Best time to visit Kenya

Updated: 09th January 2019

Masai Man watching sunset - Africa Overland Safaris - Africa Lodge Safaris - Africa Tours - On The G
Visit the Masai Mara during the dry season for best wildlife spotting

Kenya is a year-round destination, however it broadly follows four main seasons. January to March is hot and dry, then the climate becomes hot and wet with the arrival of the ‘long rains’ from April to June. This is followed by a warm and dry period from July to October, before the ‘short rains’ and warm and wet weather is observed in November and early December.

Seasons and Weather

When is the dry season in Kenya?

Generally, the best time to visit Kenya is in either of the two dry seasons, from January to March or July to October. Given the nature of the dry season, wildlife spotting is at its best at this time. Vegetation is sparser, making distance viewing a lot easier. Plus, the animals tend to gather around waterholes as well as rivers and lakes, so finding them is also much easier.

When is the wet season in Kenya?

Kenya’s two rainy seasons, from April to June and November to December, aren’t considered great for wildlife viewing. However, the rains transform the country’s scenery with the landscape becoming lush and emerald green, making for some beautiful photography. Migratory birds are also present from September to April, so keen bird watchers shouldn’t be put off by the showers.

As the wetter months also coincide with low tourism seasons, rates can drop for accommodation and tours, as well as the safari parks seeing much fewer crowds.

Climate | Nairobi


JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °C121314141312111111131313
Temp Max °C152625242221212124242323
Rainfall (mm)3864125211158461523315310986

Climate | Mombasa


JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °C242425242323222222232424
Temp Max °C313131302828272728292930
Rainfall (mm)251864196320119896464869761

Upcoming events

Here's an overview of the festival and events calendar for Kenya:

2019:

August 19th-21st - Maralal Camel Derby (Maralal)

2020:

April TBC - Lake Turkana Cultural Festival (Loiyangalani)

There's also a number of national holidays in Kenya and on these dates many businesses and some tourist sites will close for the day so plan your visit accordingly.

A cheetah in Kenya's Masai Mara
You can visit Kenya's wildlife Parks Year-round

Best Time to Safari in Kenya

Kenya’s wildlife parks can be visited throughout the year, however the best wildlife viewing is observed during the dry seasons from January to March and July to October. The second dry season coincides with the phenomenal spectacle of the Great Wildebeest Migration.

During the migration, millions of wildebeest, zebra and antelope storm their way through Kenya’s Masai Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti, resulting in one of the most impressive wildlife spectacles in the world. Therefore those looking to combine a safari to both Kenya and Tanzania will definitely want to visit at this time.

Lake Nakuru is also best visited in the dry seasons as the rains can interfere with game drives during the wettest months. Likewise visitors to Amboseli are recommended to time their safari with Kenya’s drier months. Views of Mount Kilimanjaro from Amboseli are hit and miss, but your best chance is early morning or late afternoon in the months of November to May, when the sky is clear of dust.

The Beautiful Diani Beach near Ukunda in Kenya
Kenya's coastline is hot and humid throughout the year

Best Time to Visit Kenya’s Beaches

The coastal regions of Kenya, from Diani and Mombasa to Malindi and the northern islands of the Lamu Archipelago, tend to experience hot and humid weather year-round. However, temperatures and rainfall are at their highest between mid-March and May, so if you're planning a beach break with your safari in Kenya, consider visiting outside of these months.

Those keen on snorkeling or diving should visit in the months of October, November and March for the clearest seas. Local marine life includes crabs, starfish, turtles and a variety of colourful corals. But Kenya’s tropical waters are also famous for hosting migrating whale sharks, particularly around Diani Beach. Between October to April, whale shark safaris give you the chance to see these gentle giants in an unspoilt environment.

Best Time to Climb Mount Kenya

Kenya’s two dry seasons are viewed as the best times for climbing Mount Kenya. However, the weather and temperatures can be unpredictable, and vary considerably according to the altitude and even the time of day. It’s best to avoid both the ‘short rains’ from November to early December and the ‘long rains’ from April to June.

Want to know more about Kenya? Check out our latest blog posts

Wildebeest on plains of Africa - On The Go Tours

The Great Wildebeest Migration

The endless plains of east Africa are the setting for the world’s greatest wildlife spectacle – the pounding of more than 6 million hooves during the Great Migration. From the Serengeti plains in Tanzania to Kenya’s Masai Mara over 1 million wildebeest, 300,000 Thomson’s gazelle and some 200,000 zebra, relentlessly tracked by Africa’s great predators, migrate in a clockwise fashion over 1,800 miles each year in search of rain ripened grass.

The precise timing of this incredible event is hard to predict, as the path of the wildebeest migration is dependant on rain. The animals follow the path of the rain in order to feed off the new grass whilst also being close to a good water supply. If you'd like to time your trip to Tanzania or Kenya to watch this incredible event then here's our guide to the migration.

From December to February the wildebeest congregate in the Serengeti region. In the Serengeti an estimated 400,000 wildebeest calves are born during a six week period early each year - usually between late January and mid-March. From March to May/June, the wildebeest migration moves north following the rain, to the Lake Victoria region. From July to August the wildebeest migration heads east to the Masai Mara in Kenya, returning south across the Tanzanian border around November.

A Samburu warrior standing in the heat at the lake Turkana festival in Kenya
Saburu Warriors wear traditional dress at Lake Turkana's Cultural Festival

Cultural Events

As a multi-ethnic state home to a number of different tribes, Kenya sees an interesting selection of cultural festivals that take place across the country. Here's a selection of a few of the better-known festivals.

When is the Lake Turkana Cultural Festival?

Held in the lakeshore town of Loiyangalani sometime in May each year, this festival is a chance for the 10 local ethnic groups to celebrate their traditions of song and dance. The different communities also share food, display their traditional dress and even visit one another's home. For foreign visitors it's a fascinating insight into the Lake Turkana region.

When is Lamu Cultural Festival?

The island of Lamu off the coast of Kenya is home to one of the oldest Swahili settlements in East Africa and Swahili culture is celebrated during the annual Lamu Cultural Festival with poetry performances, henna painting, donkey races and dhow sailing as well as Bao (possibly one of the oldest board games in human history) competitions. It's held in November each year.

When is Mombasa Carnival?

Kenya's second largest city showcases its multi-cultural heritage with the annual Mombasa Carnival, a lively display of floats, parades, and traditional and contemporary music and dance performances. It's a great chance to try Kenyan food with street stalls popping up all over the city. The carnival takes place every November.

What is Maralal Camel Derby?

This increasingly popular event takes place in the town of Maralal in the northern region of Samburu, a haven for nomadic cultures. Both local and international competitors take part in camel races and mountain bike races.

See Also

Our handy Travel Resources are an excellent source of information for planning your visit to Kenya so have a look at the below:

Best Places to Visit - Kenya's best national parks and cities to visit
Tourist Visas - details on visa procurement
Top Travel Tips - travelling with children in Kenya and info on money and food
About Overland Safaris - what to expect on an overland expedition in Africa
About Lodge Safaris - all you need to know about lodge accommodated safaris
The Great Migration - our guide to nature's most incredible spectacle
Safari Wildlife Guide - where to find Africa's most iconic wildlife
Spotting Africa's Big 5 - our guide to the Big 5 and the best places to find them