Kenya, birthplace of the modern wildlife safari and the very essence of East Africa, is a spectacular country to visit any time of year. But, depending on what you want to see and do, there are good times to visit and then there's the best time to visit Kenya. As the World's Leading Safari Company, we know exactly what activities and wildlife sightings you can expect each month. So, let's take a closer look at the best time to travel to Kenya for your luxury safari.
January – March: The Mini-Safari Season
January, February and the second half of March mark a dry interlude after the short rains of November and December. The landscapes remain lush and spectacular after the brief rainy period while diminishing water sources and thinning vegetation create excellent game-viewing conditions. Calving season for most plains species, which in itself is a wonderful time of year, also attracts the attention of Kenya's large predators.
Best of Bush and Beach
The hottest time of year is also the best time to visit Kenya for a beach and diving holiday. Humidity levels drop somewhat along the country's beautiful tropical coastline, with water at its warmest and visibility at its best.
This short, dry summer is also the best time to summit Mount Kenya. Because it's dry and warm, conditions are favourable for a successful trek with the best views across the sub-continent.
The Rift Valley lakes – notably Naivasha, Nakuru, and Victoria – are also excellent at this time of year, with millions of flamingos feeding off the alkaline algae, fantastic birdlife and good game viewing along the shores. The western highlands are cooler than the plains of the Rift Valley and feature many lesser-known national parks well worth a visit in their own right. The iconic Amboseli National Park featuring the classic East African safari picture of elephants and acacias in the foreground and snow-covered Kilimanjaro in the background is excellent during these dry but clear months.
Overall, with good game viewing wherever you go, this is one of the best times to visit Kenya to experience East Africa's highlights.
- Excellent general game viewing across the country
- Calving season continues
- Great time to see the Rift Valley lakes and flamingos
April – June: The Quieter Wet Season
The long rains arrive in late March, and many safari lodges in Kenya take a breather during the wet season. Excellent news if you're a seasoned safari-goer looking to enjoy specific regions and experiences of the country. Or if you just want to enjoy a safari without the peak-season tourist crowds.
Game viewing during the wet season remains a viable option, for example, in lesser-known national parks in the highlands and the Laikipia Plateau. While sightings of specific species may not be guaranteed, this lush, beautiful time of year offers a more authentic wilderness experience showcasing the fascinating intricacies of an ancient ecosystem.
- Good game-viewing safaris
- Excellent birding, lush scenery
- Lowest visitor numbers
July – October: The Peak Dry Season
By July, the daily deluges abate and the dry, wintry weather ushers in the best safari and beach conditions all year. The decreasing surface water forces wildlife to concentrate around permanent sources, and the thinned-out vegetation improves visibility. In other words, perfect safari conditions!
Around mid-August, millions of wildebeest, zebra and antelope make their way from Tanzania to Kenya and spread across the juicy-grassed plains of the Maasai Mara National Reserve. They feed on the fresh, nutritious grasslands before drifting southwards to the Serengeti around late October.
With generally cooler, less humid conditions throughout the country, the many excellent game reserves are in their prime for a general safari. You can avoid the tourist traffic by heading to the more remote parts of the country like Lewa, Tsavo, Meru, Amboseli, Laikipia Plateau, Mount Kenya, Aberdares, Samburu and the multitude of lakes and forest reserves.
As the rainfall eases, run-off dries up, and therefore makes diving and snorkelling along Kenya's tropical coastline at their best. And with little to no rain, climbing Mount Kenya is also excellent during this long dry period.
As a result, this long dry season is undoubtedly the best time to visit Kenya. And if you plan your itinerary right, you can enjoy peak season without the now infamous crowds at the major attractions.
- Excellent game-viewing and birding safaris
- The Great Migration reaches the Maasai Mara
- Lakes, mountains, forests and beaches
November – December: The Hidden Gem
The short rains arrive in November, taking the edge off the humid heat and bringing much life and vibrancy to the country. A quieter period follows, with tourist numbers decreasing radically, therefore leaving you to enjoy this magnificent country to yourself. Most safari lodges and camps remain open during the shorter rainy season.
A Flurry of Migrant Feathers
During this time, migrant birds begin to arrive, almost doubling the already impressive species count. Game viewing is still excellent while the vegetation and waterholes catch up with the rainfall. Although rain can potentially disrupt your daily safari schedule with powerful showers, they are usually short-lived. Plus, the temperature remains in the balmy twenties (Celsius, that is).
- Excellent birding with migratory species arriving
- Newborn animal babies from around December
- Lower visitor numbers
When Is Your Best Time to Visit Kenya?
If you want to see the Great Migration in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, your best time to visit Kenya is between mid-August and late October.
However, this being peak season and with so much else on offer the rest of the year, you might want to avoid the Migration madness and enjoy Kenya for all its other incredible attractions. If that's you, then the short dry season from January to mid-March and the shoulder months of June and October offer the best of everything with fewer visitors to contend with.
Kenya is, justifiably, one of Africa's most-visited countries. Careful planning with one of our Rhino Africa Travel Experts will ensure you have an incredible experience of this mesmerising East African treasure chest. Contact us today, and let's start planning!
Featured image: Nick Dale
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