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When to visit South Africa ?

The best time to visit South Africa is spring is September and October, summer is November to February, autumn is March and April and winter is June through to August. As South Africa is such a vast country, the best time to go depends on what you want to see. Overall, South Africa has a fairly agreeable climate year-round with a good amount of sunshine and Austral seasons which run opposite to the northern hemisphere.

The timing of your trip might coincide with your interests because South Africa offers a wide range of activities. For those who enjoy flowers, spring, which lasts from September through October, is a wonderful time to travel to destinations like Namaqualand. The beautiful coastal regions welcome beachgoers during the summer, which lasts from November to February, and offers perfect weather for safaris in wildlife reserves. Autumn in March and April is ideal for individuals who like milder weather for outdoor activities like hiking and sightseeing because it brings nice temperatures. The best time to go on a safari in South Africa is during the winter, which lasts from June to August, when animals concentrate near waterholes. South Africa has something special to offer all year long, whether you're looking for bright vegetation, close experiences with wildlife, or beach leisure.

SAF St South Africa Kruger National Park Lion Shutterstock Thomas Retterath
St South Africa Kruger National Park Lion Shutterstock Matthieu Gallet

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The Best Time to Visit South Africa

  • JAN
  • FEB
  • MAR
  • APR
  • MAY
  • JUN
  • JUL
  • AUG
  • SEP
  • OCT
  • NOV
  • DEC

The peak of South Africa’s summer season, January brings hot humid temperatures and particularly heavy rainfall. These are usually torrential downpours in the afternoons but it is still possible to enjoy morning and evening safaris when the weather permits. Temperatures on the Indian Ocean side (east coast) are especially warm and the humidity may be uncomfortable for some, but swimming in the warm waters is pleasant year-round. Daytime temperatures usually average around 28-35°C and despite heavy rainfall, South African summer months do have sunny spells.

In January, wildlife will be more difficult to see through the thick, verdant bush. Most big cats will be best spotted during the cooler morning and evening drives as lions, leopards and cheetahs are likely to head into the cool shade of the bush during the daytime heat.

Warm evenings create the perfect ambience for sundowners and the clear skies at this time allows South African sunsets to portray amazing arrays of pinks and reds. Cape Town and Port Elizabeth will be pleasant during the summer months as although their temperatures are slightly cooler than Kruger, their rainfall averages are much lower. The streets of Cape Town come alive on the 2nd January for Kaapse Klopse, their Second New Year, with locals wearing bright outfits and singing traditional songs.

Northern, Central & East

This area, including the key wildlife destinations of Kruger National Park and Madikwe Game Reserve, experiences summer rainfall, with long, hot summers that are punctuated by short, sharp thunderstorms, with an average daily temperature of 28 – 35 . The rains ensure that the landscape is verdant allowing for sustenance for an abundance of wildlife. The northern interior of the country is generally the driest, with much of the landscape semi-arid desert. Those looking for a safari in Kruger and the surrounding game reserves, should consider planning a visit during the drier months from May to October, as the visibility is far better (particularly from August), with more predictable game movements as animals congregate at the water holes. The KwaZulu-Natal and Wild Coast regions enjoy more of a sub-tropical climate, with humid summers along the coast and more rain during these months than the winter months, which can be fine and warm in the daytime, with cooler evenings.

Cape Region & Garden Route

These winter rainfall areas are usually much greener in winter and less so in the summer months, and have a climate that is sometimes compared with the South of France, with summer months between October and April. The late summer months of February to April can be an ideal time to visit, when conditions are dry and less windy, whilst the winter months from May to September are usually the wetter months, with lower average temperatures. However, if you want to enjoy whale watching off the Cape coast, this is best between July and October.

Things to do in South Africa

Wildlife viewing in South Africa

If you want to see big cats travel in the drier season from May to October when there is less foliage for the cats to camouflage in

If you want to see southern right whales travel along the coast from Cape Town, Plettenberg and Hermanus from July to October

If you want to see the highly endangered wild dog, travel to Madikwe Game Reserve between April and September.

If you want to see the annual Sardine Run, one of the most impressive events in the world's oceans, head to South Africa's east coast mid-May to mid-July.

Shark Cage Diving

Brave a thrilling shark cage diving experience in Gansbaai to get up close with great white sharks.

Boulders Beach

Visit Boulders Beach near Cape Town to see a colony of African penguins up close and even swim with them.

Golden Gate Highlands National Park

Discover the distinctive sandstone cliffs and golden-hued landscapes of this park, which is popular for its hiking paths.

Kruger National Park Hot Air Balloon Safari

Experience a magical sunrise hot air balloon safari over Kruger National Park.

Drakensberg Mountains

Explore the stunning vistas, waterfalls, and prehistoric rock art of the Drakensberg Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, by hiking there.