Month by Month
Annual Wildebeest Migration, from July
Mombasa Carnival, November
Maulid Festival, November
Lake Turkana Festival, June
International Camel Derby, August
One of the most popular months for visiting Kenya. Animals congregate around water holes and bird migration is well and truly under way. Days are usually warm and dry.
It can depend on the October/November rains, but perennial water sources have dried up, drawing predators and prey alike to the last remaining water holes. Wildlife watching at this time can be tense, exhilarating and intensely rewarding.
Birds in Abundance
Migratory bird species have by now arrived in their millions, giving Kenya close to its full complement of more than 1100 bird species. Rift Valley lakes and other wetlands are, in most years, a birdwatcher’s paradise.
High season in Kenya. Days are hot and dry, accommodation is often full, there’s excellent wildlife watching around water holes and countless bird species on show.
In most years, Kenya’s big annual rains begin, flooding much of the country and making wildlife viewing difficult. But prices are rock-bottom and the rains aren't always reliable.
The cheapest time to visit Kenya – roads can be impassable, mosquitoes are everywhere and wildlife disperses. But if the rains are late, conditions couldn’t be better, with wildlife desperate for a drink and most birds still around.
The inundation continues to batter Kenya if the rains arrive as they're supposed to. Getting around (and spotting wildlife) is difficult. Unless the rains have failed entirely, avoid visiting now. Easter can be a minipeak.
The rains usually continue into May. By late May, they should have subsided; when they stop and you can see the horizon, the country is wonderfully green, although wildlife can still be tough to spot.
Kenya emerges from the rains somewhat sodden but ready to make up for lost time. The annual migration of wildebeest and zebra in their millions sometimes begins midmonth, but doesn't really take hold until July.
This charity cross-country rally (www.rhinocharge.co.ke) in aid of Rhino Ark and other worthy conservation causes challenges mad motorists to reach the finish in the straightest line possible, whatever the crazy obstacles. The location changes annually.
Run with Lions
In late June or early July, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy hosts one of the world's more unusual marathons, with a winning combination of wildlife watching and serious fundraising.
One of the country's biggest cultural events, this fascinating festival focuses on the numerous tribal groups that inhabit northern Kenya, among them the El-Molo, Samburu, Pokot and the Turkana.
The wildebeest and zebra migration is in full swing. So too is the annual migration of two-legged visitors who converge on the Mara. Weather is fine and warm, with steaming conditions on the coast.
Following the rains, wildebeest begin arriving in the Masai Mara National Reserve (the Mara) anywhere between late June and mid-July and stay around until October, with predators following in their wake. It’s the greatest wildlife show on earth.
Return to Amboseli
When the rains begin in March, the herbivores of Amboseli (elephants, antelope, zebras…), followed by the predators, leave for grasslands outside the park. By July, they’re on their way back within park confines.
The mid-year high season continues; the Mara is still the focus, but other parks are also rewarding. Europeans on holiday flock to Kenya: prices go up, room availability goes down.
Kenya Music Festival
The country’s longest-running music festival is held over 10 days in Nairobi, drawing worthy international acts along with its predominantly African cast of stars.
Maralal’s International Camel Derby, in early August, offers serious camel racing and a chance to join the fun. A huge event.
Crowds drop off ever so slightly, but the weather remains fine and the Mara is still filled to bursting with wildlife, so prices and visitor numbers remain high.
A great time to visit; the wildebeest are usually around until mid-October and migratory birds begin arriving. The best season for diving and snorkelling begins just as visitor numbers start to fall.
Here Come the Rains
Unlike the main rainy season from March to May, the short rains that usually begin in October and continue into November cause only minor disruptions to safaris. Rains are generally localised and heavy, but only last for an hour or two each day.
Tusker Safari Sevens
Nairobi hosts this highly regarded international rugby tournament. Drawing world-class rugby-union players, the tournament spills over into November.
In normal years, the short rains appear almost daily throughout this month, but disruptions are minimal. Some animals range beyond the parks, birds arrive in great numbers and prices fall.
Birdwatchers couldn’t hope for a better time to visit, as millions of birds and hundreds of species arrive for their wintering grounds while Europe shivers.
East African Safari Rally
This classic-car rally in late November or early December is over 50 years old. The rally traverses Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and is open to pre-1971 vehicles only.
Mombasa throws its biggest party of the year in November, with Mombasa Carnival taking over the streets with music, dance and other events. A similar festival takes place further north in Lamu.
This annual celebration (commencing 20 November 2018, 9 November 2019 and 28 October 2020) of the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday rouses Lamu from its slumber. Muslims from up and down the coast converge on the town. Everyone is welcome.
A reasonable time to visit, with lower prices and fine weather, plenty of migratory birds in residence and much of the country swathed in green.