Kenya’s diverse geography means that temperature, rainfall and humidity vary widely, but there are effectively four distinct zones.
The hot, rainy plateau of western Kenya has rainfall throughout the year, the heaviest usually during April, when as much as 200mm may be recorded, and the lowest in January, with an average of 40mm. Temperatures range from a minimum of 14°C to 18°C to a maximum of 30°C to 36°C throughout the year.
The temperate Rift Valley and Central Highlands have perhaps the most agreeable climate in the country. Average temperatures vary from a minimum of 10°C to 14°C to a maximum of 22°C to 28°C. Rainfall varies from a minimum of 20mm in July to 200mm in April, falling in essentially two seasons – March to the beginning of June (the ‘long rains’) and October to the end of November (the ‘short rains’). Mt Kenya and the Aberdare Range are the country’s main water catchments, with falls of up to 3000mm per year recorded in these places.
In the semiarid bushlands of northern and eastern Kenya temperatures vary from highs of up to 40°C during the day to less than 20°C at night. Rainfall in this area is sparse and, when it does occur, is often in the form of violent storms. July is usually the driest month, and November the wettest. The average annual rainfall varies between 250mm and 500mm.
The consistently humid coast region has rainfall averages from 20mm in February to around 300mm in May. Rainfall is dependent on the monsoon, which blows from the northeast from October to April and from the southwest for the rest of the year. The average annual rainfall is between 1000mm and 1250mm (less in drought years). Average temperatures vary little during the year, ranging from 22°C to 30°C.
For the latest local weather forecasts online, visit the Kenya Meteorological Office (www.meteo.go.ke).
When to go
The main tourist season is in January and February, when the weather is hottest and driest. At this time, the animals in the wildlife parks tend to congregate more around the watercourses, making them easier to spot. However, the parks can get crowded and rates for accommodation soar – also make sure you avoid Christmas and Easter unless you want to pay much higher prices.
From June to October, the annual wildebeest migration takes place, with thousands of animals streaming into the Masai Mara National Reserve from the Serengeti.
During the long rains (the low season, spanning from March to the end of May) things are much quieter. Wildlife is harder to spot and mosquitoes are rife, a combination that keeps most tourists away.