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Best Time to Visit the Kruger National Park

One of the most popular national parks in Africa, the Kruger is inhabited by the “Big Five”. Lion, leopard, elephant, Cape buffalo and a quarter of the world’s population of wild rhinoceros. It also hosts a wealth of other animals, like hippos, giraffes, crocodiles, and colourful birds, including parrots and hornbills. In fact, this park boasts the greatest variety of wildlife on the entire continent. With 145 different mammal species alone, as well as being one of the most well-managed and well-organized.

Anyone planning a trip to South Africa should put Kruger National Park on their itinerary, but for many, it’s the prime reason to go. The biggest question is likely to be, “When is the best time to visit?”

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Kruger National Park can be visited throughout the year, but the best season to go really depends on what you hope to see. There is no true “low season” here, although it tends to be busiest when South African schools are out for breaks and holidays. That includes a two-week break in March/April, three weeks in June/July, one-week in September/October. A longer break that falls in the Southern Hemisphere’s summer of around five to six weeks in December/January. Accommodation is often sold out months in advance during these periods, so you’ll want to book early if you plan to visit then.

The dry season runs from May through September, with June and July relatively cool, while August and September are often scorching hot and humid. The wet season starts in November and concludes in March, with April an autumn transition month, while late September through early November fall in the spring.

For optimal wildlife watching, you’ll want to visit the Kruger during the dry season. Vegetation will be sparse, and the animals gather around the waterholes to drink. October is a transitional month between the dry and wet seasons. As the park will be the driest it gets all year, it’s also a good time to see the wildlife. Once the wet season is in full swing and rains have arrived, vegetation comes to life quickly, with the landscape turning green, allowing animals to hide easily, making them hard to spot. However, visiting the park in November and December brings the best chance to see new-born animals. Something else to consider is that there is a greater risk of malaria during the wet season, which is why precautions like antimalarial medications are recommended.

What to Expect in Every Season

As it is possible to visit the Kruger throughout the year, we’ve provided details of what you can expect in every season to make it easier to decide when to go.

Keep in mind that the dry season is May through September, and the rainy season is October through April, although October is more of a transitional month between the two.

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January to March (summer)

These are the drier months of the rainy season although there will still be some heavy rainfall, with January and February receiving the most. It’s extremely hot and humid now, although as the calendar moves into March, the rain begins to taper off. The park will still be lush, green and filled with vegetation, so this isn’t the best time for game spotting. As the migratory birds are arriving now, it is ideal for birdwatchers.

April (autumn)

Autumn is a transition month, with temperatures starting to cool and rainfall noticeably decreasing. While there are likely to be some rainy days, the vegetation starts to transform from green to brown. It isn’t the optimal time to see the animals, but the odds increase over the rainier months that preceded.

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May to June (autumn transitioning into winter)

Conditions have significantly improved by May when it comes to wildlife watching as the vegetation will be sparser and there will be much less rainfall. By June, things are transitioning to winter, bringing the start of the dry season.

July to September (winter)

With little rain now for some time, the vegetation will be at its thinnest of the year. The park is at its driest by September or early October. As water is scarce, the animals will be heading to the waterholes, making them easier to spot. This is one of the best times of the year to visit the Kruger for wildlife viewing. Visitors also enjoy a much lower risk of contracting malaria now.

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October (spring)

The weather and animal spotting conditions are unpredictable in October. The month typically starts out dry, and then rainfall returns, along with the vegetation.

November and December (summer)

The rainy season is at its peak now, with the park lush and green and malaria-carrying mosquitos flittering about. Many animals will be giving birth, so while it can be challenging to spot wildlife now, you may see some new-borns.

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