Kenya covers 580,367 km² (224,081 mi²), comprising a landmass of 569,140 km² (219,750 mi²) and a water area of 11,227 km² (4,335 mi²).
The diverse topography with elevations ranging from sea level to the summit of Mount Kenya at 5,199 m (17,057 ft) has a major influence on Kenya’s climate. The climate, in turn, has a significant impact on the lives of the people and wildlife with the result that each region has its unique and characteristic challenges.
Kenya straddles the equator and therefore has an equatorial climate. Generally, it is hot and humid in coastal regions, temperate inland and very dry in the north and northeast of the country.
The sun shines almost every day throughout the year. In many areas it becomes much cooler from early evening to early morning. In the highlands the drop in night-time temperatures can be a very cool 9°C (48°F). In lowland regions the night-time temperatures can be equivalent to day-time temperatures in the highlands, while the day-time highs are much hotter.
There are two rainy season. The first, being known as the long rains, occurs from April to July. The second is the short rains from October to December. Most usually the rain falls in the afternoons and evenings.
The hottest months are February and March: the coolest are July and August. Rainfall is heaviest in coastal regions and generally becomes less and less the further inland you travel, becoming drier and more arid in the north and northeast.
The general weather patterns in recent years have become less reliable and the rains have been arriving later. This may be a symptom of world-wide changes in climatic conditions due to global warming.
Kenya’s variations in elevation allow us to consider the climate in 4 distinct zones.
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gerenuk (Litocranius walleri)
oryx (Oryx beisa)
Kenya has a coastline stretching for 536 km (333 mi) along the Indian Ocean. The region is hot and humid throughout the year. Strong ocean breezes have a favourable effect and bring some relief from the heat.
This zone has temperatures ranging from highs of 28 to 32°C (82 to 90°F) to lows of 20 to 23°C (70 to 75°F).
Annual rainfall averages 1,120 mm (44.1 in). The long rains occur between April and May. The short rains are between October and November.
Northern Kenya and the plains zone
Here the climate is very hot and very dry; consequently, much of the land is arid and dusty. The hottest and driest areas are found in the plains regions.
Temperatures range from highs of 33 to 36°C (91 to 97°F) to lows of 22 to 25°C (72 to 77°F).
Annual rainfall averages 200 to 500 mm (7.9 to 19.7 in) depending on region; the least rain falling in the extreme north of the country. The long rains occur between April and May. The short rains are between October and November.
elephants (Loxodonta africana)
golden palm weaver (Ploceus bojeri)
The highlands dominate central and western Kenya at elevations of 1,200 to 2,200 m (3,937 to 7,218 ft).
Temperatures range between highs from 28 to 31°C (82 to 88°F) and lows from 15 to 17°C (59 to 63°F).
Annual rainfall averages 1,000 to 1,300 mm (39 to 51 in). The long rains occur between April and May. The short rains are between October and December. Kenya’s wettest location is the Lake Victoria region, particularly the uplands north and south of Kisumu with an average rainfall between 1,700 to 1,900 mm (66.9 to 74.8 in).
Nairobi is in this zone and has an elevation of 1,661 m (5,449 ft). Average temperatures in the capital range for highs of 21 to 26°C (70 to 79°F) and lows of 10 to 14°C (50 to 57°F). Annual rainfall averages 1,066 mm (41.9 in).
Not surprisingly it is much cooler in regions above 2,500 m (8,202 ft). Frosts are possible and snow falls on the mountain peaks. Nights here can be very cold indeed but the temperatures rise quickly in the mornings.
The difference between day and night temperatures vary greatly at lower elevations but the variation decreases sharply with altitude.
leopard (Panthera pardus)