A Month by Month Guide to Kenya
February provides similar overall climate and game viewing conditions to January. The days continue to be hot and dry, game viewing continues to be excellent, with great sightings of predators and herbivores alike.
It is a time of year when prices at lodges are towards their low end, and the parks remain relatively quiet.
It is still not an appropriate time to see the Great Migration in Kenya, however, it is a great time of year to spot young predators as their birthing season is just after the short rainy season in November. By February, the two to three month old cubs and pups are starting to become active, playful and visible.
Whilst March starts in a similar vein to February, with humid and hot conditions, change is in the winds as the end of the month typically sees the start of the “long rainy season”.
Before the rains wildlife is easier to spot as they congregate around water sources, however, game viewing becomes slightly more challenging towards the end of the month as the water sources become more abundant, wildlife disperses and the thickness of the vegetation increases.
That being said, this is the time of year when lodge costs are at their lowest, and parks are at their quietest.
Whilst it may not be the best time of year in terms of climate and game viewing, the advantage of travelling from the end of March would be the feeling of having large swathes of lush, verdant wilderness all to yourself.
April represents the peak of the wet season in Tanzania, as the long rains have now fully set in.
Whilst the wildlife is still there, it is a transitional period for the Great Migration as the herds are on the move through the Grumeti Reserve and Western Corridor, making their patterns less predictable at this time of year, and creating more groups of smaller herds that splinter off from the mega herds. The camps in the southern Serengeti are now closed, and much like the Great Migration itself, the mobile camps are repositioning themselves and getting ready to reopen in the Northern Serengeti in advance of the Great Migration arriving.
The heavy rainfall affects other parts of the country too, as the parks in the south of the country (Ruaha and Nyerere National Parks), as well as Zanzibar, are experiencing their wettest time of the year. The bushveld in the southern parks remains quite thick and most people prefer to avoid rain on the beach escape, it is not strongly recommended to visit Ruaha, Nyerere or Zanzibar at this time of year. That being said, among the camps and lodges in the Serengeti that remain open, there is still good game viewing to be had and prices are at their very lowest, so April can be an appealing time of year to visit for those who don’t mind getting a bit wet.
The start of May continues in the same way that April usually ends, with heavy rainfall, lush, green bushveld, bright and colourful plant life and grey, yet emotive skies serving as a spectacular backdrop for keen photographers. Game viewing continues to be mixed, with some park roads having become boggy after the weeks of rainfall, which can interfere with both vehicle and walking safaris.
That being said, there are still great wildlife sightings to be had for those who are happy to work for their sightings, the parks are still at their quietest, and lodge rates are at their lowest.
This is also the time of year when many of the top luxury lodges will have attractive special offers in place, so May is a great month to consider for those who may be more interested in the standard and luxury of accommodations, more so than the wildlife and nature experience.
July is the time of year which sees the optimal conditions in Kenya, from the perspective of game viewing as well as weather conditions.
The daytime temperatures, whilst still warm, become cooler, leading to wildlife being generally more active. Most excitingly though, it is the time of year when the iconic Great Migration makes its way into Kenya. Vast herds of wildebeest and zebra reach the culmination of their daunting journey north, as they make their way into the Masai Mara.
This is the time of year which sees the first river crossings, as herds in their thousands cross the mighty Mara River. Crocodiles and big cats, territorial predators who have been lying in wait for months, will gorge themselves on the veritable feast, which results in the Masai Mara offering some of the most spectacular game viewing at any time, anywhere on the continent.
With July being in the school holidays, this is when the parks are at their busiest and lodge rates are at their highest, however, that is more than offset by the perfect weather and sheer wildlife spectacle.
Much like July, August is regarded as a prime time to visit Kenya.
The weather conditions remain perfect, temperatures are warm but moderate, there is virtually no rainfall, and the massive migratory herds of Wildebeest from the south continue to cross the Mara River into the Masai Mara National Park. Whilst more and more Wildebeest are now settling into their grazing patterns on the plains of the Masai Mara, river crossings still take place, along with the accompanying dramatic predator activity.
Outside of the Masai Mara, August is a great month to visit other national parks in Kenya. The Laikipia plateau presents fantastic conditions and game viewing at this time of year, especially as the bush is at its thinnest towards the latter half of the dry season, and wildlife tends to congregate around water sources. August is considered peak season, national parks across the country are at their busiest, so lodge rates are at their peak and if you are looking to travel to Kenya in August, booking your safari well in advance is nigh on essential.
September is arguably the best month to visit Kenya, as there are so many positives of travelling at this time of year, with little downside.
The game viewing is truly magnificent, as most of the Great Migration is now grazing on the plains on the Masai Mara. The sheer volume of Wildebeest and Zebra on the plains entices lion, leopard and other predators to be active. We are now heading towards the end of the dry season, with the bushveld thinning out and wildlife gathering around scarce water sources, so it is truly a wonderful time for game viewing.
Knowing how good Kenya is in September, most lodges will still be charging high season rates, however, parks start to get quieter as the peak holiday season (and northern hemisphere summer school holidays) have usually ended by the start of September.
With moderate but warm temperatures, low humidity and close to no chance of rainfall, September – like July and August – presents a great opportunity to add some time at the coast.
November is the start of the short rainy season in Kenya, which is the main thing to be aware of if planning a trip around this time.
Unlike the long rainy season earlier in the year, which sees heavy rainfall, the short rainy season is characterised more by short bursts of isolated showers, usually in the afternoons.
Despite the rainfall, game viewing – whilst not at the level it is during the dry season – can still be very good. It is also when parks are at their quietest and since visitor numbers are low, lodge prices are a lot lower than they are during the dry season months.
Whilst there is some rainfall and game viewing isn’t at its best, it is a fantastic time for photography as the moody skies contrast with ever increasing lush greenery. November is also a great time for keen birders, as it’s the time of year when migratory birds from Europe and North Africa start to become present.
With the short rainy season coming to an end, along with warm temperatures, clear skies and exceptional game viewing – especially for resident territorial wildlife such as big cats and other predators – December represents the dream safari destination to consider for a Christmas getaway.
With little to no rainfall, the bushveld getting thicker but not at its thickest and lush greenery as a result of the preceding months’ rainfall, it is an exceptional time for wildlife photography. Travelling earlier in the month will usually see rates remaining lower, however, lodge prices will increase dramatically – as will the number of visitors in the parks – from the second half of the month.
Coming in the peak summer months, days can be quite hot and humid, especially along the coast. That being said, December is an excellent time to visit Kenya and would be one of the top recommendations for anyone considering a safari for a truly remarkable festive season holiday.
As you will see, Kenya represents a truly seasonal safari destination, yet offers a variety of advantages depending on when one is able to travel, or depending on what one is looking to get out of their safari. We hope this month by month guide has provided you with useful insights as to what you can expect at various times of the year, and has gone some way to help with planning you safari to Kenya.