Planning a Gorilla & Wildlife Safari in Uganda or Rwanda

A Gorilla Tracking and Wildlife Safari to Uganda or Rwanda is a true adventure — a journey crafted in the tradition of wealthy 13th-century traders who first hunted the plains of Africa for wild game trophies to hang on their walls. Today travelers seek resources on Planning a Gorilla & Wildlife Safari to go hunt for photo opportunities instead of occasions to kill, but they encounter the same scenes that have fascinated explorers throughout history: thousands of zebras & wildebeests migrating across emerald grasslands, a walk through the enchanted mountain forests in search of the elusive mountain gorillas, lions feasting on a hard-earned kill.

Many travelers trek to East Africa in search of the “big five”: buffalo, lions, leopards, elephants and rhinoceroses. The chance to get close to these animals in their natural habitats is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but your trip to the Africa is anything but a trip to the zoo.

Top experiences include the mountain-gorilla-filled Virunga Mountains, encompassing Volcanoes National Park, in Rwanda, and Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest; the adjacent Queen Elizabeth National Park and Kibale National Park, both in Uganda, famous for chimps and a dozen other primates.

Wildlife Safaris can be physically taxing and strenuous, and you may not see all the animals you expected. Since most safari destinations are in developing sub-Saharan nations, travelers must take certain safety and health precautions. If you’re planning a gorilla & wildlife safari (or just dreaming about it), be as prepared as possible.

Get some good guidebooks, talk to friends who’ve been to Africa and research, research, research. We’ve outlined some important African safari tips, from choosing a safari destination to getting vaccinated, to help you start planning a successful adventure.

Start Planning a Gorilla & Wildlife Safari in Uganda or Rwanda

Planning a Uganda Safari

The most famous safari destinations in Uganda are the country’s many primate reserves. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Kibale Forest National Park, Budongo Forest and Ngamba Island offer visitors the unforgettable opportunity to get a close look at mountain gorillas, chimpanzees and other primates in their natural habitats. Travelers can also see crocodiles, hippos and exotic birds, and witness the thundering water of Murchison Falls at Murchison Falls National Park on the Nile River.

When to visit Uganda

Uganda's raised topography means a cooler climate than its equatorial setting suggests. However, if you're planning a gorilla tracking safari, it's important to know when to visit when the conditions are most conducive. Although it's a generally year-round activity, the best time for gorilla trekking in Uganda is during the two dry seasons: January and February and from June to September.

The best game viewing months in Uganda are during the dry seasons from June to August and December to February. Primate walks in the forest are a big part of any safari in Uganda. However, in the habitat with rainforests one can't avoid rain completely. However, even when it rains, the skies typically often open up to bright sunshine.

CLIMATE

Quick when to go facts

Best time to go: June to August and December to February (All parks)
High Season: June to September (It's rarely crowded, but you'll need to book your gorilla permits long in advance)
Low Season: March, April, May, October, November (Some lodges and camps in high rainfall areas close down; roads and forest trails can be in poor condition)
Dry season : June-July and January-February (Little rainfall)
Wet season: March, April and May (Peak of wet season)

June to August and December to February - Dry Season

DRY SEASON

  • This is the best time for gorilla tracking, because these are the drier months.
  • In the savannah reserves, vegetation is less and animals gather around water sources, making wildlife easier to spot.
  • Even during the high season (June to September) the parks don't feel crowded.
  • The skies are clear, there is less rain and more sunshine.
  • Gorilla permits need to be booked very far in advance.
  • March to May and September to November - Wet Season

WET SEASON

  • The scenery of the savannah reserves is greener and it is low season, resulting in lower rates.
  • Although wildlife in the savannah reserves is easier to spot in the dry season, you'll still see plenty, including newborn animals.
  • Some of the roads get slippery and cars sometimes get stuck. Forest trails can become slippery and challenging.
  • You won't be able to change your expensive gorilla permit if it pours with rain. Departures go as scheduled.

Even though Uganda has all round good weather, her National parks are best visited in the dry season from June to August and December to February.

UGANDA TRAVEL VISA

The most easier way of getting a visa to Uganda is by purchasing it at the entry point, Entebbe Airport or any border station. This is very possible for tourists. All you need to do is pay USD 50, fill in the application form with passport dates and information. The visa fee of USD 50 usually runs for 90 days.

You can also get a visa by applying online if you a citizen of the following countries, USA, UK, South Africa, Russia, Japan, Italy, India, Germany, France, Denmark, China, Canada, and Belgium. All you need to do is to download the application from the embassy website of your country of origin. you will need to attach 2 passport photos.

Visa fees
  • Single entry: U$ 50 per individual
  • Multiple entry visa 6-12 months U$ 100
  • Multiple entry visa 24 months U$ 150
  • Multiple entry visa 36 months U$ 200

East Africa Tourist Visa

If you're planning to visit Uganda and Rwanda and Kenya, you may need an East African Visa to avoid double payment. The East Africa Tourist Visa will allow travel between Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda with the same multiple entry visa. This visa is the result of a joint initiative made by the Heads of States of the respective partner countries to boost regional travel and create opportunities for tourists to explore the diversity of East Africa.

Travelers from any country can obtain a multiple entry visa that will allow entry to the Republic of Kenya, the Republic of Rwanda, and the Republic of Uganda for tourism over period of 90 days.

Do I Need Vaccines for Uganda?

Yes, some vaccines are recommended or required for Uganda. The CDC and WHO recommend the following vaccines for Uganda: typhoid, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, cholera, yellow fever, rabies, meningitis, and influenza.

Malaria spreads through infected mosquitoes. Travelers should also take steps to avoid mosquito bites and take antimalarials. Chikungunya and dengue, two other mosquito-borne diseases are also present in the region. There is a risk of yellow fever in Uganda. All travelers over the age of nine months must be vaccinated for entry. The CDC recommends travelers planning on visiting certain parts of Uganda during the dry season (December – June) receive a meningitis vaccine.

What Should I Take To Uganda?

Here are some essential items to consider for your trip to Uganda:

Money Belt – Due to pick-pocketing, a money belt will help keep your money and passport safe.

Bug Spray – The climate in Uganda is hot and humid. There are plenty of bugs, including mosquitoes, which can carry malaria.

Sweater – While it’s generally very warm in Uganda, it can get chilly at night.

Sunscreen – Uganda is on the equator and has losts of direct sunlight.

POWER SUPPLY

Many of the camps and lodges in Uganda are in remote areas and have to generate their own electricity, either by generator when guests are out of camp to charge a bank of batteries that then provides 220v power to each accommodation unit or by solar power.

Guests are requested to be sensitive to this and not to run lights or other appliances unnecessarily.

For more information about Uganda, don’t hesitate to inquire with an Gorilla safari expert. We are dedicated fully to serving you!

Rwanda Travel Resources

Rwanda’s tropical location, just south of the Equator, combined with high altitude ensure a pleasant, temperate year-round climate. Temperatures therefore hardly vary throughout the season, with an average of 25°C during the day and slightly cooler at night.

However, exceptions can be experienced in the chilly upper slopes of the Virunga Mountains and lower Akagera National Park.

Generally, the long rainy season takes place from March till June and there is a short rainy season around October-November. Also during the drier periods you may experience light rain showers occasionally.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Rwanda can perfectly be visited during all season. Please keep in mind though that July and August are peak season for tracking the mountain gorillas and therefore gorilla permits are more difficult to obtain.

Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe Forest is recommendable during the rainy seasons, since the chimps will be able to find food relatively easily and are therefore easier to locate.

VISA DETAILS

The cost for a single entry visa for Rwanda is USD 30 per person.

Visas have to be applied for online via the Rwanda Immigration website, at least two weeks prior to your arrival. A copy of the approved application has to be presented at the entry point where the visa will then be issued and paid for. Kindly note that citizens from the following countries are required to pay visa fees but are allowed to obtain their visa upon arrival without prior online application: Australia, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, UK and USA.

If you are planning to combine Rwanda with a visit to Uganda and/or Kenya it is recommendable to request for the East African Tourist Visa. This special tourist visa costs US $100 per person and allows 90 days multiple entry to Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya. Regretfully, Tanzania is not (yet) a member of the East African community and therefore not part of this arrangement.

The East African Tourist Visa can be requested in the same way as the single entry visa, but make sure to select this option when completing the form on the Rwanda Immigration website.

LANGUAGE

Rwanda’s national language is Kinyarwanda, but English and French are also widely spoken throughout the country.

ELECTRICITY

In Rwanda the voltage is 220-240 volts. A 2 pin European adaptor is requested. Keep in mind that power cuts are common in Rwanda so it is recommended to carry a torch with you and always recharge appliances when the power is available.

CURRENCY

The national currency in Rwanda is the Rwandan Franc (RFW).

US Dollar notes, Euros and British Pound Sterling are widely accepted and can be converted into RFW at the airport or other Forex bureaus or banks. A number of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are also available in Kigali. When bringing US Dollars ensure that the notes are printed in/after 2006, since older notes may be refused or attract a less favorable exchange rate.

Credit cards are usually only accepted at the major hotels in Kigali.

HEALTH

A certificate of yellow fever is required for entry into Rwanda. In addition it is advisable to take malaria prophylactic as malaria is particularly widespread throughout lowland Rwanda.

Kindly always consult your travel doctor for the latest health advice before travelling to Rwanda.

WEATHER AND CLIMATE

We are often asked; 'when is the best time to go to Rwanda?' And the answer is usually, it depends on many variables such as what you are interested in, the reason for your visit and why you're travelling. One person's best time may be another's worst!

However, often the underlying concern is about the weather and when is 'the best time to travel'.

Over recent years, Africa's weather patterns have become increasingly unpredictable – a pointer to possible global warming. Rwanda's relatively high altitude provides it with a remarkably pleasant tropical highland climate, with plenty of rainfall. Temperatures vary considerably between locations depending on their altitude, but very little from month to month in the same place.

In the capital, Kigali, the daily temperature averages 21°C.

Rwanda's long rainy season lasts from about March to May, when the rain is heavy and persistent. Then from June to mid-September is the long dry season; this is generally the best time to visit if you have the choice. October to November is a shorter rainy season and it's followed by a short dry season from December to February. During both of Rwanda's dry seasons, there is often light cloud cover. This helps to moderate the temperatures, but also occasionally brings sporadic showers.

For more information about Rwanda, simply enquire with an Gorilla Expert.