Best time to go on a rainforest holiday

Hot and humid, wet or wetter – tropical rainforests don’t experience seasons the same way much of the world does.
Close to the equator, the temperatures and daylight hours in a tropical rainforest don’t change much from season to season. Most days are hot and humid, ranging from the mid-20°Cs to 30°C, although temperatures can dip lower in Papua New Guinea. April to September are the driest months for most rainforests, except the Ecuadorian Amazon where the dry season lasts from August to February. These are the best months for forest trekking, wildlife watching and festivals, which all take place during the dry season. Just remember that a rainforest is never really dry, especially in Papua New Guinea.

Rainforests, month by month

December, January and February are some of the wettest months in any rainforest except the Ecuadorian Amazon, where the rainy season holds off until March. Borneo can get as much as 443mm of rain in one month, with areas around Kuching getting the worst drenching. In the Congo Basin, heavy rain can make the dirt roads impassable. Generally, tours tend to avoid the worst of the wet weather, but our rainforest tour specialists say there are benefits to visiting the Amazon at any time of year. March marks the last month of the rainy season in most of the Amazon, Borneo, Papua New Guinea and the Congo Basin, however this is when the rain gets heavier in Ecuador. Travellers looking for a cheaper or quieter holiday may want to book during the shoulder season which starts around April – it’s often cooler, fresher and less humid too. May to September are the driest months for a rainforest holiday. These are often some of the best months for spotting wildlife in the Amazon, as the river levels recede and thirsty animals are drawn further from the forest to drink. Dry forest floors mean guides can now take travellers jungle trekking too. Borneo’s tropical flowers and foliage are at their best in May and June, creating a beautiful backdrop to trekking or wildlife tours. You may want to avoid the peak season in the middle of the year, although this isn’t a concern in the Congo rainforest where tourism has barely arrived. Most tours to the Congo Basin take place during these months, with many tours only running once a year. July is festival month in Borneo and Papua New Guinea. It’s an opportunity to see fire dancing, storytelling and mask costumes, although you might find fewer shops and facilities open during your visit. September to November is considered to be another shoulder season, marking the end of dry season and the start of the rains. Although trekking in the Amazon may become more difficult now, small boat cruises can still explore the rivers from which travellers can witness the seasonal flooding of parts of the rainforest.

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Guy Marks, from our Amazon travel specialists Tribes Travel, shares his thoughts on the best time to go: “If you want to go to the Amazon, it doesn’t really make much difference when you go: it’s the rainforest, so it rains all year. There is high water and low water, but there are advantages to both. In low water you get more walks through the forest, and at high water (January-May) as much as 10m of water rises through the forest – which means you’re 10m higher into the canopy when you’re in a boat. So the animals that live in the canopy are not miles away – you can see them much closer up!”
Alan Manning, a Papua New Guinea expert from our partner Intrepid Travel, shares his thoughts on visiting during the festival season: “Papua New Guinea is an intrepid traveller’s paradise, and the abundance of cultures is one of its unique selling points. Many of our travellers, after being on trips to other festivals in the world, have mentioned that the Goroka Show and Rabaul Mask Festival are up there with the top three cultural events they have seen. The main reasons for this are the raw nature of the performances and the diversity.”
Kate Tyler, from our volunteering experts Odyssey World, shares her best time to visit Borneo: “If you are looking to go to the Kinabatangan River area in Sabah I would avoid going between December and April because the weather is atrocious. The rain is so heavy. Borneo is a year-round destination, but when the rain is at its heaviest it can really hinder your experience. It can be really humid. The best time is from the end of April through to October, so it’s perfect for a summer holiday.”
Written by Bryony Cottam
Photo credits: [Page banner: Breno Machado] [Top box: J. Balla Photography] [Amazon River from above: Neil Palmer]