Best Time to Visit Kenya
When you are visiting one of the most famous big cat destinations in the world – with the jewel in the crown being the Masai Mara reserve – where sightings of lion, leopard and cheetah are almost common place; it actually doesn’t matter as much as you may think about what time of the year you visit. These amazing cats are the ultimate predators and are active all year round, it just might take a little more searching during the long rains season of April/May. We would encourage you to be bold and visit outside of the busy high season months of July to September and found your own little piece of Kenya wildlife safari magic for yourselves and without the crowds!
January – You might feel that travelling during the middle of the rainy season for your Kenya safari does not sound like a great plan, but just give us a minute to explain. Since this is both a great time to see a variety of intra-African and Palaearctic migrants and a month when the landscapes will be lush and green; if you are a photographer and prefer less crowds when shooting your beautiful animal subjects, there could actually be something in this plan and in general the rain showers are short and heavy. It is also a good time to visit the coast for marine wildlife, such as whale sharks, dolphins and turtles.
February – The central highlands are hot during the day and cool at night and receive moderate rainfall at this time of year. If you head into the Mara and western interior you will see even less rain and experience similar temperatures. February experiences the lowest levels of precipitation in the Masai Mara, compared to the of the year, so this can be an excellent ‘green season’ period to visit the Mara with grass levels still quite low before the long rains. This is also a time when prey species in the Serengeti are giving birth on mass and this will attract predators into the border areas between Kenya and Tanzania.
March – This is the last month before the Kusi Monsoon arrives from the south east, that normally delivers the heaviest rain of the green season; known as the ‘long rains’, they arrive during April and May and can sometimes be a factor in early June. Short plains grasses and limited water sources make for great wildlife-viewing, but as the rains return, animals will spread out and vegetation will become lusher. This may well be the last month that some of our favourite Kenya wildlife lodges are open before the April/May shutdown. We choose to run our incredibly popular Big Cat Mara Predator safari in March, staying at the stunning Serian and Asilia Africa properties in the Masai Mara.
April – The long rains finally arrive and that is great news for all the wildlife in Kenya many wildlife reserve, national parks and concessions. The herbivores will be able to fatten up on the lush grasses and the predators will have an abundance of prey species to target and plenty of long grass to hide in. For landscape and wildlife photographers this could be your perfect month. Big stormy skies, lush savannah and a magnificent male lion posing on a ridge – sound good? Not all the wildlife lodges in Kenya will be open at this time of year, but the ones that are will be offering preferential rates and a friendly, very personal welcome
May – All that water falling from the skies – although difficult to predict seasonal rains these days – during this month will supress that dust and provide you will landscape photos you never dreamed off. Yes, the apex predators will still be difficult to find in those long lush grassland, but with a top safari guide provided by Wildlife Trails and the whole Masai Mara to yourself, think about how special that encounter will be and you will be able to stay in the national parks longer because the green season rates are so low.
June – Don’t expect the seasonal rains to just turn off like a tap the moment you enter the first day of the month, but as a month overall, expect less rain, reduced humidity and a fresh, clean perspective to landscapes and wildlife viewing. Increased hours of sunshine will not just put a smile on your face, they will also see wildlife in the national parks like Amboseli National Park on the move; with large herds of elephants moving towards the waterholes to drink and bathe as the temperatures increase. Many of our clients love to fit in a week or more wildlife viewing in the Mara on a big cat safari, as they avoid the expensive international flights associated with the summer holidays and can still get a great deal on a private bespoke Kenya safari.
July – We are definitely in high season now and the rates at the wildlife lodges will reflect that. Also, if you have that favourite lodge, like Entim Camp for example, which you come back to year after year, please make sure you book it nice and early. You may be lucky enough to see some early great migration action but don’t expect to many significant river crossings until a little later in the season, although you really just do not know these days with climate change and delayed rains. We are very much fully in the dry season and this will be reflected with warm sunny days and sometimes colder than expected morning drives as the sun starts to peep above the horizon. Great time for apex predator action and organising a big cat safari in the Mara, where you have an excellent chance to see leopards, lions and cheetah all in the same trip. extraordinary
August – This is a very popular time for international tourists and one of the best times to visit Kenya for wildlife, as during a ‘standard’ dry season the grasslands now will be much shorter and the visibility of the Apex Predators will increase. Expect to be able to easily track the movements of the big cats and depending on your camps location in the Mara, you may have access to some amazing river crossings action, as the huge herds of Wildebeest gather near the Mara river. Like July it is imperative to book well in advance to secure the best Kenya wildlife camps and lodges.
September – We really love September as a wildlife watching month for amazing safari locations around the world and there is no doubt that this is one of the best months to see leopards and lions in Kenya’s wildlife reserves and concessions. Add to the fact that international flight costs return to a sensible level, the crowds reduce in parks like Masai Mara, Amboseli and Samburu and the migration in the Masai Mara is very much in full swing. We recommend staying at two different camps in the Mara to see the migration at different river observation points and to provide variety and excitement.
October – For big cat lovers the saying is often the ‘hotter the better’, especially when it comes to a big cat safari in the Masai Mara. The favourite prey of Leopards, Lions and Cheetahs will need to stay close to water sources so they can drink multiple times a day and that is often when they are at their most vulnerable. Add to this the fact that the month of October is also excellent for river crossing in the Mara and that you may be able to secure some good deals at Kenya wildlife lodges in the second half of the month and there is nothing stopping you booking right now!
November – The first short rains may arrive in this month, but the wildlife is not going anywhere and it is highly unlikely that the rains will disrupt many of your planned safari activities. Think about staying longer in the country and visiting multiple parks and reserves with your own driver/naturalist on a special Kenya wildlife safari road trip. Not only will your money go further in the shoulder season, but there will be far fewer tourists around and you will not have the lush grasses that come with the later heavier rains.
December – Imagine yourself on a big cat safari in Kenya, staring out at herds of Antelope in the grasslands; watching a family of Cheetahs start preparing to hunt and all of this amazing wildlife has the stunning backdrop of a snow topped Mount Kilimanjaro. This could be your early Christmas present to yourself and with the early rains often over by mid-December, why not consider a very special tailor made Kenya wildlife safari visiting Amboseli national park and Masai Mara national reserve over Christmas and New Year.