Meru National Park is a lot less busy than some of Kenya’s more popular parks and has an unspoiled feel. All of the Big Five are present. Elephant and buffalo are very common, and there is an enclosed rhino sanctuary containing both black and white rhino. The park is extremely scenic with tall doum palms growing along the park’s many watercourses.
Meru is home to the Big Five. Elephants migrate through the park and big herds can sometimes be encountered. Big cats are more difficult to spot, but it isn’t rare to have a sighting all to you. Northern Kenya specials include beisa oryx, reticulated giraffe, and the odd-looking gerenuk. The rare Grevy’s zebra occurs alongside the more common Burchell’s zebra.
Meru offers good overall wildlife viewing and is home to the Big Five. Elephants are particularly common and relaxed. Big cat sightings are hit-and-miss. There is a chance of spotting a white rhino or black rhino in the drive-in rhino sanctuary, although the vegetation is extremely thick. Hippos and Nile crocodiles are common along the Tana River.
Most people will appreciate Meru National Park for its northern specials, which are animals that are specially adapted to arid conditions. The reticulated giraffe is distinguishable by its dramatic pattern. Grevy’s zebra occur alongside the smaller and more common Burchell’s zebra. This is one of few places to encounter the shy lesser kudu and the impressive-looking beisa oryx. Most odd of them all is the gerenuk with its elongated neck.
Meru can be visited throughout the year, but the best time is in the Dry season from June to September, when animals congregate around predictable water sources. Wildlife viewing is usually more difficult during the long rains (March to May) and short rains (October to November). At this time the grass tends to be very high, making spotting animals more difficult. Elephants migrate out of the park in the rainy season.
With more than 300 species recorded, Meru is an excellent birding destination. It has several northern Kenya specials, including the impressive Somali ostrich, Boran cisticola, and vulturine guineafowl. The noisy yellow-necked spurfowl is very common and the sought-after Hinde’s babbler can sometimes be spotted as well. The rivers running through the park offer the right habitat for Pel’s fishing owl, the elusive African finfoot, and the localized golden palm weaver as well as more common water birds.
Meru offers good bird watching throughout the year, but the best time is from November to April when the migrants from Europe and North Africa are present. This coincides with the breeding season when many species are nesting. Although good for birding, April tends to be very wet and is a less productive time for general wildlife viewing.
Meru can be visited throughout the year, but wildlife viewing is best in the Dry season from June to September. Wildlife watching is usually more difficult during the long rains (March to May), and the short rains (October to November). During this time the grass tends to be very high making spotting animals more difficult. Elephants migrate out of the park in the rainy season.
Meru has a hot, arid climate. Temperatures are fairly uniform throughout the year. Daytime temperatures are around 32°C/90°F, and at night temperatures fall to about 17°C/63°F. The Wet season from November to May is characterized by two periods of rain: the ‘short rains’ peak in November, and the ‘long rains’ peak in April.
Dry season –July to October
It is hot, sunny, and dry. It seldom rains and humidity is very low. The temperature peaks in October but the first rains break the heat and bring relief.
June, July, August & September – It is mostly sunny and there is no rain at all. Afternoons are hot with temperatures reaching 31°C/88°F, but evenings and early mornings are cooler with temperatures of around 16°C/61°F.
October – Temperatures increase and it gets extremely hot before the rain breaks the heat. Average afternoon temperatures are about 33°C/91°F, but it peaks a lot higher. When the rain finally comes, it is a huge relief after the long Dry season.
Wet season –November to May
The wet season is divided into three parts: the ‘short rains’ from November to December; the ‘long rains’ from March to May; and a dry period in between. Aside from April and November, rain figures aren’t very high.
November & December – The rain might start in October or November. November is usually the peak of the short rains. Temperatures tend to build up before the rain and drop immediately after. Average afternoon temperatures reach up to 32°C/90°F.
January & February – This is a dry spell in the wet season. These are the hottest months with an average temperature of 34°C/93°F.
March, April & May – These months see the long rains. April is by far the wettest month and roads can become impassable. The rain dwindles in May, but roads might be bad until late May. Afternoon temperatures are around 33°C/91°F.
Meru National Park is located 355km/220mi northeast of Nairobi and 60km/37mi east from Meru town. Many people visit Meru by 4×4 on an organized safari while visiting several other parks. However, there are daily scheduled flights from Nairobi to one of two airstrips inside the park. It is also possible to organize a private charter from any other park or Nanyuki. The distance from Samburu NP is about 150km/93mi and the driving time is about 2½ hours.
Transport links to Nairobi are very good as this is East Africa’s main transport hub. International flights arrive in Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), 15km/9mi southeast of Nairobi.
Most parks and reserves in Kenya, such as Meru, are safe in our opinion. It would be very rare to encounter crime in Meru or any developed park in the country. However, when visiting towns between parks in Kenya.
Several vaccinations need to be taken before coming to Kenya. Meru lies at low altitude and malaria is a real concern here, especially in the Wet season. All precautions should be taken seriously. Aside from taking antimalarials, the use of mosquito repellant (those containing DEET are most effective) and covering up in the evening is highly recommended, to minimize the risk of getting bitten.
Always be respectful of wildlife and safety precautions around wildlife viewing when on safari. Your guide is the best source of information, so listen carefully to their advice. Actual problems are extremely rare so there is no need for paranoia, but remember there is a potential danger, and wildlife encounters can be unpredictable.
Meru is particularly scenic. The Tana River on the southern boundary is the largest waterway in Kenya, and several small streams run through the park. Beautiful doum palms and baobab trees are silhouetted against the sky, and with the red soil, make a striking background for arid-adapted animals.
The levels of precipitation change dramatically over the course of a year. Most of the Dry season (June to October) sees very little rain. This change in October, when the rainfall edges up in advance of the Wet season (November to May), leading to a peak of wet weather in April. The opposite is true of temperatures at Meru, whose location near the equator ensures consistent daytime temperatures of around 32°C/90°F.