As part of our series on guides explaining when to go on a safari and the best times to time your visit to Kenya, this article provides detailed information on Kenyan safaris in January. You’ll get to learn about Kenya’s weather, climate, and temperature at this time of year, and the best parts to visit.
Is January a good time to go on a Safari in Kenya?
January is an excellent time to experience the Kenyan safari as it marks the end of both the short rains and long rains seasons. During this time, wildlife viewing as well as fun beach activities will expose you to the diverse beauty of Kenya. The temperatures are mild and range from highs of 25 degrees Celsius to lows of 16 degrees Celsius.
Day-time temperatures start to become pleasant, ranging from warm (17 – 27 °C) in most areas of Kenya that are popular safari destinations such as Masai Mara, Amboseli and Tsavo. Nights may become cooler (10 – 15 °C) in certain areas but still remain warm enough for comfortable camping or lodge stays.
What makes Jan a Great Safari Month?
The reason we still recommend the January period to go on a safari is that it has the same weather as the peak safari season of July. During the dry season, you are more likely to spot wildlife such as the Big 5, wildebeest, and many more animals since most of them gather around water sources. All you need to do is follow game drive trails that lead you to popular watering holes or the nearby Mara River if you’re visiting the Mara.
For animals that like basking in the sun such as giraffes and even reptiles, you’ll also be able to spot them during the dry spell as they come out for long periods of time to warm up in the sun.
The best time to go on a beach safari is in January on the Kenyan coast – either the South Coast regions of Diani or the North Coast regions of Malindi and Watamu. You’ll have a much better chance of seeing turtles, rays, snappers, and other marine life if you go diving or snorkeling along the coast at this time. During this dry season, you won’t get the same large swells as during the wet season making it much easier to explore coral reefs, especially on the Watamu coast.
What wildlife can I expect to see in January?
Since January is the start of the dry season and animals are forced to congregate around water sources, you have a higher chance of seeing a lot more wildlife.
These include the Big 5, giraffes, cheetahs, wildebeest, zebras and a variety of birds.
Here is a full list of animals you can expect to view in January if you visit top safari destinations in Kenya;
– Big 5: Elephant, Lion, Rhino, Buffalo and Leopard
– A variety of bird species
You’ll also be able to spot some of Kenya’s lesser-known animals such as the ones on the list below;
- Grevy’s zebra
- Lesser kudu
- Jersey hartebeest.
Will the Wildebeest be migrating in January?
Wildebeest migrate all year round following the rain patterns and food availability. January marks the end of the wildebeest calving season when millions of baby wildebeests are born. Usually, you will still find some herds in Maasai Mara but more concentrated in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Read our guide with details on Wildebeest migration.
January is an excellent time to visit Kenya and see wildlife, including big cats and crocodiles, that are not present during the Great Migration.
What’s the Weather like in January?
The weather in January is sunny and dry with daytime temperatures ranging from 17 to 27 °C (63 – 80 °F). The nights become cooler, averaging 10 to 15 °C (50 – 59 °F) but are still warm enough for comfortable camping or lodge stays. Rainfall varies throughout the country and largely depends on the seasonality of the area. Generally speaking, central and western Kenya have little to no rain during this period while coastal regions may still experience some showers.
January will see a rise in temperature throughout the month, with brief rain showers primarily taking place during the afternoon hours. As per Kenya’s Meteorological Department’s data for the January 2022 period, there were showers at the beginning of the month, and was a bit colder but the temperatures rose as the month progressed.
Most of the Parks including Amboseli, Tsavo, Mara, and Naivasha will be generally dry and hot and you’ll need to dress very light and bring lots of sun protection and water with you. Expect the Mara to be generally hotter than other destinations.
Below is a snapshot of the historical temperatures that Nairobi experienced in January that I got from Weatherspark, a website with weather-related info.
The snapshot below shows more on temperatures in Nairobi;
January humidity is high on the Coast but generally low in all other areas.
7 Key Reasons to Visit Kenya on a Safari in January:
January is the dry season and mosquitoes are not as active during this period. However, I still recommend coming with a repellant as some destinations where you’ll be staying may be situated in places with water such as a dam where mosquitos breed.
Beautiful sunsets and starry skies:
Watching African sunsets from your lodge or camp can be a truly breathtaking experience. due to the dry season and lack of clouds, starry skies are also more visible during this time.
January is not peak season in Kenya so you won’t have to worry about overcrowding at parks or lodges. This means plenty of room for yourself and your safari companions!
Big 5 sightings:
January is an ideal time for Big 5 sightings as animals are forced to congregate around water sources, due to scarce vegetation. You have a higher chance of seeing elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards and
Higher chance of seeing wildlife:
Animals tend to congregate around water sources, making it easier for you to spot them in January.
The warm days, cool nights and lack of rain make January a great time for a safari in Kenya.
Ideal for outdoor activities:
The dry season makes it perfect for outdoor activities such as trekking, hiking, and camping.
Where go on Safari in January:
The Maasai Mara, Kenya’s most famous game reserve, is a great place to visit in January. It will be dry and hot so expect the wildlife to be concentrated around water sources like rivers and lakes. Newborns will also be seen as this is the calving season for wildebeests, zebras and gazelles.
Amboseli National Park:
The second most popular game reserve in Kenya, Amboseli will also be a great place to explore in January. The park is known for its large elephants population and stunning views of Mount Kilimanjaro. Besides mammals, there will also be plenty of birds to observe.
Tsavo West National Park:
If you’re looking for a more remote safari experience, Tsavo is the place to go. The park offers a variety of landscapes including Savannahs and grasslands – great for spotting wildlife.
Include your safari in January with a visit to the coast – perfect for some beach time and relaxation. The coastal region will be hot but with humidity levels quite low, making it very bearable.
What to bring and wear during my January Safari:
The consideration of the hot weather during this period, lightweight clothing is advised. Breathable fabrics such as cotton and linen are best. Sunhat, sunglasses, and sunscreen are also necessary to protect yourself from UV rays. Lightweight rain proof jackets can also be useful in case of unexpected showers.
Maasai Mara in January:
January is one of the warmest months, with day temperatures averaging 28C and night time dropping to a minimum of 12C. WildVoyager claims in his blog that birds migrate from Europe to the Mara in January and if you’re a birdwatcher, you’ll be very lucky to see all kinds of species.
The lack of rain, lower humidity levels and the concentration of animals around water sources make it perfect for spotting wildlife. You’ll also get to enjoy beautiful sunsets and starry skies. Be sure to pack lightweight clothing, sunglasses, sunscreen and a light rainproof jacket. Top Safari Packages to Pick in January:
Top Safari Packages to Pick in January:
For those who need further assistance on planning their safaris, here are some of the top packages:
- Kenya: A Classic Safari – 9 Day for about $4000 and covers Nairobi, Amboseli National Park, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Lake Naivasha, Lake Nakuru, Samburu National Park, Mount Kenya National Park
- 6 Days Kenya Budget Tours (with FREE NIGHT at Nairobi Hotel) from $550 covering Nairobi, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha, Amboseli National Park6 Days Kenya Budget joining safari for $1400 covering Nairobi, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha, Amboseli National Park
- THE GREAT KENYA ESCAPE SAFARI – 8 days for $3700 covering Nairobi, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha, Amboseli National Park
Can I go on a Camping Safari in January?
Yes, camping safaris are very popular in January due to the good weather conditions. For example, Tana Camping Safari offers a 3-day camping adventure for $350 per person, which includes game drives in the Amboseli National Park and Masai Mara National Reserve. You can also try camping in Amboseli, the Mara or in the Aberdares.
You can rent Kambu’s campervans or 4WD vehicles and go on a budget safari where you won’t have to worry about rain being an issue. If you need a driver, read about our guided safari vans for hire with pop-up roof.
‘Njaanuary’ phrase in Kenya in January:
An interesting fact about January and tipping in Kenya is the use of the word ‘njaanuary’. Kenyans regard January as ‘njaanuary’ which combines the Swahili word njaa and the month of January.. Njaa means hungry and is often used by drivers asking for a tip…they’d be like…”…now, you know we are in ‘njaanuary’ and would appreciate a tip.”
Our recommended daily tip for drivers is $10 per day so if you are on a safari for 5 days, you can expect to tip our drivers a total of $50.
Why book Kambu safari in January:
We strongly believe and encourage our clients to try a camping safari or at least combine glamping and camping experiences in your safari. With our self-drive campervans or 4WD safari vans, you can get the most cost-effective packages for your safari that allows you to be flexible in your accommodation. We also offer a wide range of customized safaris, camping tours and budget safaris in Kenya.
Our experienced team will assist you in planning every detail of your trip to ensure that you have an unforgettable experience during your dream January.
Wrapping it up:
In conclusion, January is an ideal time to go on a safari in Kenya. Birdwatchers will appreciate the birds migrating from Europe from November to April and the limited drinking water brings animals – including the Big 5 closer to ideal sighting spots.
With the warm weather and fewer spots of rain, you’ll get to enjoy beautiful sunsets and starry skies while spotting wildlife during your game drives. Be sure to bring lightweight clothing, sunglasses, sunscreen and a light rainproof jacket for unexpected showers. You can also find various safari packages or camping tours to choose from and make your dream safari come true.