South Africa is incredibly diverse, offering something for everyone from nature and wildlife lovers to adventurers, foodies and history enthusiasts. While it can be visited year-round, the best time to visit South Africa depends on your budget and the type of experience you’d like to enjoy.
The seasons here in the Southern Hemisphere are roughly the opposite of what you’ll find in the north. The summer months from December through March, while fall is April and May, winter is June, July and August, and spring, September through November. Cape Town and the Western Cape experience a mostly dry, hot summer and winter rain. While most of the rest of the country, including the Kruger National Park area, experience dry winters and summer thundershowers. It can rain in the lush Eastern Cape and the Garden Route anytime of the year.
The low season is generally the middle of winter in South Africa, June through August. While the sun is likely to be out much of the time, it can get somewhat chilly. Especially in the Winelands and Western Cape, with an average low temperature of 43 degrees Fahrenheit and a high of 62 degrees Fahrenheit. Other than Cape Town, the Garden Route and Easter Cape areas, there will be little to no rain as this is the heart of the dry season.
This is a great season for spotting game, and for whale watching along the southwest coast, particularly toward the end of the season. You won’t see as many other tourists during this period, and accommodation is typically cheaper too.
Shoulder season generally refers to the transitional months between summer and winter. Around May and September/October, when it’s not quite low season, but high season hasn’t quite hit either. Some lodges offer shoulder season rates that fall between the high and low seasons too. Weather can be a bit unpredictable, a mixed bag of sun, rain, warm and cool weather. Most of the time you can expect pleasant conditions, ideal for outdoor activities. Average daytime temperatures around 68 degrees Fahrenheit and nights dipping to the low 50s.
May is a wonderful time to come, with wildlife easier to spot as there will be less vegetation, while animals gather around rivers and waterholes. Most days are sunny, there will be few mosquitos, and the parks won’t be too crowded. If you visit in September, the beginning of the rainy season, you may see the landscapes turn green. The weather will still be rather pleasant, although it will be a bit cold in the Western Cape. With the start of spring, spotting animal babies is possible, and flowers start to blanket the land in the Northern Cape.
The high season in South Africa is between December and April, with December through March the busiest times in the parks and reserves. If you want to experience South Africa at its liveliest, this is the time to come. People from across the globe flocking to Cape Town and the national parks. It’s better to avoid Kruger National Park and the Drakensberg Mountains as it’s rainy and hot this time of year.
No matter where you go in South Africa during the high season, you’re likely to see a lot more tourists and experience some tropical storms, particular in the national park areas. With school holidays in December, it can be the busiest and most expensive month to visit. You’ll also need to book accommodation and tickets well in advance to avoid disappointment. Daytime temperatures average 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit in Cape Town during Africa’s summer. The average overnight temperatures around 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
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