Weather in Kenya
The Republic of Kenya lies on the coast of East Africa, with a coastline on the Indian Ocean in the south-east region of the country. Kenya straddles the Equator, between 5°N and 5°S, resulting in a tropical climate which is affected by its topography. From sea level on the coast the country’s low plains rise to central highlands, which are slashed through by the Great Rift Valley.
While the coast of Kenya is typically tropical – hot and humid conditions with rainy seasons – at higher altitudes the weather is more temperate, but no less wet. The wettest part of the country is the plateau in the west, where it rains all year round, with the heaviest falls occurring in April.
The most comfortable regional climate in Kenya is that of the Rift Valley and central highlands, encompassing the towering snow-capped Mount Kenya and the Aberdare mountains, where the seasonal temperature varies between 10°C (50°F) to 28°C (82F). This area, which includes the capital city, Nairobi, has two rainy seasons – the “long rains” falling between March and June, and the “short rains” covering October and November. The rain usually falls in the afternoons and evenings.
North-east Kenya sports an arid region, where daytime temperatures are high, falling off sharply at night, and a relatively low average annual rainfall confined to the odd fierce storm.
Along the coast the climate is more in keeping with what one would expect from an equatorial region, with constant hot, steamy conditions and two monsoons – one blowing in from the northeast between October and April, and the other from the south west during the rest of the year. The rainstorms usually come as blessed relief from the hot, humid, sunny days that are made less oppressive by onshore winds.
The spectacular phenomenon of the annual migration of wildlife in the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya takes place between June and September.
When is the best time to go to Kenya?The best time to holiday in Kenya is during the country’s dry seasons, from January to March and July to October. These periods are good for wildlife viewing because animals tend to congregate around waterholes when the weather is dry. To experience the annual migration head for the Masai Mara National Park between June and September. For a beach holiday on the coast around Mombasa and Lamu the best months are between December and March. For a mountain hike on Mount Kenya avoid the rainy seasons and plan the trip in January/February, or between July and October.
What to pack for a holiday in Kenya?
It's hot here in midday, but can become exceedingly cold in the early morning and at night, so its best to layer up and undress as the day goes on. Pack lightweight and loose clothing designed for the heat; sitting in a car for hours on safari without comfortable clothes is harrowing, so make sure to think of comfort and practicality. Take everything from T-shirts to thermals for the mountain, zip-off trousers to loose summer jeans, khaki shorts to beachwear and use light neutral colours, but not too light– think dirt and dust. Sunglasses, sunhats and sunscreen are essential, the sun is as dangerous, if not more so, than any wildlife in the parks.
Walking shoes and boots are essential anywhere outside of the city, trainers should be comfortable and a good pair of walking sandals is great for the coast. Coastal cities are often predominately Muslim (which means dress modestly), but even the general dress code is one of modesty, but particularly for women– simple, comfortable and respectable. A scarf or bandana is great for preventing long hair from getting dusty or knotting and bring a light raincoat, umbrella and insect repellent.
Weather in Kenya in JanuaryAverage temperature in Kenya in January: 18C, 64°F
Sea temperature in Kenya in January: 28°C, 82°F
Average rainfall in Kenya in January: 45mm, 1.8in
Note: January is high season for holidays in Kenya, with most of the country experiencing hot, dry conditions. The beaches are beautiful under sunny skies with a cool breeze to temper the heat, and in the green national parks wildlife will congregate at watercourses ripe for viewing.
Weather in Kenya in FebruaryAverage temperature in Kenya in February: 18.5C, 65°F
Sea temperature in Kenya in February: 28°C, 82°F
Average rainfall in Kenya in February: 51mm, 2in
Note: A very favourable month for visiting Kenya, February offers good weather conditions across the country, from the arid bush of the north, along the dry, sunny coast, to the cooler highlands. Conditions are optimal for climbers on Mount Kenya.
Weather in Kenya in MarchAverage temperature in Kenya in March: 19C, 66°F
Sea temperature in Kenya in March: 29°C, 84°F
Average rainfall in Kenya in March: 101mm, 4in
Note: Kenya becomes wetter during March as the “long rains” begin, but the rain comes in the form of afternoon thundershowers that are welcomed by hot travellers. The high ground is pleasantly warm, the north remains hot and largely dry, while the coast becomes ever more sultry.
Weather in Kenya in AprilAverage temperature in Kenya in April: 19C, 66°F
Sea temperature in Kenya in April: 29°C, 84°F
Average rainfall in Kenya in April: 206mm, 8.1in
Note: April is arguably the wettest month to visit Kenya, the “long rains” peaking, making the coast very hot and humid, and ensuring animals are scarce for viewing in the national parks where roads become muddy and difficult to negotiate. Understandably, this is the low season on the tourist calendar in Kenya.
Weather in Kenya in MayAverage temperature in Kenya in May: 18C, 64°F
Sea temperature in Kenya in May: 28°C, 82°F
Average rainfall in Kenya in May: 160mm, 6.3in
Note: Mosquitoes are very busy in Kenya in May, one of the wettest months of the year in the country, with high temperatures and high humidity. The best conditions at this time are to be found in the highlands.
Weather in Kenya in JuneAverage temperature in Kenya in June: 17C, 62°F
Sea temperature in Kenya in June: 27°C, 81°F
Average rainfall in Kenya in June: 46mm, 1.8in
Note: The “long rains” are tailing off across Kenya in June, and the beach resorts dry out somewhat, although conditions remain hot and humid. The wildlife migration is happening in the Masai Mara, and tourist season there hots up as the rains dwindle.
Weather in Kenya in JulyAverage temperature in Kenya in July: 16C, 60°F
Sea temperature in Kenya in July: 26°C, 79°F
Average rainfall in Kenya in July: 19mm, 0.7in
Note: An optimal month to visit Kenya, July is dry and a good time to see wildlife in the national parks, particularly in the Masai Mara where the annual migration of animals is proceeding apace. On the coast occasional thunderstorms bring relief to hot sunny days, and in the highlands conditions are pleasantly cool.
Weather in Kenya in AugustAverage temperature in Kenya in August: 15.5C, 60°F
Sea temperature in Kenya in August: 25°C, 77°F
Average rainfall in Kenya in August: 26mm, 1in
Note: As one of the coolest, driest months in Kenya, August is the perfect time to catch a tan on the Indian Ocean beaches. The high altitude of the capital, Nairobi, ensures it is cool and pleasant there, with the “long rains” over for another year. Being a dry season, it is a good time for a safari with animals coming out of hiding to seek water in the national parks. Nights can be chilly everywhere.
Weather in Kenya in SeptemberAverage temperature in Kenya in September: 17C, 63°F
Sea temperature in Kenya in September: 26°C, 79°F
Average rainfall in Kenya in September: 26mm, 1in
Note: The weather in Kenya in September is very similar to the preceding month, remaining dry and warm/hot on the coast, and chilly in the evenings in Nairobi and the central plateau. Up north animals are out and about in search of water.
Weather in Kenya in OctoberAverage temperature in Kenya in October: 19C, 66°F
Sea temperature in Kenya in October: 26°C, 79°F
Average rainfall in Kenya in October: 54mm, 2.1in
Note: It is a fair bet that there will be rain in the highlands of Kenya in October, as the seasonal “short rains” arrive, but temperatures are warm to hot, and on the coast it is sunny and fine most of the time. For climbers, this is high season on Mount Kenya.
Weather in Kenya in NovemberAverage temperature in Kenya in November: 18C, 64°F
Sea temperature in Kenya in November: 28°C, 82°F
Average rainfall in Kenya in November: 109mm, 4.3in
Note: Kenya’s second rainy season for the year has begun, with statistically 12 wet days out of the month on the cards, but there is still plenty of hot sunshine between the showers on the coast and especially in the arid northern regions, where most of the national parks are situated.
Weather in Kenya in DecemberAverage temperature in Kenya in December: 18C, 64°F
Sea temperature in Kenya in December: 28°C, 82°F
Average rainfall in Kenya in December: 82mm, 3.2in
Note: Locals in Kenya regard December as the start of summer, with temperatures rising and rainfall and humidity levels dropping off. Conditions are especially cool and pleasant during the early morning and at night on the coast and in Nairobi. The northern areas of Kenya are dry and hot as always.