When to go to Kenya

Seasons and climate

Kenya enjoys a temperate climate with minimal changes in temperature and daylight hours throughout the year. Rather than the four seasons other parts of the world see, here it is either the rainy or dry season — the former hitting between April and June, followed by a cool dry season from July to October, short rains for most of November, and a hotter dry season beginning in December and lasting through to March.

The rains create difficult conditions for off-road driving, so self driving visitors to national parks and conservancies are strongly advised to use a 4WD vehicle during the wet season. Downpours are often heavy but short, with the sun returning. However, those looking for cheaper rates should consider visiting Kenya during one of the wet seasons. December is a particularly good time — the rains are short and you’ll have the chance to see newborn wildlife and migratory birds. Alternatively, try early March when crowds recede but the rains are yet to fully hit.

Although best known for the wildebeest migration, June is also the beginning of the humpback whale migration. Head to the Watamu protected marine area to see whales — and dolphins — on boat tours between June and August. If you’re planning to go diving or snorkelling on Kenya’s coast, water clarity is at its best between January and February. Avoid rainy seasons when water run-off muddies the water.

One of the biggest surprises visitors to Kenya get is how chilly it can get on a safari, especially those leaving early in the morning. Remember that safaris in high altitude areas like the Maasai Mara, Samburu and Laikipia can see temperatures fall below 10C. Factor in the windchill of zipping along in an open jeep and the reality is that safari-goers can become quite cold. Pack layers and be prepared.

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Festivals and holidays

Kenya generally observes a Christian calendar so major celebrations and holidays such as Christmas and Easter are observed countrywide. Muslim holidays such as Eid ul Fitr will be observed in most coastal and north eastern areas. Only the holy Islamic month of Ramadan will have an effect on your travels — during this time, you might find stores and hotels closed during daylight hours and at sunset for the breaking of the fast.

There are fewer music and cultural festivals than you might expect, but for a chilled out festival, try the Lamu Yoga Festival in February — five days of yoga in stress-free, car-free Shela, Lamu. Various styles of yoga are taught by instructors from all over the world and are combined with celebrations of Swahili culture such as sunset dhow cruises.

The end of the year brings the Rusinga Cultural Festival — an extravaganza of colour, music, dance and sport to celebrate and preserve the culture of the AbaSuba people of Uganda and Kenya. Held on the last Thursday and Friday before Christmas on the islands of Rusinga, the celebrations address various social and cultural issues. The headlining event is the boat races in wooden canoes where both men and women row along the lake in clouds of song and dance — not to be missed!

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