What is the best time to trek gorillas in Uganda? Just like other tourism activities, gorilla safaris need proper planning especially if you want only the best experience from it! Mountain gorillas are just like humans because they share over 98% of human DNA implicating the way we feel on a rainy day isn’t any more different from the way they do feel too. Just like we tend to take shelter when it rains, these primate do take shelter too which makes it hard for them to be spotted in numbers during the rainy season and any tourists who reserves their Uganda gorilla tours for this season will probably see less of mountain gorillas during their respective treks on most occasions. This means the best time to trek gorillas in Uganda is during the dry season of the year but i am going to contradict it a bit since travelling during the rainy season favors some travelers.
Previously, i wrote an article about the low and high seasons in Uganda that highlights the characteristics, pros and cons of the respective seasons of the Uganda tourism industry. From that same article, you will get to know how rainfall affects the entire tourism industry and how months without rainfall turn out to be the most competitive. Uganda is undoubtedly one of the best tourism destinations in Africa, attracting over thousands of tourists each year that travel all the way from their countries to Uganda to explore various activities like wildlife viewing, gorilla tracking, chimpanzee tracking and more. This means tourists are always willing to travel to Uganda and most of them usually plan their trips for the best time of the year. In this article, i make slight adjustments regarding how both seasons affect gorilla activities in Uganda in terms of costs, competition and other considerations.
Whats special about trekking in the dry season?
There are definitely a lot of benefits associated with trekking in the dry season and below are just some of them.
Mountain Gorillas in plenty. Mountain gorillas rarely take shelter during the dry season and roam just freely around the forests in numbers. This means you are likely to see these primates in plenty / good numbers which is definitely what you want.
Roads are dry. The roads around the national parks are drier during the dry months than the wet months which makes transportation a bit easy without any worries of vehicles getting stuck in muddy roads to cause delays in your schedule. During the dry months, your schedule always moves the way as planned and only in rare occasions will it get ruined.
Weather is good. The weather is very good and not in any occasion will you find yourself locked up in a room because it’s very cold outside. There is certainly no worries about whole day drizzles which quite favors you. I know a client who once traveled to Lake Bunyonyi (March 2017) to unwind from the fatigue of her international journey but her trip got ruined up by rain and turned into something she never expected. First of all she couldn’t carry out any activities because of whole day drizzles despite paying for them, the weather was very cold and the roads were kind of bad. The best she did was lock up herself in a room for 2 whole days despite paying for the vehicle ($100 per day) not until she decided to cut her safari short by 2 or three days and return to her home in Kampala. If you want to exempt yourself from such uncertainties then you ought to go with the dry months.
Trekking is much easier. Trekking is far much easier during the dry months of the year because the forests are dry. You don’t have to worry about your clothes getting stained with mud, sliding while in the forests or carrying rain coats with you during your trek. There is less challenge in trekking during the dry season which greatly favors those that aren’t so strong physically.
What not cool about the dry season?
As we all know, every good thing has a bad side and so it is with the dry months of tourism in Uganda. What’s it cool about these golden months of travel? Well, below are just some of the cons of scheduling your safaris for such months.
Accommodation on demand. Accommodation facilities are usually on high demand during dry months and usually get booked up so easily. It’s not easy to book for the most common lodges just days to your safari because so many companies place their reservations months prior. Endeavor to include a certain percentage of accommodation fees on your booking deposit for tentative reservations.
Prices. Due to the high demand, prices of almost every service in the tourism industry hikes up a little. This is because these service providers expect a lot of business and currently have a lot of inquiries too. If you fill to remit their requested fee, someone else is willing to pay an amount higher than what they requested for hence, you shouldn’t bargain so much.
Vehicles scarce. If you are dealing with a company that doesn’t have it’s own fleet of cars then you might end up in vehicles that are not worthy of the money you paid for. Good vans and land cruisers are very hard to find during such months unless your operator makes tentative reservations for them months prior.
Permits prices are high. A gorilla trekking permit costs $600 in the high season unlike the $450 fee for the low season. What’s even worse is, you can’t get a discount on permits for the peak season unless your operator makes a special arrangement for you. Your best bargain for permits should be on the low season where there is a possibility of securing one for as low as $300.
If you are a luxury traveler, the dry months are goldmine for you and you definitely won’t feel much load because the fact remains that you are willing to spend a good amount of money on your safari. The same could also apply to a few mid-range travelers but to be honest, the dry months turn out to be extremely unfair for typical budget travelers because costs of every sector of the tourism industry (let it be accommodation, activities, car hire plus more) are relatively high with no bargain. Most sound Uganda tour operators don’t bargain so much with budget travelers in such months because they have a lot of confirmed trips which puts these tourists in risks of associating with operators who are going to provide nothing but very substandard facilities and services for them for their low budget.
This is a warning to all budget travelers! Some operators are willing to take extremely low prices but won’t mind putting you in lodges with bed bugs, broken sinks, substandard facilities and more. What’s even funny is clients who request for this end up writing bad reviews about the company yet their budget wasn’t close to what would offer them comfortable facilities. Some accommodation facilities go for as low as $30 per night (Bed & Breakfast) but you can never know the kind of service they offer until you get there. Don’t get moved by the awesome pictures you see in some of their websites, these companies usually pick out the best photographs to place on their websites and catch customers attention. Make sure you budget for no less than $100 per night for accommodation if you are to enjoy a comfortable stay whilst on your Uganda safaris.
What i Think!!!
I think the best time to trek gorillas in Uganda is the most convenient time for you. I have always said this, Uganda is an all year destination (partially because we fall on the equator) and you can journey to it anytime for a safari and besides, even if it rained! The sun could still come out, dry up the roads and life moves on. Every season has something different to offer and you should try maximizing on it! If you really love adventure then you won’t mind trekking mountain gorillas during the rainy season and even if you minded, there’s nothing wrong with trekking during the dry months.
If you are planning for a gorilla safari in Uganda then you might have to inquire with these gorilla trekking companies. You can also check out my step by step guide for booking a memorable safari in Uganda for further guidance otherwise, i wish you the very best of your safari in Uganda.