When Is the Best Time of Year to Visit Kenya?

If you want to maximise your safari experience in Kenya, you need to pick the right month
If you want to maximise your safari experience in Kenya, you need to pick the right month | © Volodymyr Burdiak / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Nandika Macharia
1 December 2021
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Kenya may straddle the equator, but the weather here is not too extreme with relatively stable year-round temperatures. Still, some months are better to visit than others. So whether you want to know the best time to go on safari or which months to avoid if you don’t like rain, here is what to expect.

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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 weather allows unfettered access to national game parks by four-wheel drive vehicles without the worry of getting caught in bad weather and being stuck in the wild. January is usually quite hot and dry throughout the country. The tourism industry in Kenya is always in full flow this month, with resorts still catering to holidaymakers from the long Christmas break.

Temperature: 26C (79F)

Days of rainfall: four

Dry, hot January is the perfect month to see the rhinos of Nairobi National Park | © Cultura Creative RF / Alamy Stock Photo

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. However, because the heat has persisted since January, you are in for some heavy dust, so take the necessary precautions if you have dust allergies. Visit Hell’s Gate National Park for incredible mountain climbing. Locals will head to Karura Forest, Ngong Forest and other camping spots for a myriad of outdoor activities.

Temperature: 25C (77F)

Days of rainfall: three or four

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 best time to visit Kenya.

Temperature: 24C (76F)

Days of rainfall: nine

April

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

Temperature: 24C (75F)

Days of rainfall: 16

May

Just emerging from the long rainy season, the Kenyan landscapes are lush and green. Wildlife 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 emergence of sunlight amid rain showers creates a stunning colour 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: 23C (73F)

Days of rainfall: 13

The lush, post-rainfall landscapes in May provide an epic setting for any shutterbugs | © Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

June

June ushers in the cold season, which is characterised by cloudy days and long, chilly nights. Cafes 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: 22C (72F)

Days of rainfall: five

July

July is by far the coldest month in Kenya, busting the myth that the country is sun and sand year round. When planning a visit, focus on group activities such as 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 arrive from the Serengeti at this time, in preparation for wildebeest season.

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Temperature: 21C (70F)

Days of rainfall: three

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 Great 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 including crocodiles, leopards, cheetahs and lions, and a sight to behold as the survivors emerge in droves on the other side of the river. If it’s this magnificent sight you’re after, this is the best time of year to go on safari in Kenya.

Temperature: 21C (70F)

Days of rainfall: four

Wildebeest cross the Mara River in August, a spectacular and often brutal spectacle | © Jane Rix / Alamy Stock Photo

September

The sun is out, though not with the intensity of January. The weather is perfect for game viewing, sunbathing and quieter safaris. Most visitors will have come over for the wildebeest migration and left, making September the best time to visit Kenya for honeymoons and romantic getaways. As the country gears up for the real holiday crowds in the last part of the year, locals 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: 24C (75F)

Days of rainfall: four

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.

Temperature: 25C (77F)

Days of rainfall: seven

November

The short rains make an appearance, although they don’t really 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: 73F (23C)

Days of rainfall: 15

December

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

Temperature: 23C (73F)

Days of rainfall: eight

Festive holidaymakers often head to the beaches of Mombasa in December | © Irene Abdou / Alamy Stock Photo

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. March to May are not ideal visiting months, because of the long rains.

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