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June Blog - Packing Lists and Climate of East Africa

Thoughtful packing is key to navigating East Africa’s diverse climate and activities. Our guide offers insights into East Africa’s weather patterns and essential packing tips, as well as valuable Africa travel advice, ensuring a well-prepared, comfortable, and enjoyable East African travel experience.

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East African Climates

Temperatures in East Africa are generally warm to hot throughout the year, but they can vary significantly depending on altitude. Coastal areas, such as those in Kenya and Tanzania, experience tropical climates with high temperatures and humidity, with average temperatures here ranging from 25°C to 30°C (77°F to 86°F).

Inland areas, particularly the arid regions of northern Kenya experience hot, dry conditions year-round with occasional dust storms caused by the Harmattan winds. These areas have less variation in temperature but experience extreme heat, often rising above 35°C (95°F) during the hottest months.
Seasonal Variations

It’s important to remember that East Africa’s seasons are defined more by rainfall than temperature, with two main rainy seasons and two dry seasons. The primary rainy season, known as the long rains, occurs from March to May, seeing heavy and sporadic rainfall. The short rains, which occur from October to December, are considered the secondary rainy season with lighter, less consistent rainfall and are usually followed by a dry period. The dry seasons run from January to February and June to September. East Africa experiences minimal rainfall during these periods, causing them to become the peak tourist seasons, bringing favourable weather for wildlife viewing and outdoor activities.
When deciding what to pack when visiting East Africa, it’s essential to consider the season, with certain times of the year requiring lighter or heavier packing.

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Packing List

When preparing for a trip to East Africa, packing lists should cater to the region’s varying climates and landscapes. Packing lists should begin with lightweight, breathable clothing suitable for the warm temperatures in coastal and lowland areas, packing items like lightweight trousers, shorts, t-shirts, and comfortable walking shoes or sandals for everyday wear. Since temperatures can vary depending on altitude, layering options such as a light jacket or jumper will prove useful for cooler evenings or for those visiting higher elevations like the Kenyan Rift Valley.

For safaris and wildlife viewing in places like Tanzania and Kenya, neutral-coloured clothing such as khakis, browns and greens are advisable to blend in with the natural surroundings and avoid startling wildlife. Long-sleeved shirts and trousers can also be useful in providing protection from insects, especially during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes and other biting insects are most active.

Given the region’s tropical climate, sun protection is essential. Clothing such as a wide-brimmed hat or cap, sunglasses with UV protection and a high SPF sunscreen will help shield travellers from the strong equatorial sun. A lightweight scarf or shawl can also aid with sun protection as well as providing a solution to the need to cover shoulders when visiting religious sites or communities that appreciate modest dress. Respectful attire is appreciated in many East African countries, so it’s wise to include a modest outfit or two for certain excursions during the trip. It may also prove useful to pack travel guides or phrasebooks to help navigate local customs and languages.

In terms of footwear, aside from comfortable walking shoes or sandals, include sturdy closed-toe shoes for any hiking or exploration among rocky terrain. Strong hiking boots with ankle support are recommended for more rugged activities such as trekking or long hikes.

For inland trips to drier regions like northern Kenya, where temperatures can soar during the day and drop significantly at night, make sure to pack lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing to stay cool and comfortable during the day and include warmer layers for the cooler evenings. A lightweight jacket or fleece can come in handy when temperatures drop unexpectedly or when visiting higher altitude areas.

When it comes to accessories and gear, a comfortable daypack is vital for carrying essentials like water bottles and snacks, or even a camera and binoculars for wildlife viewing.

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Travellers should be sure to pack insect repellent and a basic first aid kit with essentials like antiseptic wipes, bandages, and any personal medications.

Make sure to remember the impact travel and tourism can have on the region. Eco-friendly products such as reusable water bottles and bags reduce plastic waste or using reef-safe sunscreen can protect marine life when swimming in coastal areas.

For those taking part in a safari, respect wildlife by observing from a distance and adhere to park regulations during safaris. By adopting these practices, travellers can contribute positively to the preservation of East Africa’s natural beauty and biodiversity for future generations.

And lastly, remember the travel essentials. This includes a valid passport with necessary visas, travel insurance details, a printed copy of an itinerary and a reliable mobile phone equipped with a local SIM card for communication and navigation. Additions like a portable charger to keep devices powered throughout the trip, as well as a secure money belt or pouch to safely carry cash, credit cards, and any important documents are also advised.

By packing thoughtfully with these considerations in mind, any traveller will be well-prepared to enjoy a memorable and hassle-free East African adventure.

For more information or advice about East Africa travel, get in touch with our expert team today.

Applications for Electronic Travel Authorisation in Kenya can be made here.
Applications for visas to enter Tanzania can be made here.