When to go to South Africa
When to go to South Africa
Our Guide on When to Visit South Africa
South Africa is a large country with a wide variety of habitats and biodiversity. The northwest of the country borders Namibia and is a desert, which becomes semi-arid as you head south. The northern and eastern part of the country is dominated by savanna and grasslands. In the Western Cape, there is the rare fynbos vegetation, this is the only place in the world it exists. The diversity of the landscape is staggering, there are mountains, forest, rivers, lagoons, deserts, and wine lands. To understand the weather patterns is helpful to split the main destinations into two parts:
Northern South Africa: This includes The Kruger Park, Madikwe Game Reserves and Johannesburg
Southern South Africa: This includes Cape Town, The Garden Route and the Eastern Cape Game Reserves.
Cape Town and the Garden Route follow a more Mediterranean climate with long hot dry summers and cold rainy winters. The north and east of the country have dry warm winters and hot rainy summers.
South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere so the seasons are the reserve of Europe and the USA. To decide when the best time to go is, South Africa needs to be split into sections as the climate varies between regions. It can be tricky to balance the weather as the best time to go to Cape Town is not the best time in Kruger and vice versa. When you go also depends on what you would like to see and do, for example, whale watching peaks between June and November.
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Best time to go to South Africa
Weather patterns do vary, this is just a guide based on historical patterns and data.
December - February
This is the best time to visit the Western and Eastern Cape, this includes Cape Town, Hermanus, The Garden Route and the Eastern Cape Game Reserves. It is summer, with clear hot days and temperatures reaching 30c. A great time to visit the beach and enjoy the outdoor life the area is famous for.
In the North and East of the country it is the rainy season, expect heavy afternoon thunderstorms and high temperatures, 35c is normal. In the main safari parks, Kruger and Madikwe, the vegetation is thick and the animals are more dispersed making sighting harder. This is still a good time to go if you do not mind some rain! The baby animals are being born and it’s the best time of year for birdwatching.
March - May
This is a great time to head to the Eastern and Western Cape, the summer wind has reduced, and the peak season crowds have gone. The cooler weather is perfect to hike up Table Mountain or do one of the many hiking trails along the Garden Route. Temperatures are in the mid to low 20s and there is the odd rain shower as you head into winter.
Towards the end of Fall, the vegetation in Kruger and Madikwe has started to dry out and rain has mostly stopped. This time of year the game viewing can still be tough but it’s a much quieter time of year.
June – August
This is the peak season for the northern safari parks (Kruger and Madikwe), the reserves are dry so the animals are congregating around the permanent water supplies. The bush is sparse so it is much easier to spot the animals when you are out on a game drive. Temperatures peak at a comfortable 26c and there is almost no rain.
In the Western and Eastern Cape, the whales are starting to arrive and there is outstanding whale watching. During the winter months, this area does have rain and much cooler temperatures, around 20c. You still have plenty of lovely warm days where you can explore and the prices come right down in winter, there are some great special offers avalible.
September – November
The Western and Eastern Cape starts to warm up as they come out of winter, temperatures will climb to the mid-20s and the rainy days become less frequent.
Towards the end of spring, the Kruger and Madikwe Reserves start to come to life after the dry summer. The animals have a tendency to get very excited when the first rains come and you can watch the park transform and become green. The vegetation is not too thick yet so it does not impede your wildlife spotting.
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