Best time to visit South Africa

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When planning a trip to Africa, choosing the best time to visit South Africa and its surroundings is important. Guests should be aware of the differences in climate, availability, activities and pricing when choosing between the various months and seasons.

Best time to go to South Africa: Regions and months

South Africa is a beautiful country to visit, regardless of the season and popular with international visitors from far and wide.

Most tourists arriving into the country going on a South Africa safari won’t have to obtain a visa including citizens of the U.S, U.K, most EU citizens and Canada.

O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) near Johannesburg and Cape Town International (CPT) are two of the main entry points for visitors wondering how to get to South Africa to parks including Kruger National Park and Phinda Game Reserve.

The climate in South Africa ranges from desert and semi-desert in the northwest to subtropical on the eastern coast.

Rainfall generally occurs during summer (mid- to late September through April), although in the southwest around Cape Town, rainfall occurs in winter (April through early September).

The country experiences winter and summer at opposite times as Europe and North America.

Visitors should also be aware of the latest South African vaccine mandates, Covid-19 restrictions and South Africa visa requirements prior to booking their trip.

South Africa wildlife viewing

The best time to visit South Africa is from May to September, as the cooler winter months in the northern regions bring superb conditions for viewing big game.

It can be rainy from November to February, but this is the best time to travel for birding, and temperatures remain warm at 22°C to 33°C.

From May to September in the east of the country (where the main parks are located), visitors will experience its Dry season. Wildlife is easier to spot during the Dry season because vegetation thins, and animals gather around waterholes and rivers.

The ‘Kruger & Around’ sections below relate to the parks and reserves in Greater Kruger and in the KwaZulu-Natal Province.

Cape Town’s Dry and Wet seasons are opposite to those in Kruger. Therefore, the best time for visiting Cape Town and surrounds is during the dry summer months of November to March.

Weather and climate in South Africa

Seasons in South Africa

Understanding the best time to visit South Africa can be helpful when budgeting costs for the trip, planning the time of year to travel as well as knowing what the best things to see in South Africa are beyond safari wildlife tours.

Since South Africa is located at the south of the equator line, the seasons are opposite in as follows:

  • Spring: September, October and November.
  • Summer: December, January, February.
  • Autumn: March, April, May.
  • Winter: June, July, and August. In summer the temperature is approximately 30 Cº.

Although generalizing, South Africa’s weather is difficult, there are a few absolutes that apply throughout the country. Unlike Africa’s equatorial countries, where the year is split into rainy and dry seasons,

South Africa does have four seasons—summer, fall, winter, and spring, only they are flipped from the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere.

Summer lasts from December to February, and fall stretches about March through May before winter takes over from June to August, while spring brings blooms in many places during September and October.

For most of the country, the rains usually coincide with the summer months, although the Western Cape (including Cape Town) is an exception to this rule.

Temperatures in South Africa

The climate of South Africa is determined by South Africa’s situation between 22°C and 35°C, in the Southern Hemisphere’s subtropical zone, and its location between two oceans, Atlantic and the Indian.

In South Africa, the following climates can be found:

  • The cool and arid climate of the west coast (Namib desert).
  • The subtropical climate of the southern coast, with Mediterranean characteristics, that is, with a dry summer, in the westernmost part (Cape Town), while there is no dry season in the eastern part (see Durban).
  • The climate of the plateau, which covers most of the country, with dry, sunny winters, during which it can get cold at night, and hot summers, during which thunderstorms can break out.
    • The plateau is more arid in the western part, where there is a desert, than in the eastern part, where there are several cities including Johannesburg and Pretoria.

When to go to South Africa: Activities

The best time to visit South Africa is from May to September, as the cooler winter months in the northern regions bring superb conditions for viewing big game.

It can be rainy from November to February, but this is the best time to travel for birding, and temperatures remain warm at 22°C to 33°C.

However, South Africa is a year-round destination, with varying regional climates and wildlife opportunities.

The Cape has beautiful, hot, dry weather in its summer months (between November and February), with temperatures between 23°C and 26°C. The best time to visit the Cape for whale watching is between July and November.

Carrying a small amount of South African currency, the rand (ZAR) can be useful when paying for smaller ticket items.

Outdoor activities

South Africa has some of the most beautiful landscapes in Africa. It’s hard to explain what makes its landscapes and parks so inspiring and mesmerizing, but many would say that the country’s biggest asset is its wide-open spaces and incredible wildlife.

Abseiling Down Table Mountain

You probably know it as the famous flat topped mountain in the beautiful city of Cape Town with views for days but did you know you could abseil right off the edge?

With the Atlantic Ocean below you and breathtaking views of Robben Island and Camps Bay, this will be an experience you’ll remember for years to come.

It’s one of the best things to do in South Africa. The whole process only takes about an hour or so, leaving you with time to do a lot more exploring around the mountain.

Hike The Otter Trail

You need to be relatively fit for this adventure. The trail takes 5 days and 4 nights of camping under the stars to cover a distance of 28 miles.

The scenic beauty of this famous hiking trail is incredible medicine for body and soul. You will be left breathless by the fauna, flora, waterfalls and rock formations along the way.

The trail is unique as it boasts the best of both worlds – the magnificent forests and clear pools as well as the pristine South African coastline. You’ll almost certainly encounter wild Baboons too.

Explore The Cango Caves

These spectacular caves are situated at the foot of the Swartberg mountains, a quick 25 minute drive from the town of Oudshoorn in the Western Cape. There are two tours you can choose from, the “standard tour” and the “adventure tour”, we highly recommend the latter!

You will be climbing through narrow passages and crawling through small crevasses.

The highlight of the 30 minute adventure tour is passing through the famous “Devil’s Chimney”, measuring a tiny 45 cm… Sounds impossible but the average person can fit through fairly easily.

You will be amazed at the incredible rock formations, stalagmites and stalactites as well as the ancient bushman paintings.

Kayak With Hippos & Crocodiles In KwaZulu-Natal

Kayaking with hippos and crocodiles probably wasn’t high up on your list of what to do in South Africa.

The estuaries of St. Lucia in Northern KwaZulu-Natal are teaming with hippos and crocodiles.

These animals are of the most dangerous in Africa, if not the world. Although hippos look cute and round they are far from it… they are very aggressive creatures and are known to attack humans with little to no provocation (Eeek!)

Crocodiles, with their prehistoric looks, are genuinely scary, they are fast too! Aside from the terrifying animals you will encounter on your journey, the kayaking experience is truly beautiful.

Enjoy the few hours on the water taking in the views and experiencing the magnificent wildlife this part of South Africa has to offer.

Snorkel With Seahorses in Knysna

Swimming amongst these pint-sized creatures is a must-do if you are visiting the beautiful Garden Route of South Africa.

Situated on the banks of the famous Knysna lagoon lies a warm water estuary that is home to these enchanting little marine fish.

Trips are always done at high tide and your experienced guide will take you to the best spots to see the seahorses.

Be prepared to fall in love with these almost mythical looking creatures. With the head of a horse, the tail of a monkey and eyes like a chameleon, these upright swimming little guys really are a sight to behold.

FAQs

What is the best time to visit South Africa?

The best time to visit South Africa is from May to September, as the cooler winter months in the northern regions bring superb conditions for viewing big game.

What type of climate does South Africa have?

The climate in South Africa ranges from desert and semi-desert in the northwest to subtropical on the eastern coast. Rainfall generally occurs during summer although in the southwest around Cape Town, rainfall occurs in winter (April to early September).