Best time to Trek Gorillas in Uganda
What is the best time to trek gorillas in Uganda?
There has been an ongoing debate on what is the best time to trek gorillas or track gorillas in Uganda. Several arguments and opinions have been voiced in different avenues including online forums such as trip advisor, lonely planet among others. The fact is that gorillas in Uganda can be tracked throughout the year and clients almost get the same satisfaction. This is because clients tend to avoid rainy season forgetting that Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in an Equatorial Forest where chances of rain are very high daily.
Mountain gorillas which are among the most endangered species on planet earth are located in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Virunga ranges which are shared amongst three countries such as Uganda (Mgahinga National Park) Democratic Republic of Congo (Virunga National Park) and Rwanda in Volcanoes National Park. And because these primates are highly endangered, clients pay highly to view or trek them. Because of the current price of gorilla permits which are at USD1500.00 in Rwanda and USD600.00 in Uganda, clients would love to maximize their experience when it comes to gorilla trekking and the best time to visit them.
Uganda being crossed by the equator has a modified equatorial climate with two rainy seasons and because of this people tend to associate these rainy seasons with the best times to trek gorillas. This is true because when it is raining, it becomes hard to hike and trek in the impenetrable forest because of the heavy rains that make the trails too slippery. That notwithstanding, some gorilla families need to drive for some time to reach at the beginning of the trail heads and because of this, if you don’t have a four wheel drive vehicle you might not make it to the gorillas. Besides that, vegetation tend to grow something that reduces chances of proper visibility and photography. All the above combined, the best time to visit the gorillas is to avoid the most rain seasons in Uganda.
Thus the best time is in June, July, August, September and part of October but because of global warming it is even becoming very hard to predict when it is going to rain or not. The above are just the views of the Author but might not necessarily present the real facts on ground and opinions of other people.
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. 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.
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 not commensurate with what you have paid, 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.