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The Great Rift Valley Climate

The Great Rift Valley Climate

The Rift Valley proper runs from the northern shores of Lake Turkana to Lake Magadi, on the Kenyan-Tanzanian border. However, it falls into different climatic zones, its northern half and southern tip both decidedly arid (see South and eastern Kenya and Northern Kenya for climate details), its lower midsection ranging from temperate to semi arid.

This section, then, refers to the lakes of Naivasha, Elementaita, Nakuru, Bogoria and Baringo.

Largely semi-arid, Naivasha receives an average of 650mm of rain per year, with just April managing to break into the hundreds. At 1884m, it is reasonably elevated, and annual temperatures hover about the 17.2°C mark. Closer to the equator (than its sister lakes), Naivasha follows a bimodal rainfall pattern common to much of the country, with the long rains occurring in March to May and the short rains in October to December. During this time, while temporary water sources are well stocked, the wildlife is dispersed across the lake basin and difficult to spot. However, during the dry season, which runs from January to March and then May to September, the wildlife – giraffe, several species of gazelle and antelope, hyrax, zebra, small carnivores, including hyena, jackal and serval – concentrates about the lake, and around nearby Crater Lake.

The remainder of the section is slightly different in that it drops down to an altitude of about 1025m, and while Nakuru’s average annual temperature is also 17°C, both Bagoria and Baringo average out at around 25°C. More, the pattern precipitation changes: while still bimodal, it is only June that separates one set of rains from the other, making March through to September feel like one long wet season – much in keeping, therefore, with annual rainfall patterns found to the west, around Lake Victoria. In view of this, wildlife in these areas is dispersed between March and September, and much easier to spot from September through to March.