Stormy weather over the Masai Mara

Masai Mara Weather

Climate change is affecting Kenya in a profound way. The monsoons of the Indian Ocean, influenced by El Niño and La Niña disrupt rainfall patterns on the Masai Mara. However, the climate on the savannah remains very pleasant, sunny and cool…

Weather in the Masai Mara follows the same patterns as the rest of Kenya’s central and southwestern regions. That said, the weather patterns in the semi-arid region of the Masai Mara are more pronounced as it receives less rainfall than other areas. The seasons are divided into two rainy seasons, the long rains (March to June) and the short rains (October to December), and two dry seasons in between. The monsoons of the Indian Ocean influence the rainy seasons. Therefore El Niño or La Niña years are incredibly disruptive to the ecosystems of Kenya and the Masai Mara.

Startus clouds at sunset over the African savannah
Low stratus clouds creep up over the Masai Mara – usually a sign that light rain is about to follow

El Niño results in heavy rainfall on the west coast of South America while there is drought in the countries influenced by the Indian Ocean. La Niña creates the opposite effect.

Global Warming and the Masai Mara

In 2020, a La Niña year, the local Maasai tribe in the Masai Mara noticed confused migration behaviours in the wildebeest herds. This is because the herds migrate according to rainfall. A cooler than normal Indian Ocean meant a shorter dry season with light rains, and the early arrival of the short rains, which did not stop properly in the dry season. This resulted in the migration starting a few weeks sooner than expected.

A large herd of migrating wildebeest crossing the Mara river
Migrating wildebeests plunging into the Mara River

Effect of Weather on Game Viewing

Rains tend to have pronounced effects on semi-arid regions, and the Masai Mara is no exception. Prolonged unexpected rainfall can transform dry savannah into lush green fields in a matter of days. Too much rain, in turn, affects animal behaviour.

A yellow billed stork and his reflection in a pond with green reeds
A yellow billed stork hunting at a watering hole. There were plenty of watering holes around in the Masai Mara when we visited, because of recent rains

One of the reasons to visit the Masai Mara during the dry season is because animals congregate around waterholes. These gatherings provide a better game viewing experience. However, when water abounds, the animals disperse. Furthermore, predators are less likely to make a successful hunt when their prey is well fed. 

Young elephant at a watering hole with reflection, on the Masai Mara
Young elephant drinking from a waterhole in the Masai Mara. We visited in September 2020 – September is usually a dry month, but because of the La Niña effect, the short rains had started early and the Masai Mara was unexpectedly wet

Local Temperatures

The Masai Mara experiences slightly cooler weather during the middle of the year and somewhat warmer weather at the beginning and end of the year. Because the Masai Mara is located at an elevation of around 1550 meters to 1650 meters above sea level it stays cool throughout the year.

Bright blue skies over the Masai Mara, with a tall giraffe on the savannah
It’s usually bright blue skies all day on the Masai Mara

Because of this elevation, the Masai Mara stays cool and comfortable throughout the year. Average nightly temperatures are around ten degrees Celcius in the winter months and 15 degrees in the summer months. Daytime temperatures are around 25 degrees in the winter and up to 30 degrees in the summer.

Maasai ascari wrapped up in shuka because the weather on the Masai Mara is cold in the evening
Sundowners in Mara North – our Maasai Ascari has wrapped himself up in his shuka because evenings on the savannah do get chilly!

As you can see, it can get chilly in the evenings and early mornings! Because of this chilly weather, the traditional Maasai shuka is heavy and dense, to protect its wearer against the cold of the night.

What to Wear in the Masai Mara

The Masai Mara is hot in the day and cool at night. Because it is semi-arid savannah land, the air is dry and does not retain heat well. The nights get cool fast. It’s best to pack a few thin layers like t-shirts and ultra-light long-sleeved shirts along with a warm cardigan. You can also purchase warm Maasai shukas from your lodge’s curio shop if you start to experience extra chilly mornings. There was one morning when I found myself using two shukas on top of my merino wool cardigan – those open-top 4x4s do get nippy when they are on the move! Pre-breakfast game drives are the coldest times, and the locals wear fleece coats in the early morning, along with the shukas. If you’re from northern Europe though, 12 degrees in an open-air vehicle might simply feel like summer so… to each their own.

Little fluffy brown bird on the Masai Mara
This little bird doesn’t have to worry about the weather! She can simply fluff up her feathers when it gets cold, to trap more air

FAQs for Masai Mara Weather

What is the Masai Mara weather like in July, August and September?

The weather in the Masai Mara during the “dry season”, which is from July to September, is cool in the evenings and hot during the day. Temperatures are around 10 to 13 degrees in the early morning before sunrise, and around 25 degrees in the late afternoon. It gets hot in a stationary safari vehicle however, up to 30 degrees at mid-day.

What is the Masai Mara weather like in December?

The period of the “short rains” goes from October to December. It is slightly warmer on the Masai Mara, with temperatures getting up to 30 degrees in the afternoon. Night time temperatures are still cool, ranging from 13 degrees to 15 degrees. The Masai Mara stays cool in the summer due to its high altitude of at least 1550 meters above sea level.