May is one of the wettest months of the year in Kenya (along with April). A large number of days receive precipitation, although it generally only occurs in the afternoons. The mornings are often sunny and dry. Temperatures are warm too, although considerably cooler than April. The capital city experiences average daytime highs of 70 to 78°F—hotter earlier in the month and cooler toward the end. The coastal temperatures around Mombasa and Malindi are even hotter, hitting daytime temperatures of about 84 to 91°F.
Crowds and Costs
Although the weather isn't ideal, Kenya can still be a great place to visit in May due to the lack of crowds. Because of the rain, many people avoid planning vacations this time of year and the result is fewer people in the parks and at the major tourist spots. If you take a safari, the group sizes will be much smaller—and you may even have the vehicle to yourself. The museums, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs will also be less packed.
Similarly, costs are better this time of year. Airfare tends to be cheaper in May and many hotels offer special low-season rates, some of which can be nearly half the high-season cost.
Where to Go
If you plan a trip to Kenya in May, Nairobi is one of the best destinations. Unlike the coast which is hot and muggy, the city is cooler this time of year and many of the top tourist attractions are indoors. That means that if you run into afternoon rains, you'll still have plenty to do. Plus, it's a time when bars and restaurants offer special deals on food and drinks in an effort to bring in low-season visitors.
Another option is to book a safari—just be aware that the conditions won't be optimal. Although you're still bound to see wildlife, it won't be as abundant as during other times of the year. Elephants, for example, won't be congregating as frequently by the water to splash around and cool off because the rain keeps their temperatures regulated. Not only that, the tall grass makes it harder to see big cats and other game animals. Mosquitos are also an issue this time of year and access to the roads becomes harder due to mud and wet soil.
The upshot, however, is that costs are significantly cheaper and you won't have as many people joining you. In fact, if you book a shared safari, you may find you're the only one on it. The rains usually arrive in the afternoons so it's best to plan morning tours this time of year. Places like Maasai Mara and Samburu National Reserve both make excellent choices. Just keep in mind that mornings are cold so you'll want to pack a jacket or warm sweater—and maybe even a hat and gloves.
Hell's Gate National Park and Mount Kenya National Park are also beautiful this time of year and there are fewer people here as well. However, these regions can sometimes be prone to flash flooding so if you opt to head to the more mountainous parks, make sure to go with a reputable tour company and keep an eye on the weather.
The beaches aren't ideal in May so it's best to skips destinations like Mombasa or Malindi, if possible. They will be too wet and rainy for popular attractions such as snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming, or sea kayaking.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
In Nairobi, check out famous attractions like the Nairobi National Museum, which is full of cultural history, or the Nairobi National Park where you can visit a fascinating black rhino sanctuary. The capital city is also known for its bustling markets, as well as world-class food and nightlife. Grab Indian biryani at AA Mithaiwalla or check out Tamarind's selection of savory Kenyan seafood. It's best to plan your days so that the outdoor activities occur in the mornings and the indoor attractions take place in the afternoons.
Outside of the city, places like Maasai Mara (or "The Mara," as locals call it), Hell's Gate National Park, and Mount Kenya National Park all make solid May destinations as well. Maasai Mara will be teeming with zebras, lions, cheetahs, elephants, giraffes, and other animals (although the famous wildebeest migration happens later in the year). Hell's Gate will offer bubbling geysers and towering, lava-cut volcanoes—and because it doesn't have predatory animals like lions or cheetahs, you don't need a vehicle. Book a biking or hiking tour and explore the beautiful scenery by foot or on two wheels.
In Mount Kenya National Park, join a tour to make the three-day hike up to the 17,057-foot summit of Mount Kenya. Or, if you're not feeling quite that adventurous, tour through other parts of the park where you can soak up the breathtaking views of the mountain.
Events in May
Labour Day: On May 1, Kenyans celebrate Labour Day (or International Worker's Day), along with other parts of the world. It's a public holiday during which most residents don't have to work and they instead use the day to rest, relax, or attend public events.
Eid al-Fitr: Following Ramadan, Muslims in Kenya participate in a grand feast to celebrate the end of the religious fasting period. The three-day event, which is called Eid Al Fitr, involves food, family, and festivities.
Traveling to Kenya in May? Check out this great itinerary
Ultimate Kenya: Mt. Kenya Trek & Maasai Mara Safari - 12 Days: This 12-day tour makes an excellent May trip because the itinerary forgoes the national parks that get too wet and rainy, taking you instead to parts of the country that are more ideal this time of year. You'll start out in Nairobi where you'll visit several tourist attractions before heading to Mount Kenya National Park for a three-day climb up the mountain. Once at the top, you'll have five more days to explore Lake Naivasha, Maji Moto Maasai Cultural Camp, and Maasai Mara.