June to September, is the best time for tracking gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park and for hiking in Nyungwe Forest, since the ground should be dry underfoot and the odds of being drenched are minimal. This should not be a major consideration for any reasonably fit and agile travellers unless they are planning to hike to Virunga peaks such as Bisoke or Karisimbi, in which case the rainy season is best avoided. The dry season is also the best time to travel on dirt roads, and when the risk of malaria is lowest.

There are two annual rainy seasons. The big rains run from mid-February to early June, and the small rains from mid-September to mid-December. Rainfall, especially over the mountains, can be heavy during these two periods – particularly from March to May, although it is still perfectly feasible to travel at these times of year, and, for those visiting at short notice, it is far easier to obtain a gorilla permit at the last minute.

As for the two dry seasons, the major one lasts from June to September and the shorter from December to February. However, the climate is not uniform throughout the country: it is generally dryer in the east than in the west and north. On occasion, the volcanoes of the north may be capped by snow, and evenings in Kigali can call for a sweater – as do days anywhere in the highlands should you happen to hit a cold snap! Nevertheless, every season is good for swimming and tanning on the banks of Lake Kivu.

An advantage of travelling during the rainy season is that the scenery is greener, and the sky less hazy (at least when it isn’t overcast), a factor that will be of particular significance to photographers. The wet season is also the best time to track chimps in Nyungwe (in the dry season they may wander further off in search of scarce food), while the months of November to March will hold the greatest appeal for birders, as resident birds are supplemented by flocks of Palaearctic migrants.

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