When to Go in Nairobi

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Nairobi sits in the middle of East Africa, and its high altitude (about a mile above sea level) makes for a mostly mild climate year-round. Visiting this cosmopolitan, Kenyan city anytime of year will not result in disappointment.

Kenya has four distinct seasons: mid-December to mid-March (hot dry season); mid-March to mid-June (long rainy season); mid-June to mid-October (cool dry season); mid-October to mid-December (short rainy season). February has the most sunshine with ten hours of day light, but in August has only five or six hours. The wettest months tend to occur between March and June, with April often having up to eight inches of rain. However, no season is always wet or dry – rainfall can occur during any month. The average highs in the summer months are in the upper 70s and lows are in the mid 50s. In the winter months, the average highs are in the upper 60s and low 50s.

The following guide suggests events as they happen during the different seasons.

Mid-December to Mid-March

December 18 th is the Islamic holiday to celebrate the New Year, and the capital is sure to be thriving with performances, dances, and other festivals. Don’t want to go home for Christmas? Kenyans celebrate the same day, December 25 th . Perhaps treat yourself to this local holiday safari. Horse and ostrich races occur on Boxing Day (December 26 th ), and February 6 th is the Islamic holiday celebrating the birth of Muhammad, Mawlid al-Nabi. The Gallery Watatu and the Nairobi National Museum hold art festivals at the beginning of March.  The hot dry season is also popular for taking a Kenyan gorillia and game trek safari, just a short trip away from the capital.

Mid-March to Mid-June

Early April is the best time to see horse races, which usually take place on Sunday afternoons at the Ngong Racecourse, just a few miles from the city center. Rugby is also a popular sporting event in May, when the Kenya Harlequins compete on Saturday at the RFUEA Ground. The Madaraka Day celebration on June 1 st , when Kenyan’s celebrate their autonomy, displays a parade, religious observances, and festivals.  Due to the long rainy season you might want to check out indoor events, such as the Kenya National Museum, which showcases everything from native plant life to the country’s native ethnic groups. Each gallery is devoted to a specific aspect of Kenyan life, such as Swahili art and pottery and stuffed artifacts. Other galleries are devoted to geology and science. Attached to this museum is Snake Park, which consists of lizards, crocodiles, mambas, and vipers, among other reptile-life.

Mid-June to Mid-October

This is the best time to do the Lake Nakuru and Masai Mara Safari, as July to October is the height of the migratory period. More than two million animals (mostly wildebeest and zebras) make the trek from Tanzania’s Seregeti National Park annually in search of pasture. Moi Day (October 10), the public holiday celebrating the 1978 inauguration of Kenya’s second president Daniel Arap Moi, is a much-attended local event during this season. And don’t forget Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim festival marking the end of Ramadan in which a three day feast ensues. Finally, book lovers won’t want to miss the Nairobi International Book Fair (September 23-27).

Mid-October to Mid-December

Mid-October features Kenya Fashion Week and the Kenya Orchid Show (October 20-25), which overlaps with Kenyatta Day (October 20), the public holiday celebrating the efforts of President Jomo Kenyatta to liberate Kenya from colonial rule.

December 1 st is the KCB Safari Rally, a nine-day race that covers 2,600 miles of challenging terrain, with the best views just outside Nairobi. Finally, December 12, Jamhuri Day, is the capital’s biggest holiday of the year. This is when the locals come out and celebrate their independence from the British in 1963, with speeches from the president, a parade with fireworks, and local themed dances. Some local events that are popular during this short rainy season include visits to the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and Giraffe Center, an orphanage that takes care of long-lost wildlife. Also check out Nairobi National Park, full of wild animals such as lions, rhinos, and zebras against a backdrop of skyscrapers. 

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