Best time to visit South Africa

South Africa’s immense size plus its array of landscapes, attractions and climates mean it can be visited year round.
The best time to visit South Africa is between July and December, although each season has its charm. May to September – the dry season – is the best time to visit South Africa for a safari, with cooler temperatures, thinning vegetation and wildlife clustering around waterholes. Summer sunseekers head for the south coast between December and March. October and November are the start of rainy season in South Africa, but draw photographers to the wildflower-carpeted Northern Cape, while July to December is the best time to see whales off the Western Cape.

When to visit South Africa, month by month guide

January and February offer contrasting fortunes depending on where you’re traveling in South Africa with maximum rain and heat in Kruger National Park, mild temperatures and regular thunderstorms in the Drakensburg Mountains and a much drier (and windier!) alternative on the Western Cape. March is pretty much the end of high season with a few migratory birds starting to return and thunderstorms in the northeast, around Kruger, generally confined to afternoon cloud bursts. April and May are the best months to visit South Africa in terms of temperatures and game viewing as well as ideal conditions for hiking in the Drakensberg. By June and July South Africa is well into the dry season in the north and east of the country although take your brolly if you’re heading for Cape Town as well as the Garden Route. August and September are still quite chilly on the Western Cape, especially at night, although wildlife watching is at a peak in the northern game reserves thanks to the lack of vegetation and little or no rain. Top tip: head to Hermanus for the start of whale watching festivities in September. October is the start of the rainy season outside of the Western Cape, although afternoon showers rarely bother a safari experience. Temperatures and rainfall continue to rise into November with more greenery making it harder to spot animals although birdwatchers and fans of wildflowers will find plenty to keep themselves occupied. December can be a hectic month with school vacations, crowded parks and ferocious heat; although you may still find some humpback whales heading along the coast from Hermanus.

Western Cape Weather Chart

 
MIN °C
MAX °C
RAIN (mm)
JAN
16
31
10
FEB
16
32
9
MAR
15
29
14
APR
13
26
34
MAY
11
22
53
JUN
8
18
75
JUL
8
18
69
AUG
8
19
60
SEP
9
21
35
OCT
11
25
18
NOV
13
27
19
DEC
15
29
12

Responsible Travel recommends

Rupert Calcott, from our supplier Exodus, is South African. He tells us about the best time to visit South Africa for wildlife viewing: "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."

Our active pick:

#moonlightmass
See Cape Town in a different light – literally! Each full moon, hundreds of cyclists meet at Green Point and ride around the city by moonlight. As well as being an unusual way to discover the city, the event aims to raise awareness of safety for cyclists.

Our top South Africa Vacation

South Africa & Mauritius holiday

South Africa & Mauritius vacation

Africa and the Indian Ocean. Cape Town, Safari and Mauritius

From £4250 16 days inc UK flights
Tailor made:
This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about South Africa or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Festivals & events

Sardine run

Sardines may not spring to mind when thinking of South African wildlife, but the annual sardine run is the marine equivalent of the Great Migration. 15km-long shoals swarm up the coast of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal from May to July, creating a feeding frenzy among sharks, dolphins, whales and birds. Watch it from a boat – or try scuba diving to get closer to the action.

The Klein Karoo National
Arts Festival

Afrikaans culture is often overlooked – but it’s experiencing a revival. The Klein Karoo National Arts Festival takes place each March-April in Oudtshoorn, and includes exhibitions, music, food stalls and Afrikaans theatre.
The festival also supports many local community projects.

Kaapse Klopse!

Cape Town bursts into colour each 2nd January when thousands of Cape Coloured minstrels take to the streets in troops, singing in choirs, playing instruments and wearing vivid satin suits. The Kaapse Klopse festival dates back to the mid 1800s.
Written by Vicki Brown
Photo credits: [Page banner: bikeriderlondon] [Intro: Werner Du plessis] [Rupert Calcott: flowcomm] [Sardine run: Lakshmi Sawitri] [The Klein Karoo National Arts Festival: clare.shep] [Kaapse Klopse!: Olga Ernst]