Best time to go on a South Africa wildlife vacation


Click on a location: Kruger NP | KwaZulu-Natal | Hermanus
There is no set in stone best time see wildlife in South Africa, because animals will always keep us guessing. And as South Africa is so big, and has such an array of habitats, there is always something astounding to see all year round. In short, however, wildlife is prolific in Kruger National Park during the dry months of July and September, while whales are dancing and prancing between July and December. April and May are just perfect for wildlife watching in less searing temperatures. Read more details in our month by month guide below.

Best time to go on a South Africa wildlife vacation

Month by month guide

  • It is a big country, and so you will get dry and windy on the Western Cape in January and February, but Kruger will be hot and humid as late as March.
  • Wildlife is at its peak in the northern game reserves during August and September due to little rain, so the animals come out in search of waterholes. But it is really hot for us humans. April and May are the best months in terms of temperatures.
  • October is the start of the rainy season outside of the Western Cape, although afternoon showers rarely bother a safari experience.
  • Wildflowers abound in August and September, and you can go on wildlife vacations that take in hiking through its most flower fecund regions.
  • Wildlife viewing is tougher in November due to increased foliage everywhere, but it is a great time for birding.
  • Not as well known as some wildlife migrations, the sardine run is one of the world’s most spectacular marine migrations, taking place June and July along the coast of KwaZulu-Natal, with shoals that spread out for up to 7km. And where there are sardines, there are dolphins, sharks and many more.
  • The best birding time in Kruger National Park is between October and March when all the migratory birds are there and the species list tops 500.
  • If you are volunteering with vervet monkeys in Kwa Zulu Natal region, many people want to be there when the primates are released back into the wild. These releases start happening from September and continue through the summer months.
  • Late November and December is the best time to watch turtles nesting in KwaZulu Natal, with hatchlings emerging February to March.
  • The best time for whale watching in Hermanus is June to November. Southern right whales migrate from the Antarctic around June to mate, with calving taking place in August and September and more mating going on in October and November. The Whale Festival takes place here end September.
  • The Boulders Beach penguins in Simon’s Town, close to Cape Town, are here year round, although mostly at sea during September and October feeding months. January is gorgeous though, when all the babies come out to play.

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Debby Oscroft from our South Africa wildlife vacations supplier, Sunway Safaris, on her best time to go on a wildlife vacation in South Africa: “There is a tremendous variety of wildlife to choose from, and so many seasons that are lovely, but if I had to pick just one... Spring, when the babies are all peeking out of bushes for the first time, or seeing a hyena mum and her pups playing are wonderful experiences. It is a new season and there is such an atmosphere of ‘exciting possibilities’ as a photographer, which make this season really special. As someone who loves to capture the essence of Africa on camera, each season is unique and special. I am personally fascinated by the big cats – especially leopard and they are really elusive, and spotted when you least expect it and not particularly in any season. This makes every venture into the bush exciting for me.”
Rupert Calcott, from our supplier Exodus, tells us about the best time to go on a wildlife vacation in his native South Africa: “The colder months of July through to September are our winter, but that’s a fantastic time to come out and do the game viewing. As the country gets drier there are fewer leaves on the trees and less grass available so the animals are concentrated at waterholes. There’s greater visibility; it’s a really good time for wildlife. April to June are also wonderful because it’s not too hot and there’s less chance of rain, but we get fewer travelers.”
Photo credits: [Debby Oscroft quote: Steve Jurvetson]
Written by Catherine Mack
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