When new campers complain to us, one of the tips we share is to try camping in April when it rains heavily and continuously. December is also a month that experiences short, frequent showers; however, this doesn’t stop avid campers from going on safaris during the low season.
In this post, I’ll tell you all about ‘Safariing’ in December.
Our December visits to the Mara
When we go home from Christmas located close to Mara, we try fitting a quick safari trip to the Conservancy located just 100 kilometers from Bomet where our parents live. Maasai region and most of the locations where you can go on Safaris in Kenya are generally dry and do not really experience excessive rains during these short rains in Nov and Dec.
With global warming and more extended droughts, the Mara was super dry this past week when we left, and strongly encourage people to take advantage of excellent viewing because of less crowds.
Reasons to go on a Safari in December:
- Birdwatching/Bird migration:December is one of the best times to go bird-watching in Kenya. Many migratory birds can be seen at this time due to the good weather and clear skies. The Mara has some of the most beautiful species of birds, including sunbirds, kingfishers, herons, and crowned cranes.
- Get away from Cold Winter: It’s a chance to escape the cold winter weather, and enjoy some sunny days in Africa. In December, temperatures in the Mara and in most of the circuits we visit during our safaris are around 25°C during the day, and 18°C in the night. For Americans who use Fahrenheit, that means 77°F during the day and 64°F at night.
- Experience Wildlife Migration: December is one of the best months to observe migrating animals in their natural habitat because they are likely to come down from the northern parts of Maasai Mara looking for food. The big cats, elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, and gazelles are more likely to be seen during this time.
- Avoid Crowds: December is definitely low season for tourism in Kenya, which means that you’ll avoid the crowds and enjoy more of a private safari experience. This also translates into better deals at lodges, camps, and other tourist activities since there are fewer people.
- Enjoy Affordable Rates: Camps and lodges in the Mara offer competitive rates during this period and you can save up to 30% compared to high season prices. Some lodges and camps even offer complimentary extras if you book during the low season.
- Get a Chance to Spot Big Cats: This is your chance to spot the big cats at their best. December is one of the peak months for cat sightings in Maasai Mara, and you’ll be able to observe them when they are the most active.
- Experience Authentic Culture: During our safaris in December, our celebration mood gets us celebrating the Maasai culture which is baffling to my wife who is American. Some safari-goers even visit local schools and help with donations, which is a great way to give back to the community.
- Visit the Beach: We often include a beach day in our safaris, and December is a great time to visit. The ocean is usually clear during this period, making it perfect for swimming and snorkeling. With less crowds, there may be more beach boys though so you need to keep that in mind.
How much will December Safari cost me?
For an average safari booking, expect to pay $250 to $450 per night and you get a van with a pop-up roof, a driver and a place to stay (lodge). Some high-end luxury packages can go as high as $1000 for a single night.
You can also rent our non-converted vans or converted campervans to reduce the cost of your Safari. You can use a regular car (like a taxi) to get to the Park then rent a $100/day safari van with a pop-up roof.
If you’re looking to go on a safari and looking for cheaper packages, we offer discounts for families, groups, and those who are on educational or conservation missions.
The cost of your December safari will depend on the type of lodging you choose and how many activities you take part in. It’s possible to do a budget-friendly safari if you stay in camps or lodges with competitive rates and skip out on luxuries such as massage services or helicopter rides.
What are some December and January Safari Packages:
We offer several safari packages depending on your budget, the amenities you want and the activities you’d like to do. Here are some of our most popular packages:
• The Classic Safari Package – This package includes two nights in a lodge or tented camp inside the Park, game drives, bush walks and complimentary meals and amenities.
• The Luxury Safari Package – This package includes luxury accommodation, guided game drives, helicopter rides and private bush meals for up to four people.
• The Family Safari Package – This package is best suited for families with children and includes family-friendly activities such as biking trails and educational workshops about wildlife conservation.
• The Honeymoon Safari Package – This package includes romantic accommodation, private game drives, candlelight bush dinners and relaxing spa treatments.
How to plan a Safari in Kenya in December:
- Read about Kenya Safari locations and all the circuits including parks and reserves that offer safaris. Decide on a destination, duration of stay, type of accommodation and activities you’d like to do.
- If you need to talk to a travel agent, look for one with a specialty in top-ratings on Tripadvisor. Book one that is licensed to operate in Kenya by the Kenya Tourism Board.
- Decide on accommodation and transport: You can opt for the self-drive option as Americans can drive in Kenya for 3 months using an American driving license. You can independently rent the van and ask the tour operator to find you accommodation deals. Check with the tour operator if they are offering any discounts in December and January.
- Get your visa: Americans and most Europeans can get tourist visa on arrival but it helps if you fill out the details online beforehand. Also, get to understand basic expectations of what your visa allows you to do while on your safari.
- Pack your bags by including appropriate clothing, equipment, tools, supplies and documents needed for the journey.
- Book your flights early as possible to get the best rates or use our flight search tools such as Airportllc.com
Why some people advise against December Safaris:
- Long grass: I read on some sites that the rain n December makes wildlife viewing a little more challenging this month. This is somewhat true, especially for big cats such as Cheetahs that like to lie down on the grass. You can however get or rent binoculars if that would help.
- Fewer people to interact with: December is usually a low season month as people want to spend the festive season with their families. As such, some travel operators may not run safaris and this means you will miss out on group interactions
- Holidays: You’ll miss out on your family’s gatherings or celebrations.
- Bad roads: With the rain, comes bad roads which may make travel slower and more difficult. Some sections of the reserve may not be accessible as they are muddy or flooded. It is important to note here that all our vans are 4-wheel drive and most safari vans you’ll find will easily be able to traverse any terrain.
- Migration: You may miss out on the wildebeest migration which is a yearly event occurring between July and October.
What’s the temperature like in Kenya in December?
The temperature in Kenya during December is generally mild and pleasant. The average daily temperatures range from 25°C (77°F) during the day to 18°C (64°F) at night.
Does it rain a lot in Kenya in December?
Yes, there are short and frequent showers in Kenya during this time of year. However, the Mara which is where we do most of our safaris in December rarely experiences long and heavy rains.
Are there many tourists during this period?
No, December is low season for tourism in Kenya so you’ll avoid large crowds and have more private safari experience. You can also take advantage of competitive rates from lodges and camps during this period.
Are there any special deals in December?
Yes, many lodges and camps offer discounts of up to 30% compared to high season prices. Some even offer complimentary extras if you book during low season.
What animals can I expect to see on a safari in December?
During your safari in December, you can expect to see a variety of wildlife including big cats like lions, cheetahs and leopards, as well as elephants, giraffes, buffaloes and gazelles. As the months gets colder in the northern parts of Maasai Mara many animals migrate south so there is an abundance of them during this period.
Does Kenya experience winter?
No, it does not. Kenya is located in the tropics and its climate is generally hot and humid all year round, although temperatures can drop slightly during December and January.
Can I camp during my December Safari?
Yes, you can camp during your safari in December. While temperatures may drop, they won’t go below 18°C (64°F) so make sure you bring suitable clothing and camping gear for colder weather. The rains may saturate the ground, making it difficult to pitch a tent. You might be better off finding a location with decking.
In conclusion, while the December season has some of its cons, there are still plenty of advantages that you should consider such as less competition in getting accommodation and transport