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When's the Best Time of Year to Visit Kenya?

Lewa Downs, looking towards, Mount Kenya.
Lewa Downs, looking towards, Mount Kenya. | © Chris Whiteman / Alamy Stock Photo
The great thing about Kenyan weather is that it is not too extreme. No matter what time of year you plan to visit the country, you will enjoy the climate, as you are still able to get around. Here is what to expect.

January

If the bulk of your trip is centred around safaris and game viewing, the ideal weather is hot and dry. The main reason is that this kind of weather allows unfettered access to national game parks by four-wheel drive vehicles without the worry of getting caught up by bad weather and being stuck in the wild. January is usually quite hot and dry throughout the country. The country is always in high gear this month, as resorts are still catering to holidaymakers from the long Christmas break.

Temperature: 79°F (26°C)

Days of rainfall: four

The roads in the parks are passable in January © proWIN France Structure Toulouse / Flickr

February

The heat of January continues into February, although towards the end of the month it begins to taper out. This weather makes the month ideal for safaris and high-adrenaline adventure holidays such as kayaking, mountain climbing and hiking challenges. Because of the heat that has persisted since January, you are in for some heavy dust, so take the necessary precautions if you have any dust allergies. Visit Hell’s Gate national park for incredible mountain climbing. Locals will be heading to Karura Forest, Ngong Forest and other campsites for a myriad of outdoor activities.

Temperature: 77°F (25°C)

Days of rainfall: three or four

February is the month for adrenaline junkies © Make it Kenya / Stuart Price / Flickr

March

The long rains usually start around the second week of March. Before their onset is a hot and humid period that is excellent for snorkelling and deep-sea diving. The waters are exceptionally clear and calm at this time. The rates for the hotels and tours are also low, and the holiday crowds are fewer. If you prefer a less crowded beach and a slower pace, this is the time to visit.

Temperature: 76°F (24°C)

Days of rainfall: nine

Scuba diving in the Indian Ocean © Make it Kenya / Stuart Price / Flickr

April

During the month of April, the country is in the thick of the long rainy season. Although the four-wheel drives are not taken out during this month, you can still enjoy wildlife coming to the watering holes situated within various lodges. You can also enjoy visits to the museums, protected archaeological sites and art galleries.

Temperature: 75°F (24°C)

Days of rainfall: 16

The onset of the heavy long rains curtails a lot of activity © Christopher Ksimet / Unsplash

May

Just emerging from the long rainy season, the Kenyan landscapes are lush and green. Wildlife can be seen to have plumped out, as there is plenty of food. Photography enthusiasts can capture the beauty of the savannah, the Great Rift Valley and other incredible landscapes during this time. The colours and the emergence of sunlight amid light showers creates a stunning contrast. It is also the first month in the year with a public holiday, so locals will celebrate the break in the rains with picnics and get-togethers.

Temperature: 73°F (23°C)

Days of rainfall: 13

Elephant having a mudbath after the rains © Rachel Fortner / Unsplash

June

June ushers in the cold season, which is characterised by cloudy days and long, chilly nights. Cafés and restaurants struggle this month, as very few people are out. Instead, museums, guided tours and coffee dates are more the norm. The Madaraka Day holiday brings locals out for the presidential speech and to enjoy a hangout with friends before bracing themselves for the cold season ahead.

Temperature: 72°F (22°C)

Days of rainfall: five

Visitors view art at the annual Kenya Museum Society Affordable Art Show © Kenya Museum Society

July

July is by far the coldest month in Kenya, bursting the myth that the country is sun and sand all year round. When planning a visit, focus on group activities like tours, where you will have company. People often entertain in their homes, and hotels will have themed nights to keep their guests occupied despite the chill. The first of the wildebeest begin to arrive from the Serengeti at this time, in preparation for the full-blown wildebeest season.

Temperature: 70°F (21°C)

Days of rainfall: three

Wildebeest on their migration path © Wajahat Mohammed / Flickr

August

School is out, the tourists are in and the roads are back to being packed with residents and visitors looking for a good time. The game-viewing season ushers in the eighth wonder of the world: the wildebeest migration. This migration sees millions of wildebeest and thousands of zebra and antelope cross the Mara River. It is a feeding frenzy for predators like crocodiles, leopards, cheetahs and lions and a sight to behold as the survivors emerge in droves on the other side of the river.

Temperature: 70°F (21°C)

Days of rainfall: four

Wildebeest gathering in the Maasai Mara before their annual migration © sutirta budiman / Unsplash

September

The sun is out, though not with the intensity of January. The weather is perfect for game viewing, sunbathing and interestingly quieter safaris. Most visitors will have come over for the wildebeest migration and left. September is thebest time for honeymoons and romantic getaways. As the country gears up for the real holiday crowds in the last part of the year, locals will enjoy great deals before the international visitors jet in. This is the time cultural events begin, so you may just find yourself in one, such as the Lamu Cultural Festival.

Temperature: 75°F (24°C)

Days of rainfall: four

Beautiful weather at the Maji Beach boutique hotel on the Kenyan coast © The Maji Beach Boutique Hotel

October

The lull before the holiday storm persists, and the beaches are less crowded, making this month exceptional as a holiday month. The weather is moderate with a few showers breaking up the sunshine, but nothing overwhelming. Mashujaa Day, celebrating the freedom-fighting founders of the country, is celebrated with nyama choma (roast meat), road trips and picnics all over the country.

Temperature: 77°F (25°C)

Days of rainfall: seven

Road trip from Marsabit to Nairobi © Kandukuru Nagarjun / Flickr

November

The short rains make an appearance, although they really do not interfere with the activities. The sun is more prevalent and the hikers, climbers and other outdoors enthusiasts find the weather excellent for their activities. The schools are out and more packages for the local tourists become available. While the Mara and other parks in the area are open during the short rains, the Laikipia Plateau and other camps in the north close down for the period.

Temperature: 73°F (23°C)

Days of rainfall: 15

Cycling is a favourite outdoor activity © Make it Kenya / Stuart Price / Flickr

December

Christmas is a huge holiday in Kenya and you can feel the mood from late November. Families entertain on a weekly basis, fun activities for the whole family are open, parks are open and open-air concerts are the norm. Food, art and cultural festivals abound at this time and you can get to enjoy everything Kenyan. On Christmas Day and Boxing Day, the beaches are jam-packed with revellers, while others opt to celebrate at home with their families. Mombasa and Malindi are favoured spots at this time of the year.

Temperature: 73°F (23°C)

Days of rainfall: eight

The beach in Malindi © Lindsey Nicholson / Flickr

When not to go to Mombasa

Generally speaking, Mombasa is great during the warm to hot months. The end of December to the end of February is a great time to visit. You can also plan a visit around September and October. March to May are not ideal for a visit, because of the long rains.