Best Time To Go To Kenya
Kenya is one of the world’s most pristine and highly sought-after African safari destinations. Home to some of the best – if not the best – national parks, conservancies, and wildlife reserves in Africa, avid travelers and explorers, globe trotters, keen adventurers, and eager wildlife and nature enthusiasts travel from around the globe to experience all of Kenya’s wilderness wonders and safari adventures first-hand – Kenya safaris are known to be adventure in its purest form after all!
In addition to its top-ranking, highly-acclaimed African safari destination status and exceptional range of reserves and national parks, Kenya is renowned for its vastly unspoiled and varied landscapes, remarkable conservation initiatives, highly diverse and abundant concentration of wildlife and birdlife, incredible seasonal highlights, and not-to-be-missed wildlife spectacles.
From the famous African Big 5 (Kenya is deemed one of the best places in Africa to witness the iconic Big 5), sightings of rare and remarkable birdlife and wildlife species that can only be found in this part of the world, to witnessing the magnificent Great Migration in the legendary Masai Mara National Park – declared one of the greatest wildlife spectacles and natural wonders – a trip to Kenya should be on everyone’s African safari travel bucket-list!
Overview of Kenya
Best time to go
June to October | January to February (All parks)
June to October (Little to no rainfall & mild temperatures)
March, April & May (Peak of Kenya’s Wet season)
July – November | January & February
March – May (Some lodges & camps in high rainfall areas close down)
580,367km² / 224,081mi²
The highest point of elevation is Mount Kenya at 5,197 meters above sea level | Lowest point of elevation is at sea level on the Indian Ocean
East Africa on the Indian Ocean coast between Tanzania & Somalia
June to October
Great Wildebeest Migration | African Big 5 | Vast diversity of exceptional safari destinations, national parks & reserves
November to May
When To Go To Kenya
Kenya is a top-rated year-round beach getaway and African safari destination, boasting superb game viewing, wildlife encounters, and safari experiences 365 days of the year, Irrespective of its diverse geography and variable climate.
Despite being one of the most pristine, must-visit, year-round destinations in Africa, Kenya has two distinct seasons:
- Dry Season (Winter): June to October
- Wet Season (Summer): November to May
Regarded by many as the ultimate safari destination, home to some of the best national parks, and wildlife reserves in Africa, a vast range of thriving, complex, and diverse landscapes, and one of the most remarkable and distinct wildlife populations, visiting Kenya any time of the year promises to be an exceptional and exciting experience all-around. However, each season in Kenya offers visitors an entirely unique experience as it pertains to wildlife and birdlife sightings, overall climate, park conditions, surrounding scenery and vegetation, seasonal highlights, and wildlife spectacles.
As most people (both local and international) travel to Kenya to witness its incredible diversity of wildlife and experience the bucket-list worthy wildlife spectacle and phenomenon – The Masai Mara Great Wildebeest Migration – in full force and in all its wilderness glory, Kenya’s dry season (from June – October) is considered the best time to visit Kenya.
More specifically, the period between mid-August and late October, when the herds of millions of wildebeest, zebra, and antelope have returned from their months in Tanzania’s Serengeti, is the prime time to visit / plan a trip to Kenya if seeing the Masai Mara Great Wildebeest Migration in action is at the top of your Kenya travel and bucket-list.
Besides Kenya’s dry season (June – October) being deemed the best time to go to Kenya, especially as it pertains to exceptional wildlife sightings and witnessing the Masai Mara Great Wildebeest Migration in action, several of Kenya’s safari destinations, national parks, and wildlife reserves are at their best between January and the end of March. This is primarily due to the mostly dry, lovely mild climate, and incredible game viewing opportunities. This makes it a great time to plan a trip to Kenya and any of its superb national parks, and game reserves.
On another note, visiting Kenya during its quintessential wet season (November – May), or between mid-March to June and again between October and December, is well worth considering and comes with its own set of perks and highlights. This is particularly true if you’re eager to avoid the peak-season crowds and take full advantage of cheaper, off-season rates on accommodation, tours, and wildlife and safari experiences.
**Tip: For first-time safari goers, the best time to go to Kenya and the Masai Mara National Park is typically during its dry season, June – October, as wildlife are far easier to track and spot, resulting in exceptional wildlife sightings and encounters.
Dry Season in Kenya
Prime time for wildlife sightings as game viewing is at its peak
July to October are the prime months to see the Great Wildebeest Migration
Optimal visibility for wildlife sightings as the thick bush thins out & the vegetation becomes sparse
Wildlife are far easier to spot as they gather around water sources, waterholes, and rivers
Clear skies & sunny days with mild-moderate day-time temperatures & minimal rain
Best months to see the spectacular wildebeest river crossings in the Serengeti
Fewer mosquitos due to the low rainfall | Risk of malaria is at its lowest
Wet Season in Kenya
Lush greenery & beautiful surrounding scenery due to the high rainfall
Kenya and all of its surrounding national parks and wildlife reserves are filled with new-born wildlife
Bird watching is at its best as migratory birds are present from September to April
Prime time for predator activity & sightings due to the abundance of new-born wildlife present in the parks and reserves
Despite wildlife being better and easier to spot in the dry season, Kenya’s wet season boasts equally remarkable wildlife sightings
Kenya’s wet season coincides with its low season, this means rate drops / lower rates all around and less crowded parks, resulting in optimal crowd-free wildlife and birdlife sightings
Incredible photography opportunities due to the beautiful, lush surrounding scenery and landscapes
Except for March to May, rains are generally just short showers in the afternoon, causing little to no disruption to your overall Kenya wildlife and safari experience
Weather & Climate
Winter: June – October
- Average day-time temperatures: +/- 23°C/73°F at higher altitudes, such as the Masai Mara | +/- 28°C/82°F at lower altitudes, such as the coastal areas
- Average morning temperatures: +/- 10°C/50°F at higher altitude
- Clear skies & sunny days with mild – moderate day-time temperatures
- June – October are the coldest months of the year in Kenya
- Little to no rainfall in most of Kenya and its surrounding national parks and wildlife reserves
- Due to the low rainfall permanent water sources become a place for animals to gather, making them easier to spot
- Humidity is very low
- It is advisable to pack warm clothing, as morning and evening safaris and game drives can be particularly cold/chilly
Summer: November – May
- Average day-time temperatures: 24°C/75°F – 27°C/81°F at higher altitudes | +/- 30°C/86°F at lower altitudes (typically more consistent day-time temperatures at lower altitudes
- Mornings remain particularly cool at higher altitudes, and it is advisable to pack warm clothes for early morning game drives and safaris
November & December:
- A period of unpredictable ‘short rains’ take place between November and December. These ‘short rains’ persist for approximately a month. The rain can oftentimes be rather heavy, however, it mostly occurs during the late afternoon or evening, and very seldom have any negative impact on your safari and wildlife experience or adventure
January & February:
- A dry spell in Kenya’s wet rainy season typically takes place during the months of January and February, resulting in a much lower rainfall compared to other months. The only tricky part is, the exact timing / onset and how long the spell will last is completely unpredictable
March – May:
- The highest rainfall / the most rainy and wet months (AKA ‘long rains’) takes place during the months of March – May
- It is incredibly cloudy, especially in the highlands, including Aberdare National Park and Laikipia Plateau
- High levels of humidity, especially in Kenya’s coastal regions
Masai Mara Great Migration
The safari bucket list for Kenya is undoubtedly seeing the annual Great Migration in the legendary Masai Mara National Reserve
The Great Wildebeest Migration in Africa – also known as the Gnu Migration, Serengeti Migration and Masai Mara Migration – is one of the last mass terrestrial wildlife movements left on the planet. It’s the chief reason why so many travellers venture to Kenya and Tanzania for a Migration safari, especially around mid-year.
The Masai Mara National Reserve is arguably one of Kenya’s top safari destinations and wildlife hotspots. The famous Masai Mara is most renowned for its annual Great Migration of millions of wildebeest, accompanied by large numbers of zebra, and smaller numbers of Grant’s gazelle, Thomson’s gazelle, eland, and impala across the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, moving from the Masai Mara National Reserve to Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park from June – October.
Triggered by East Africa’s rains and linked to annual rainfall patterns and the growth of new grass, the Great Migration of millions of wildebeest is a constant, year-round movement of huge, nomadic herds across the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, following an age-old route in search of fresh grazing and fresh water sources.
In Tanzania, it can be seen throughout the year, you just need to know where to look. The migrating herds enter Kenya for a much shorter period, roughly from July or August until October. However, recent years have seen major arrivals as early as June, and late stayers in the Maasai Mara region until November or even later.
**Interesting fact: The three groups of migrant grazers have different grass-eating habits: As one group eats the top of the tallest grass, the next group will eat away some of the medium-height grass, until finally it is almost completely eaten, and the herds move on. This means each group sticks to their own kind with only a small overlap in their distributions.
The Great Migration typically starts in the Southern region of the Serengeti National Park. The ‘start’ of the Great Migration coincides with the prime wildebeest calving season, as thousands of wildebeest calves are born within a couple weeks of each other. Due to the rapid rise in the number of new-born wildebeest, there’s an equally significant increase in the number of predators, such as lions, leopards, and hyenas in the area who are constantly on the hunt for new-born wildlife.
After the remarkable calving season in the southern part of Tanzania’s Serengeti near the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, just as the drought starts to set in during the month of May and Tanzania’s dry season approaches, the Great Migration continues on their journey through the Serengeti up and around in a clockwise direction towards the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.
**Interesting fact: Guided by survival instinct, each wildebeest (as well as zebra and antelope) will cover approximately 800km to 1000km on its individual journey along age-old migration routes during the annual Great Migration.
During the months of May – July splinter herds congregate in the Serengeti’s western corridor as they start their journey north. The herds move northwest towards the Grumeti region of the Serengeti where, dependent on the rain, you will see the millions of wildebeest, zebra, and antelope cross the Grumeti River towards the Northern Serengeti.
The renowned Great Migration Grumeti River crossing is the first river crossing of the Great Migration. This part of the Migration, similar to the others, is not without its risks and dangers. In fact, the Great Migration river crossings are regarded as the most treacherous events of the entire Great Migration. Despite the sheer volume of wildlife, crossing rivers means facing approximately 3,000 Nile crocodiles, patiently waiting for a kill, as well as the famous Serengeti lion population – by far the largest in Africa – along with other predators right and ready to pounce whenever opportunity strikes. The Great Migration Grumeti River crossing is a remarkable spectacle to behold however, it is not deemed as challenging and dangerous as what the herds of wildebeest, zebra, and antelope will have to endure when crossing the Mara River in Kenya (further north).
The big herds of wildlife constituting the iconic Great Migration congregate in the Northern Serengeti and the Masai Mara during late July / August – October. Following the rain, the herds cross over to the Masai Mara National Reserve, which includes the acclaimed Mara River Crossing (the 2nd major river crossing along the path of the Great Migration).
The Mara River is approximately 400km long, deep, craggy, and extremely treacherous. It is also home to Africa’s largest crocodile population as well as a robust concentration of hippos. As the herds clamor and struggle to cross the Mara River to get to the greenery on the other side, the large Nile crocodiles and territorial hippos await, unfolding in what is without a doubt one of the most gripping and chaotic scenes and wildlife spectacles in the world.
In many ways, the two major river crossings of the Great Migration – Grumeti River crossing in Tanzania and the Mara River crossing in Kenya – represents the climax of a long and grueling journey across the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem.
These dramatic scenes of huge herds on the move, crossing rivers and vast plains, pursued by predators looking for their next kill, are the stuff real nature documentaries are made of.
With the beginning of the short rains in late October, the Great Migration makes its way back into the Serengeti National Park. By December, the herds trek past Seronera / Central Serengeti to return to their calving grounds once again, completing the year-round cycle / ever-moving circular migration.
There is absolutely no doubt that experiencing the annual Serengeti National Park and Masai Mara National Reserve Great Migration is a once-in-a-lifetime safari and wildlife experience every avid safari traveler and eager wildlife enthusiast should have at the very top of their bucket list.
General Guideline: When to see the Great Wildebeest Migration in the Serengeti National Park & Masai Mara National Reserve
(These guidelines are subject to change as per seasonal rainfall)
|Calving||January to March||Southern Serengeti|
|Intense Big Cat Action||January to March||Southern Serengeti|
|Rutting||January to March||Southern Serengeti|
|Grumeti River Crossings||May to July||Western Serengeti|
|Mara River Crossings||July to September||Northern Serengeti|
|On the Move||October to December||Northern Serengeti and Masai Mara|
**Important Note: The above guidelines are approximate dates and places. The Wildebeest Migration is a year-round, circular journey and the exact timing of the highly sought-after river crossings cannot always be precisely predicted (there are several uncontrollable variables involved that can have a big impact on both the place and timing of various events, especially the river crossings).
However, if the Great Migration follows the typical outlined timeline, the two main river crossings – Grumeti River crossing in Tanzania and the Mara River crossing in Kenya – generally take place between May and September.
Wildlife & Birdlife in Kenya
Kenya is renowned for its exceptional year-round game-viewing, superb Big 5 encounters & famous Great Wildebeest Migration
Wildlife in Kenya
Declared one of the world’s most pristine African safari destinations, home to some of the best national parks and wildlife reserves in Africa, there are few things that compare to Kenya’s remarkable, vast, and diverse concentration of wildlife and birdlife, incredible seasonal highlights, and not-to-be-missed wildlife spectacles.
From the famous African Big 5 – Kenya is deemed one of the best places in Africa to witness the iconic Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo) – sightings of rare and remarkable birdlife and wildlife species that can only be found in this part of the world, to witnessing the magnificent Great Migration in the legendary Masai Mara National Reserve – declared one of the greatest wildlife spectacles and natural wonders in the world – a trip to Kenya should be on everyone’s African safari travel bucket-list.
In addition to Kenya’s pristine predator population, African Big 5, and renowned Great Migration herds, it is also home to an abundant concentration of plains game including, but not limited to, giraffe, warthog, zebra, blue hartebeest, red hartebeest, and an abundance of antelope, such as waterbuck, springbok, reedbuck, nyala, kudu, eland, impala, gemsbok, bushbuck, bontebok, and blesbok.
Birdlife in Kenya
Did you know that Kenya is regarded as one of Africa’s best birding destinations? Boasting over 1100 recorded bird species, a number only exceeded by Africa’s much larger and inaccessible Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya is known to attract avid birders from across the world.
One of Kenya’s main bird watching allures and recognition as one of Africa’s top birding destinations, with passionate birders eager to witness all of Kenya’s birding wonders, is the fact that several rare and remarkable endemic and near-endemic bird species can easily be seen and spotted on any birding trip to Kenya.
These bird species are especially renowned and sought-after as they can only be found in Kenya and marginally beyond. The European migrant species are present from September to April, making it a great time to visit / plan a trip to Kenya, especially if you’re a head-over-heels bird lover at heart.
Notable birds in Kenya include:
- Crowned hornbill (Common)
- Hartlaub’s bustard (Common)
- Scarlet-chested sunbird (Common)
- Southern ground hornbill (Common)
- White-bellied go-away bird (Common)
Endemic & Near-Endemic Birds in Kenya:
**(E) endemic = only lives in Kenya
**(NE) near-endemic = also lives in neighboring countries
- Abbott’s starling (NE)
- Aberdare cisticola (E)
- Amani sunbird (NE)
- Clarke’s weaver (E)
- Grey-crested helmet-shrike (NE)
- Hinde’s pied babbler (E)
- Jackson’s hornbill (NE)
- Jackson’s francolin (NE)
- Montane white-eye (E)
- Sharpe’s longclaw (NE)
- Sokoke pipit (NE)
- Sokoke scops owl (NE)
- Taita thrush (E)
- Tana River cisticola (E)
- Taveta golden weaver (NE)
- Williams’s lark (E)
Other birding specials & real treats for avid birders visiting Kenya:
- Abyssinian crimsonwing
- Bar-tailed trogon
- Blue-headed bee-eater
- Friedmann’s lark
- Golden-breasted starling
- Golden-winged sunbird
- Great blue turaco
- Kori bustard
- Red-naped bush-shrike
- Secretary bird
- Somali courser
- Somali sparrow
- Taita apalis
- Turner’s eremomela
- Lilac-breasted roller
- Vulturine guineafowl
- Yellow-bellied wattle-eye
Best time for bird watching in Kenya
While birdlife in Kenya is great year-round, the absolute best time for bird watching is during Kenya’s prime birding season from September to April (Kenya’s wet season) when the migratory birds from Europe and northern Africa are present. In addition to spectacular sightings of a vast, vibrant, and diverse array of bird species, many of Kenya’s resident birdlife are nesting during this time, making it much easier to spot various bird species in their breeding plumage.
Best parks & reserves for birding & bird watching in Kenya
- Masai Mara National Reserve
- Amboseli National Park
- The Rift Valley Lakes including Lake Nakuru National Park and Bogoria (great for waterbird sightings)
- Samburu National Reserve
- Arabuko Sokoke
- Kakamega Forest National Reserve
- Buffalo Springs National Reserve
- Saiwa Swamp National Park
Traveling To Kenya
With a number of airline connections and travel options, Kenya is comparatively easy to get to.
There are two main ways to get to Kenya and its surrounding National Parks, wildlife reserves, and conservations, by air (via international air travel, domestic air travel, regional air travel, and shuttle / private charter flights), or by road (via Guided Safaris or self-driving to Kenya).
GETTING TO KENYA BY AIR
Traveling to Kenya by air / flying to Kenya is undoubtedly the easiest, simplest, and most convenient means of traveling. To make things even more favorable, there are several frequent direct and indirect flights to Kenya via numerous major airlines.
Kenya has two major International Airports:
- Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO)
- Mombasa’s Moi International Airport (MBA)
The central point of arrival and Kenya’s main airport is Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO). Located approximately 15km/9mi southeast of Nairobi, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is a hub for East Africa and most scheduled international flights will land there.
In addition to being East Africa’s major flight hub, this top Kenya International Airport is the main gateway to the Masai Mara National Reserve, Amboseli National Park, Mombasa, and Kenya’s vast and vibrant variety of beautiful beaches as well as Zanzibar and Tanzania. Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport also offers travelers, adventurers, and globe trotters good connections to Uganda, Rwanda and the Seychelles.
From Nairobi, an array of local carriers connect to major tourist destinations, National Parks, Wildlife Reserves, and beach areas in Kenya.
Kenya’s second international Airport is Mombasa’s Moi International Airport (MBA), located approximately 9km/6mi west of Mombasa. Mombasa’s Moi International Airport receives some international scheduled flights and is the main point of arrival for charter flights from Europe. The Moi International Airport is also the primary point of arrival for domestic flights as well as the gateway to the stunning Kenyan coast and Zanzibar.
Both of Kenya’s major International Airports – Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) and Mombasa’s Moi International Airport (MBA) – are managed by the Kenya Airports Authority.
Kenya Regional Airport
Located about 90 minutes by road from Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Wilson Airport is Kenya’s top Regional Airport. It is the hub for almost all of Kenya’s internal flights and serves several fly-in safari locations. If you need to take an internal flight via/from Wilson Airport or make use of a fly-in-safari to reach your desired location, it is essential to plan accordingly and ensure you have enough time between your international flight and domestic flight in order for you to successfully make the transfer between the two airports.
There are various ways to reach your ultimate Kenyan destination from Nairobi or Mombasa. One can fly or drive between reserves, or opt to do a bit of both – its entirely up to you – its your Kenya adventure after all. If you chose to fly, most domestic flights out of Nairobi depart from Wilson Airport.
Malindi Airport is another entry point to the country. However, few international flights arrive here as it is primarily used as a domestic airport.
There is a reliable network of light aircraft flights that connect Nairobi with the majority of National Parks and Reserves in Kenya, as well as with Tanzania and Zanzibar. As there are several private charters that can be arranged throughout, it is a great travel option for those with time restraints.
Beyond the added convenience and hassle-free travel experience, chartered flights are a great way to explore and get around in Kenya with the added bonus of avoiding the country / region’s dirt roads – which can get pretty rough and bumpy at times. Once you’ve made your way to one of the private airstrips, transfers to lodges are conducted in 4X4 vehicles.
GETTING TO KENYA BY ROAD
Besides traveling to Kenya by air, it is also accessible by road. There are two main ways to travel to Kenya by road / vehicle:
- Guided Safaris
- Self-driving to Kenya
Guided Safaris / Drive-in Safaris
One of the most popular and exciting ways to travel to Kenya and its surrounding National Parks and nature reserves is by booking a drive-in or guided safari. Not only is it a wonderful way to get a real feel and in-depth exploration of the country, but it provides travelers with the opportunity to explore and admire the vast landscapes, stunning scenery, and wilderness wonders Kenya has to offer.
Road networks are sound, though in some places/regions the going may be a little slower and bumpier, especially in more isolated areas.
Private vehicle guided safaris / drive-in safaris with a professional and experienced guide is a great option for anyone traveling to Kenya, especially those looking to add a bit more thrill to their travel adventure.
Self-driving to Kenya
*Note: While it is possible to self-drive to Kenya, it is not widely recommended.
When self-driving to Kenya a 4×4 vehicle is required to successfully navigate and access all roads, regardless of the time of year. Road conditions are extremely variable and there are long distances to be covered before you reach your final destination.
*Note: It is extremely important to plan your journey carefully and meticulously, especially if you decide to self-drive to Kenya.