The climate in Uganda is controlled by the oscillating effects of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), which sees the convergence of the rain bringing Atlantic westerly and Indian Ocean easterlies and the dry north-east and south-east monsoon winds. Thus, in keeping with much of tropical Africa, Uganda experiences a wet season and a dry season, its precipitation pattern described as bimodal, the main or long rains arriving March – May, the short rains November – start of December.
The split in the wet season is explained by the ITCZ’s zonal and Meridian Arms, the first of which moves west to east, passes over the Congo basin and supplies much of subtropical Africa with its main rain; the second, providing shorter and more variable rains, passes north-east to south-west. The ITCZ is northern hemisphere heavy, its oscillations less and less affected by the dry air masses that drive north-west through East Africa between June and August – which is why the pattern of precipitation changes in north Uganda, where it reverts to being unimodal, its wet season running from April to October. The overwhelmingly semi-humid to humid climate is further added to by more locally influenced air masses – or meso-scales – which help increase precipitation and decide diurnal patterns.
Uganda’s climate is tropical and generally rainy with two dry seasons (December to February, June to August). It is semiarid in the northeast.
Grassland and tropical forest dominate the central region of the country, with volcanic foothills in the east. The Ruwenzori Mountains form much of the southwestern border between Uganda and the DRC. The highest peaks there are snow capped.
Uganda’s mountainous areas are much cooler; the top of Mount Rwenzori is often covered with snow. The hottest months are December to February. Evenings can feel chilly after the heat of the day with temperatures around 12- 16ºC (54-61°F).
Most regions of Uganda, apart from the dry areas in the north east, have an annual rainfall of between 1,000mm and 2,000mm. There is heavy rain between March and May and between October and November, when road travel can become difficult in some parts especially up country remote areas. The best time for trekking is during the dry seasons, between January and February and June to September. Wildlife viewing is best at the end of the dry seasons, when game is more concentrated around water sources.
Given its relatively humid climate, temperatures nationally are reasonably constant, ranging from a dry season maximum of 25°C to a wet season maximum of 31°C. Affected by altitude, position and the interplay between the ITCZ and meso-scales, the annual precipitation range is 400mm to 2200mm. A diagonal – south-west to north-east – zone known as the cattle corridor axis experiences between 400mm and 1000mm per annum, as does a section of the western flank of the western rift valley (Lake Albert), while the rest of the country receives upward of 1000mm, the Victoria basin, south-west and parts of central Uganda 1400mm plus.
The majority of Uganda’s safari destinations are located either in the Lake Victoria basin (Entebbe, Kampala, and Lake Mburo) or in the western border lands (Bwindi, Queen Elizabeth, Kibale, Rwenzori, Murchison Falls and Semuliki). With the exception of south Kibale, Queen Elizabeth and Lake Mburo, they all experience very good to excellent levels of precipitation, the likes of Kampala, Entebbe, Bwindi, the Rwenzori Mountains, north Kibale and the Semuliki watershed more a rainforest climate than the wet and dry seasonal climates characteristic of savannah biospheres.
In the north-east, Kidepo National Park is the driest destination. With just 650mm rain per year- which annually experiences a single wet season, the best time to visit is November through March.
Therefore the best times for travel will depend on location and type. Generally speaking, the dry season (June – October and December – February) is the best time to visit for wildlife. At this time, in wet-dry tropical climatic zones, the cover is greatly reduced, seasonal water sources are either drying or entirely dried up and animals mass along riverfronts, lakesides and waterholes. And while the moister rainforest climates of Bwindi or the Kibale Forest experience rain throughout the year, trekking is easier during the drier months, the roads clearer, and the primates easier to spot.
Dawn and sunrise will come at around 6:30 am in the morning. If you are near a mosque, the first call to prayer will be at 5 in the morning alone with the roosters. Sunset is at 7 pm or shortly afterwards, giving 12 1/2 hours of daylight each day.
Rainy Seasons of the Year in Uganda:
Uganda gets short and long rains. However if you are in one of the rain forests or around Lake Victoria it can rain at any time, but again, rain here is usually of short duration, heavy at times, but soon it is over, unlike where I have lived in the Northwest of the USA where it can rain steadily for a week at a time.
- Short Rains: April to May of the year accompanied by fantastic thunderstorms.
- Long Rains: September to November and once again often there is a thunderstorm with it. Usually it is during the night or early morning, by 10 am the sun is out.