Are you interested in a rainforest adventure in East Africa? Uganda is a year-round destination with two rainy and dry seasons. So, while you can visit the country at any time of year and return blown away by your experience, the best time to visit Uganda depends largely on what you want to see and do. With world-renowned birding, record-breaking biodiversity, big game safaris, spectacular scenery and, of course, its sensational gorilla and chimpanzee trekking experiences, Uganda is one of the most rewarding travel destinations in the world. So, let’s look at the country’s different seasonal highlights to help you decide when the best time to visit Uganda is.
June to September: The Long Dry Season
Dry, in this equatorial country, is a relative term. It can and does rain any time of year. However, from June to September, the sun gets a chance to dry up the land before the next shower. Coinciding with an ever-so-slight drop in the daily temperature, this season therefore resembles winter in Cape Town.
The drier conditions also favour Uganda’s headline attraction, namely gorilla trekking. It’s a steep and long walk through dense rainforests at altitude to search for your assigned gorilla family. Therefore, you’ll be grateful for the drier pathways and hiking conditions during this time of year.
The dry winter is also ideal for general game viewing. The savannah plains in the north dry up nicely, thereby improving visibility and forcing the wildlife to congregate around remaining water sources.
Uganda’s famous attractions include Lake Victoria, Murchison Falls, numerous national parks of varying habitats, vast mountain ranges, scenic lakes and gigantic rivers. All of these, and the many lesser-known attractions, benefit from the drier, cooler conditions. Therefore, this makes June to September the stand-out peak season and thus the best time to visit Uganda for a whole-country experience.
October to December: The Shorter Rainy Season
September often sees an uptick in the total rainfall. As a result, by October, the ground is pretty much sodden. Peaking in November, the short rainy season is characterised by sensational downpours that clear the air and produce a spectacular palette of greens.
Migrant birds arrive in November, thereby adding to the already staggering species count. In fact, Uganda is one of the world’s best birdwatching countries, with over 1,000 species on record! Primate trekking and wildlife safaris can be slow-going in the mud, yet all the more rewarding as a result.
December gets a reduction in the frequency of showers and consequently an increase in visitors. Spending Christmas with a family of gorillas or pride of tree-climbing lions is understandably high on many visitors’ bucket lists. Furthermore, in Uganda, you won’t experience the expected tourist traffic that higher-profile neighbours like Tanzania and Kenya get. As a result, that means your experience is just as enjoyable – even in peak holiday seasons.
January to March: The Shorter Dry Season
January is one of the driest times of the year in Uganda. After a few months of heavy rain, the landscape is transformed into a lush, emerald-hued wonderland. With near-perfect trekking conditions, the landscape in its finest dress and relatively fewer visitors, the shorter rainy season is arguably the best time to visit Uganda if you prefer to steer clear of the crowds.
Birding is excellent throughout the year. However, it's all the more special during the short dry season as the migrants are still present and breeding until the arrival of heavier rain from mid-March. Furthermore, it's a slightly hotter time of year, so you'll appreciate Uganda's lakes and rivers and all their activities, ranging from sublime relaxation to heady adventure.
March to May: The Longer Rainy Season
From around mid-March, peaking in April and tapering off in May, Uganda's longer rainy season is an impressive display of equatorial precipitation. Some of the more remote safari lodges and destinations become inaccessible. However, the country's top attractions are no less exceptional for it.
You can still go on safari, trek gorillas and chimpanzees, enjoy birding river cruises and relax by an ocean-sized lake. And what's more, you'll feel like you have the entire country to yourself.
Highlights in the rainy season include chimpanzee trekking, which is actually better during this time, as the troops move lower down the slopes in search of warmth and ripening fruit.
Similarly, while conditions for gorilla trekking are more difficult during the rainy season, the families move lower down the slopes. Therefore, this makes for a shorter walk to find them. And these great primates, three times our size, look absolutely adorable in the rain with their frizzy fur. There are also plenty of newborn plains game species around as it's their birthing season.
The Best Time to Visit Uganda for…
This year-round activity is best enjoyed in the drier season from June to September, with an honourable mention for December to March. You will have an incredible gorilla experience whenever you visit. However, the only difference is that trekking up a mountain through a rainforest is even harder in the rain.
Chimpanzee and Primate Trekking
As with gorilla trekking, your chimpanzee hikes are more enjoyable in the dry season with equal chances of success.
The long dry season from June to September is the best time for a classic safari in Uganda. The land is drier, which forces animals to congregate around permanent grazing and water sources. Furthermore, you also have better visibility with the thinned-out vegetation, roads are more accessible, and rain showers don't interrupt your activities as much. Don't forget your camera to take plenty of pictures!
With over 600 resident species, Albertine Rift endemics and another few hundred migrants, Uganda is a world-renowned birding hotspot. Migrant species arrive in November and swell the local numbers until mid-March when they head north. If it's resident species you want to see, any time of year will be excellent so you can dovetail your birding with the best time to visit Uganda for its other attractions.
Lake Victoria and Murchison Falls
Go chasing waterfalls! The source of the Nile is both an adventure destination and a scenic haven to unwind after your rainforest expeditions. Warm all year, there's no bad time to visit Uganda to experience these attractions. Furthermore, they tack on beautifully to any itinerary.
Mountain and Volcano Hikes
Even though the rainforests are never fully dry in the so-called dry seasons, these months are the best for the snow-capped summits and freestanding volcanoes. While you'll need serious gear regardless of the time of year, the best time to visit Uganda for its incredible hikes is June to August and January to early March.
When is The Best Time to Visit Uganda for You?
The drier months from June to September and December to March are generally considered the best time to visit Uganda. While this is peak season, the tourist traffic is still relatively low compared to its neighbouring East African countries. And while you should expect rain whenever you visit, the drier seasons make the whole trip easier and more predictable. However, regardless of when you decide to visit Uganda, you can also expect a fantastic experience.
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