Uganda is a true year-round destination for wildlife enthusiasts, but the best time to visit for optimal game viewing conditions is during one of the two dry seasons: December to February and June to September. Temperatures remain steady month-to-month, typically sitting between 24°C to 30°C, but heavy showers can impact the accessibility of some trails and roads during the rainy periods.
When is the best time to see the mountain gorillas?
The best time to go to Uganda for a face-to-face encounter with the elusive mountain gorilla is between December and February or June and August. During these dry seasons, the skies are blue, days are clear, and hiking trails are relatively mud-free.
Although these incredible animals can be spotted year-round, conquering the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest during the rainy season can be slightly more challenging. Gorilla trekking can involve several hours of walking up and down hills, and during the wet months, trails will be muddy and slippery and thick tropical foliage can present some roadblocks. The off-season does have its benefits, though, and with fewer crowds, you might find yourself meeting a family of gorillas with only a handful of other trekkers.
Best for: cooling off in the misty mountains
January is the hottest month of the year in Uganda, with sunny days and temperatures ranging from 24ºC to 32ºC. This makes it a great time to escape the heat and head to the high altitudes of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for hiking and trekking with wildlife in cooler conditions. January is in the middle of Uganda's shorter dry season, and while rain is still possible in the forests, you're unlikely to experience regular downpours.
Best for: the driest trekking conditions and spotting wildlife
February is one of the top months to visit Uganda as it's a prime time for gorilla trekking and one of the driest months of the year. Ordinarily, hiking in the dense forests can be wet, muddy, humid and occasionally uncomfortable, but the dry days of February make for optimal trekking conditions. Plus, with reduced rainfall and decreased vegetation, spotting game is easier than ever. Expect clear skies, sunshine and average temps of 29ºC in Kampala and 25ºC in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Best for: lush green landscapes and birdwatching
March marks the beginning of Uganda's "long" rainy season, which lasts from March to May. During this time, long, heavy showers are to be expected every afternoon and evening, but as long as you have proper gear, a rainy season visit can be totally rewarding. Although heavy rains can impact the roads, the vegetation will be lush, and flowers will bloom across the country.
Bird enthusiasts can rejoice in March as the heavier rains prompt avian migration, so keep those binoculars handy! Queen Elizabeth National Park is an excellent place to spot a few of Uganda's 1000 unique and colourful bird species, and the area will be noticeably quieter and crowd-free during the off-season. Migratory birds take flight in April and return to Uganda by early to mid-November.
Best for: quieter parks and good deals on low-season accommodation
April is the wettest month to visit Uganda, but savvy travellers will see it as an opportunity to capitalise on affordable accommodation and crowd-free national parks.
For those up for an adventure, permits to trek in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park will be easier to book this month with fewer other travellers to compete with. Although the trek will come with some weather-related challenges (proper rain gear is a necessity!), the rainy days typically have gorillas congregating in the warmth of the lower altitudes, so while the routes are bound to be muddy, getting to the gorillas will take much less time.
Best for: fewer crowds and more intimate wildlife encounters
May is at the tail end of the long rainy season, so days will be warm and wet, with showers tapering off toward the end of the month. Heavy downpours will be frequent in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, but the gorillas will still be visible at lower altitudes before they head back up into the cooler mountains in June.
Lodging is readily available in May, and prices are usually significantly lower than during peak season. Plus, wildlife permits are reduced this month as crowd sizes thin, so you could find yourself observing a family of gorillas with as few as 2 or 3 other trekkers.
Best for: peak season excitement
The rains let up in June, leaving the landscape gorgeously green with blue skies and warm temps averaging around 27ºC. Toward the end of the month, vegetation starts to thin, increasing your chances of spotting four of The Big 5 game animals throughout the country's parks.
Since June is the first month of Uganda's peak season, lodges and activities will be open and the area will be buzzing with excitement. You will want to book accommodation early and secure your gorilla permit as soon as possible, though, since they tend to sell out quickly.
Best for: ideal weather conditions for doing it all
July is peak season in Uganda and with good reason: daytime temps sit at a pleasant 25ºC, occasionally dropping to 13ºC in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The dry climate and comfortable conditions open the door for a myriad of outdoor activities, from gorilla trekking to safaris to boat cruises on the Nile. Game drives will have top-notch sightings as wildlife congregate around watering holes and are easy to spot. By July, gorillas have made the climb back up into the misty mountains, but the lack of rainfall makes the longer treks much more manageable.
Best for: leopard sightings and wildlife photography
Uganda's landscape is sparse in August, the driest month of the year. But while vegetation is at its lowest, visibility is at an all-time high. August is a prime month for game drives, and you'll have a clear view of all the animals that may cross your path, from elephants and lions to zebras and buffalo — a photographer's dream! With unobstructed paths, you may even get the chance to spot one of the most hard-to-find members of the animal kingdom: the leopard.
Pack layers as nights can get chilly in August, with temps that can get down to 14ºC.
Best for: chimpanzee tracking in the forests
While the end of September ushers in Uganda's second rainy season of the year, the first half still makes for excellent game-spotting conditions. Typically, the rains won't arrive in the highlands until later in the month, so early September is a popular time for chimp trekking in the Kalinzu Forest. The Kalinzu Forest is home to over 300 chimpanzees, and a hike to see them in their natural habitat is a popular dry-season activity, as trails will be in the best condition.
Best for: last-minute travel deals
October is the start of Uganda's "short" rainy season. Although the rains aren't as heavy as the "long" ones from March through May, they are more frequent, and you should be prepared for the occasional heavy shower throughout the day and muddy conditions.
Because of the unpredictability of the rains, October isn't a very popular month to travel to Uganda, making it a great time to score a last-minute gorilla permit if you're an undecided traveller. Accommodations often run specials for October, and prices will be more reasonable. Don't let the rains scare you off, though! It typically only rains for a few hours a day, and you'll still have perfect pockets of sunshine and blue sky.
Best for: shoulder season quietness
November is shoulder season in Uganda, and you'll likely get a mix of both rainy and dry days. It's a good time to catch sight of the migratory birds returning, and photographers will be treated to dramatic skies and landscapes as late afternoon thunderstorms roll through the emerald-green countryside.
Temperatures can vary, with some days reaching 28ºC and others dipping to 18ºC, though less than half of the days in November are rainy. November is the last month to take advantage of off-season prices on accommodation and tours before the second peak season arrives.
Best for: adventure activities in Jinja and relaxing by the Nile
December brings another dry season, and weather becomes more predictable as rainfall tapers off. This makes it a great month to soak up the sunny days in Jinja. Sitting on the shores of Lake Victoria, the town of Jinja is home to the source of the Nile River. Often called the "adrenaline capital of East Africa," it has plenty of water activities, from rafting and kayaking to tubing and sunset cruising. Lake Victoria is one of the most ecologically diverse places on the continent, so keep your camera ready for when you spot Nile crocodiles and hippos.
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