Knowledge of the climate and weather throughout the year in Rwanda is essential to planning a perfect vacation in this small landlocked country located in the East African zone. The country is fumbled between giant East African destinations like Tanzania and Uganda and is bordered by Burundi in the south and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the west.
The tiny 26,338 square km (10,169 square miles) country is home to 12.2 million people, making it one of the most densely populated nations on the African continent. And yet it is also a leader in conservation efforts, the third greenest place in the world (according to The World Travel Guide 2015) and the proud protector of four national parks.
These days, you’re as likely to find tourists here in search of a luxury experience as those roughing it in campsites or seeking out the country’s famous gorillas and chimpanzees–and that only scratches the surface of this beautiful destination.
From historical museums that inspire, to incredible meals served high above the flashing lights of the city below, Rwanda is full of promise and wonder. Exploring it will leave you emotional and enlightened. But like any other traveller’s concern, you must know the climate and weather patterns of Rwanda to be able to put together a Rwanda Safari Vacation that will not be controlled by weather factors.
Rwanda does not have extreme variations in the weather patterns from one region to another, nor from one season to another. Given that Rwanda is located just 2 degrees south of the equator, you might expect it to have a hot, tropical climate but the hilly topography (land of a thousand hills), high altitude and elevation boasts a pleasant temperate tropical highland climate and receives plenty of rainfall.
The temperatures across the country differ greatly from one area to another based on their altitude. Generally, during the day, the temperature ranges between 22°C and 27°C while at night they drop to between 16°C and 21°C. Unlike many other African countries away from the equator, it is neither too hot nor too cold.
There are some temperature variations across the country; the mountainous west and north are generally cooler than the lower-lying east. In the higher mountains, which take up a lot of the country, temperatures range between 10°C to 15°C.
In the capital, Kigali, temperatures are stable all year round and hover around 26/27 °C (79/81 °F) during the day and around 15/16 °C (59/61 °F) at night. Evergreen Rwanda can be visited on private of family safari holiday at any time of year with this perfect weather.
When planning for an Africa Safari in Rwanda for either gorilla tracking, chimpanzee tracking or wildlife game viewing in Volcanoes National Park, Nyungwe Forest and Akagera National Park, it is beneficial to know what climate and weather to expect in order to choose the preferred time for your trip.
Rains are persistent, heavy and regular. There is an abundance of green grass with clear blue skies making it excellent for photographic scenes. The rains clear the haze and the area returns to its lush green state. Birding is particularly good at this time of year.
Rainfall varies geographically, with the west and northwest of the country receiving more precipitation annually than the east and southeast. Rainfall is often during the night or the early morning hours and the sun comes out again during the day. At times you have early morning rains and afternoon thunderstorms and showers.
Global warming has caused a change in the pattern of the rainy seasons. The change in climate has reduced the number of rainy days experienced during a year but has also caused an increase in the frequency of torrential rains. Rain can also be restricted to certain areas during the day while others remain dry. It rains more frequently and heavily in the northeast, where the volcanoes are covered by rainforest.
During the short rainy season, gorilla tracking in Volcanoes National Park is possible although the track may be muddy and slippery. The gorillas are likely to remain in the lower altitudes during the wet season, as it is warmer compared to the higher altitude. Furthermore, food is more readily available, so they may not wander too far.
“The gorillas are likely to remain in the lower altitudes during the wet season, as it is warmer compared to the higher altitude”
This is a great time to spot some of the gorgeous butterfly species and rare orchids that Nyungwe National Park is famous for. The summit of Karisimbi (4507m), the highest peak in Rwanda, is often covered with snow.
Nyungwe forest is similar to Volcanoes National Park, whereby trekking and viewing chimpanzees in the wet seasons can take less time as they too prefer lower altitudes.
An advantage of travelling during the off-season is that most accommodations and activity providers offer discounts. Therefore, if you are a budget-conscious traveler it could be better to travel during this period.
There is often little or no rainfall and it’s during this time that leisure travel in Rwanda peaks (peak season) and the best period for gorilla tracking is July through August. Given that it’s the most popular period, it is harder to obtain a gorilla permit during this time. So make sure you book your permits months before, Nkuringo Safaris can get permits processed for you.
You should not that because there’s little no rain during this time, the environment is quite dry and dusty, travel with relevant clothing.
There may be some rain, but it is fairly intermittent and usually does not last very long.
Daytime maximum temperatures hover around 25°C to 27°C. Nighttime minimum temperatures in these seasons remain between 13°C and 16°C. Due to the climatic changes, expect some showers even in the drier months. Mountain areas of Volcanoes National Park and Nyungwe Forest Park have slightly cooler temperatures and you may require warm clothing for early morning or late evenings.
Wildlife viewing is excellent at this time since animals tend to congregate by water sources and the undergrowth is relatively low making it easier to spot wildlife.
It is easier for tracking mountain gorillas and chimpanzees since the trails are less muddy, the thicket is thinner, and there are fewer bugs, such as mosquitoes. The rolling hills are barren, a contrast to the verdant greens of the wet season. The trek may be long since the primates move further away in search of food.
The dry season is also ideal for spending time in the clean beautiful city of Kigali or enjoying the white sandy beaches of Lake Kivu.
You need to pack accordingly and be prepared for the Rwanda weather. You will need a raincoat or poncho, sunscreen, insect repellent, light clothing, warm clothing for early mornings or late evenings, sturdy hiking shoes, anti-malarial, long-sleeved shirts and trousers, and much more.
Rwanda can be visited throughout the year. Due to weather patterns becoming less predictable it is best to prepare for all weather conditions!
In the dry seasons, the trails are drier and easier to navigate. The undergrowth is less and wildlife viewing is easier. You may have to trek for extended periods since primates walk for long distances in their search for food.
In the rainy season, you can still enjoy a variety of activities in Rwanda. Rainy season does not necessarily mean that it downpours all day, the sun shines bright immediately after the rains. Tracking may be muddy or slippery but primates are easily found in the lower altitude. You can also enjoy discounted room rates from accommodation areas.
No matter which season you choose to visit, you will definitely enjoy the diverse habitat, wildlife viewing, trekking the magnificent primates in their natural habitat and warm hospitality and friendliness of the Rwandese, who typically go out of their way to make you feel welcome and at home.
Overall, the weather in Rwanda is good and most visitors love the climate and weather that awaits them, it seems to be just right for most visitors.