Looking into the eyes of a mountain gorilla is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But there is plenty more on offer in Rwanda. Volcanoes National Park is the place to be for gorilla trekking. Chimpanzees and 12 other primates can be found in Nyungwe National Park, and Akagera National Park is home to the Big Five. For some relaxation, why not stay a few days on the shore of scenic Lake Kivu.
Rwanda is one of only three countries that are home to the endangered mountain gorillas. Seeing these gentle giants in their natural environment, the bamboo zone of the dramatic Virunga Mountains, is an unforgettable experience. Similar to a gorilla trek, you can also track habituated chimpanzees and golden monkeys.
Almost everybody who visits Rwanda to see wildlife goes gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park. Other exciting subjects for trekking include the same park’s golden monkeys, and the chimps and Ruwenzori colobus of Nyungwe. More sedate safari activities such as game drives, night drives and boat trips are available in Akagera. All Rwanda’s parks offer superb bird watching, and spectacular day hikes can be undertaken in Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks.
Aside from 15 primates, Rwanda is home to another 136 mammal species. To see any of the usual safari animals, you need to go to Akagera National Park, a scenic savannah reserve in eastern Rwanda. Here you’ll see elephants, buffalo, zebras, giraffes and plenty of antelope species such as topi, impala and defassa waterbuck. Black and white rhinos, as well as lions, have recently been reintroduced.
Gorilla trekking is available throughout the year and sightings are pretty much guaranteed. However, the Dry season, from June to September, offers the best tracking conditions. This is also the best time for general wildlife viewing in Akagera. The wettest months, March and April, are best avoided.
Weather and Climate
Straddling the equator, Rwanda has little fluctuation in temperature throughout the year and no real winter or summer. There is a defined Dry season from June to September. January and February are drier months in the middle of the Wet season (which runs from October to May).
In general, the east of Rwanda, including Akagera National Park, shares the warm climate of Kigali. However, it never gets extremely hot due to the relatively high altitude. The parks in the western mountainous area, including Volcanoes, Nyungwe and Gishwati-Mukura National Parks, are a lot colder with daytime temperatures around 16°C to 21°C (61°F to 70°F), due to the even higher altitude. The temperature drops by about 6.5°C for every 1,000m you climb (or 3.5°F per 1,000ft). The latter three parks are also a lot wetter due to the mountain peaks and rainforest habitat.
Dry Season – June to September
Wet Season – October to May
Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit Rwanda is between June and September, which is during the Dry season when wildlife viewing is at its prime. Primate walks in the forest are a big part of any safari in Rwanda. The habitat of rainforests is, by default, very wet and one can’t avoid rain completely. Walking in the forest is easier in the Dry season and that is also the recommended time for most primate walks, including gorilla trekking.
Overall, all the parks are best visited in the Dry season, from June to September. In Akagera National Park, wildlife is easier to spot when the vegetation is thinner, and animals gather around the lakes. Nyungwe, Volcanoes and Gishwati-Mukura National Parks are also best visited in the Dry season when hiking trails are drier. Gorillas and chimps can be seen at any time, but the experience is generally more pleasant in dry conditions.