Best time to visit South Africa

temperature & rainfall

The best time to visit South Africa really depends on your own interests – game is easier to spot in Kruger National Park during the dry winter months of Jul-Sep, when cooler temperatures also make hiking and cycling more pleasant. Just be sure to bring warm layers! Sun-seekers heading for the south coast should aim for summer – as should keen birders in the north. October and November draw photographers to the wildflower-carpeted Northern Cape, while super-sized-wildlife fans should visit from Jul-Dec, when whales can be seen near Hermanus.

When to visit South Africa

a 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 the Drakensberg Mountains and Kruger National Park but 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.

Best time to visit South Africa

Our recommendations

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:
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.

Festivals & events

Our cultural pick from the South African calendar

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.

Did you know about...?

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.
Photo credits: [klein karoo national arts festival: Satish Krishnamurthy]
Written by Vicki Brown
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