Thanks to its abundant wildlife and temperate climate throughout the year, the Masai Mara is regarded as a year-round safari destination. Its wide, open plains mean there’s always plenty to see. To help you choose when to visit, we’ve highlighted four seasons for game viewing and travelling the Masai Mara.
On a continent famous for sunny skies and dry conditions, it’s understandable that people may first look to visit during the drier months (December-February and June-October). But despite what you might think, travelling outside of the dry seasons doesn’t spell game viewing disappointment and bad weather. March through to June (the wetter seasons) can in fact be one of the best times to see wildlife in the Masai Mara.
The arrival of intermittent rains in March, mark the start of the wet season. The benefit of visiting early in this season is that the vegetation is relatively young, hence game viewing is excellent over the short new grass of the plains.
Wildlife spotting – April to May is appropriately referred to as the ‘green season’ and it’s a time of plenty for all life here. Heavier rains after months of heat come as a relief to wildlife and yield a phase of great biological activity in the Reserve. Many species take full advantage of the abundant food and birth their young at this time.
Scenery – The rains also turn the plains a lovely green colour and give way to carpets of wildflowers. We generally expect a good thunderstorm every two to three days, lasting up to an hour with heavy rainfall. The rain gives way to incredibly clear blue skies for the rest of the day and some spectacular sunsets ahead. With fewer tourists choosing to visit at this time of year, you might also have the wilderness to yourself.
Photography – The green season also provides some of the best light of the year. The storms can provide unbelievable photographic opportunities for those interested in capturing dramatic skies, interesting cloud formations and unforgettable sunsets.
The second of Kenya’s rainy, green seasons and the lesser of the two occurs in October, November and December. This is when migratory birds arrive for the wet summer season. The Great African Lakes attract a bright and diverse array of birdlife making this a magical time for bird watching enthusiasts.
From October all the way through to April, flocks of birds start arriving from Europe to spend Winter in Kenya’s warm climate. Lake Nakuru is amazing for bird photography due to all the flamingos and the area attracts hundreds of migratory bird species from across the planet. The rains also – quite literally – wake up the amphibian species. You’re more likely to see (or hear) frogs following a period of rainfall.
The argument for the dry seasons is that many animals gather around the permanent water holes, meaning that they’re easy to find. During the wet seasons, the movement of wildlife isn’t as easily predicted in terms of water sources but this new climate brings many treasures to behold as the bush comes to life.
The ‘shoulder season’ between the long and short rains – from January to March – is also recommended by safari veterans as a fantastic time to go game viewing in Kenya.
This falls between the low and peak periods (at the start and end of the rains) and offers similar advantages to the green seasons outlined above. In terms of balancing cost, game viewing, visitor numbers and weather, the shoulder season is often the best time to go on safari in East Africa.
The Great Migration is the annual movement of around 1.5 million wildebeest, accompanied by large herds of zebra, gazelle and impala. The herds are found on the plains of the Serengeti at the start of the year. From here, they gradually spread west across these plains in their search for lush pasture and quality water sources, before they begin their epic journey north in April.
The exact timing varies from year to year (due to varying rainfall patterns). However, travelling from late July to August provides you with the best chances of witnessing the Great Migration as the herds cross the crocodile infested waters of the Mara River.
If you’d like to take a closer look at the weather patterns during these periods, take a look at our guide to weather in the Masai Mara.
Governors’ Camp has been the leader of traditional, luxury-tented safaris in Kenya for over 40 years. Get in touch to find out more about our locations in the Masai Mara or book online today.
Header image by William Fortescue.