Geography of Kenya

The Geography of Kenya is diverse, varying amongst its 47 counties. Kenya has a coastline on the Indian Ocean, which contains swamps of East African mangroves. Inland are broad plains and numerous hills. Kenya borders South Sudan to the northwest, Uganda to the west, Somalia to the east, Tanzania to the south, and Ethiopia to the north.

Geography of Kenya
RegionEast Africa
Coordinates1°00′N 38°00′E
AreaRanked 48th
  Total580,367 km2 (224,081 sq mi)
Coastline536 km (333 mi)
Borders3,446 km (2,141 mi)
Highest pointMount Kenya
5,197 metres (17,051 ft)
Lowest pointIndian Ocean
0 metres (0 ft)
Longest riverTana River (Kenya) (wholly within Kenya)
800 km (500 mi)
Largest lakeLake Turkana
6,405 km2 (2,473 sq mi)
Exclusive economic zone116,942 km2 (45,152 sq mi)
A United Nations map of Kenya
Location of Kenya

Central and Western Kenya is characterised by the Kenyan Rift Valley and central Province home to the highest mountain, Mount Kenya and Mount Elgon on the border between Kenya and Uganda. The Kakamega Forest in western Kenya is a relic of an East African rainforest. Much bigger is Mau Forest, the largest forest complex in East Africa.




  • Total: 582,650.2 km2 (224,962.5 sq mi)
  • Land: 569,140 km2 (219,750 sq mi)
  • Water: 11,227 km2 (4,335 sq mi)

Land boundaries


  • 536 km (333 mi) along the Indian Ocean.

Maritime claims

  • Territorial sea: 12 nmi (22.2 km; 13.8 mi)
  • Exclusive economic zone: 116,942 km2 (45,152 sq mi) and 200 nmi (370.4 km; 230.2 mi)
  • Continental shelf: 200 m depth or to the depth of exploitation


Much of the western two-thirds of the country consists of the PliocenePleistocene volcanics deposited on Precambrian basement rocks.[2] The southeast corner of the country is underlain by sediments of the Karoo System of Permian to Late Triassic age and a strip of Jurassic age sediments along the coast in the Mombasa area.[2] The Anza trough is a NW–SE trending Jurassic rift extending from the Indian Ocean coast to the Sudan northwest of Lake Turkana. The Anza Rift resulted from the break–up of Gondwana.[2][3]


Köppen climate classification map of Kenya

The climate of Kenya varies by location, from mostly cool every day, to always warm/hot.[4][5][6] The climate along the coast is tropical. This means rainfall and temperatures are higher throughout the year. At the coastal cities, Mombasa, Lamu and Malindi, the air changes from cool to hot, almost every day. (See chart below).[6]

The further inside Kenya, the more arid the climate becomes. An arid climate is nearly devoid of rainfall, and temperature swings widely according to the general time of the day/night. For many areas of Kenya, the daytime temperature rises about 12 °C (corresponding to a rise of about 22 °F), almost every day.[4][5][6]

Transportation problems during the rainy season (March 2020)

Elevation is the major factor in temperature levels, with the higher areas, on average, as 11 °C (20 °F) cooler, day or night.[4][5][6] The many cities over a kilometre in elevation have temperature swings from roughly 10–26 °C (50–79 °F). Nairobi, at 1,798 m (5,899 ft), ranges from 9–27 °C (49–80 °F),[4] and Kitale, at 1,825 m (5,988 ft), ranges from 11–28 °C (51–82 °F).[5] At night, heavy clothes or blankets are needed, in the highlands, when the temperature drops to about 10–12 °C (50–54 °F) every night.

At lower altitudes, the increased temperature is like day and night, literally: like starting the morning at the highland daytime high, and then adding the heat of the day, again. Hence, the overnight low temperatures near sea level are nearly the same as the high temperatures of the elevated Kenyan highlands. However, locations along the Indian Ocean have more moderate temperatures, as a few degrees cooler in the daytime, such as at Mombasa (see chart below).

There are slight seasonal variations in temperature, of 4 °C or 7.2 °F,[4][5][6] cooler in the winter months. Although Kenya is centred at the equator, it shares the seasons of the Southern Hemisphere: with the warmest summer months in December–March and the coolest winter months in June–August, again with differences in temperature varying by location within the country.[4][5][6]

On the high mountains, such as Mount Kenya, Mount Elgon and Kilimanjaro, the weather can become bitterly cold for most of the year. Some snowfall occurs on the highest mountains.

Climate data for Mombasa (at Indian Ocean)[6]
NOAA CodeStatisticJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecAvg
Average F
High value F
Low value F
in inches[6]
Average C
High value C
Low value C
in mm[6]
Maximum %
Minimum %

Climate change

Tea pickers in Kenya's Mount Kenya region, for the Two Degrees Up project, to look at the impact of climate change on agriculture.

Climate change is posing an increasing threat to global socio-[7]economic development and environmental sustainability. Developing countries with low adaptive capacity and high vulnerability to the phenomenon are disproportionately affected. Climate change in Kenya is increasingly impacting the lives of Kenya's citizens and the environment.[7] Climate Change has led to more frequent extreme weather events like droughts which last longer than usual, irregular and unpredictable rainfall, flooding and increasing temperatures.

The effects of these climatic changes have made already existing challenges with water security, food security and economic growth even more difficult. Harvests and agricultural production which account for about 33%[8] of total Gross Domestic Product (GDP)[9] are also at risk. The increased temperatures, rainfall variability in arid and semi-arid areas, and strong winds associated with tropical cyclones have combined to create favorable conditions for the breeding and migration of pests.[10] An increase in temperature of up to 2.5 °C by 2050 is predicted to increase the frequency of extreme events such as floods and droughts.[7]

Hot and dry conditions in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) make droughts or flooding brought on by extreme weather changes even more dangerous. Coastal communities are already experiencing sea level rise and associated challenges such as saltwater intrusion.[7] Lake Victoria, Lake Turkana and other lakes have significantly increased in size between 2010 and 2020[11] flooding lakeside communities.[12] All these factors impact at-risk populations like marginalized communities, women and the youth.[9]

The annual fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions, in million metric tons of carbon, for a variety of non-overlapping regions covering the Earth.


The topography of Kenya.

Kenya's terrain is composed of low plains that rise into central highlands that are, in turn, bisected by the Great Rift Valley. There is also a fertile plateau in the west of the country.

Elevation extremes

The lowest point on Kenya is at sea level on the Indian Ocean. The highest point on Kenya is 5,197 meters above sea level at Mount Kenya.


The notable rivers in Kenya are the Athi-Galana-Sabaki River, which at a total length of about 390 kilometers while draining an area of about 70,000 square kilometers, is the second longest river in the country, the Tana River, the longest river in the country at a total length of just over 1000 kilometers, covering a catchment area of over 100,000 square kilometers, and the Nzoia River, which is a 257-kilometre-long (160 mi) river, rising from Mount Elgon, which flows so

Natural resources

Natural resources that are found in Kenya include: limestone, soda ash, salt, gemstones, fluorite, zinc, diatomite, oil, gas, gold, gypsum, wildlife and hydropower.

Land use

9.8% of the land is arable; permanent crops occupy 0.9% of the land, permanent pasture occupies 37.4% of the land; forest occupies 6.1% of the land. Other uses make up the rest of Kenya's land. This is as of 2011.

1,032 km2 of Kenyan land was irrigated in 2003.

Total renewable water resources

30.7 km3 (2011)

Freshwater withdrawal

  • Total: 2.74 km3/yr (17%/4%/79%)
  • Per capita: 72.96 m3/yr (2003)

Natural hazards

Natural hazards include recurring drought and flooding during the rainy seasons.

There is limited volcanic activity in the country. Barrier Volcano (elev. 1,032 m) last erupted in 1921. Several others have been historically active (see List of volcanoes in Kenya).

Current issues

Current issues that threaten the environment at the moment include water pollution from urban and industrial wastes; degradation of water quality from the increased use of pesticides and fertilisers; deforestation; water hyacinth infestation in Lake Victoria; soil erosion; desertification; and poaching.

International agreements

Extreme points

This is a list of the extreme points of Kenya, the points that are further north, south, east or west than any other location.

  • Northernmost point – Kalukwakerith Mountain, Turkana County
  • Easternmost point – the tripoint with Ethiopia and Somalia, Mandera County
  • Southernmost point – the point where the border with Tanzania enters the Indian Ocean, Kwale County
  • Westernmost point – unnamed land west of Port Victoria, Busia County
    • Note: Kalukwakerith Mountain is in the disputed Ilemi Triangle region. If this area is excluded then Kenya does not have a northernmost point, the northern border being a straight line.

See also

  • Environmental issues in Kenya
  • List of national parks of Kenya
  • Ilemi Triangle
  • Mandera triangle


  1. – The World Factbook Kenya
  2. Petroleum Potential of NW-Kenya Rift Basins: A Synopsis of Evidence and Issues
  3. L C Greene; D R Richards; R A Johnson (1991). "Crustal structure and tectonic evolution of the Anza rift, northern Kenya". Tectonophysics. 197 (2–4): 203–211. doi:10.1016/0040-1951(91)90041-P. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  4. "NairobiDagoretti, Kenya: Climate, Global Warming, and Daylight Charts and Data",, 2008, web: CC741 Archived 29 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine: compare Nairobi/Dagoretti data with or Mombasa charts.
  5. "Kitale, Kenya: Climate, Global Warming, and Daylight Charts and Data",, 2008, web: CC661 Archived 29 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. "Mombasa, Kenya: Climate, Global Warming, and Daylight Charts and Data",, 2008, web: CC820 Archived 1 November 2014 at the Wayback Machine: May precipitation was reset as "246" mm, converting 9.7 in.
  7. "Climate Change Profile: Kenya – Kenya". ReliefWeb. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  8. "Agricultural Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy" (PDF). Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and Fisheries. 2019. p. 20. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 December 2020. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  9. Climate Change in Kenya focus on Children (PDF) (Report). UNICEF.
  10. Salih, Abubakr A. M.; Baraibar, Marta; Mwangi, Kenneth Kemucie; Artan, Guleid (July 2020). "Climate change and locust outbreak in East Africa". Nature Climate Change. 10 (7): 584–585. Bibcode:2020NatCC..10..584S. doi:10.1038/s41558-020-0835-8. ISSN 1758-678X. S2CID 220290864.
  11. Tobiko, Keriako (2021). "Rising Water Levels in Kenya's Rift Valley Lakes, Turkwel Gorge Dam and Lake Victoria" (PDF). Kenya Government and UNDP. Retrieved 16 March 2022.
  12. Baraka, Carey (17 March 2022). "A drowning world: Kenya's quiet slide underwater". the Guardian. Retrieved 17 March 2022.
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