When to travel to South Africa
When to travel to South Africa
The seasons in South Africa run opposite to the northern hemisphere and a white Christmas is therefore out of the question!
Choosing the best time to travel can be a bit of a dichotomy, in that the best time to go on safari is not the best time to visit the Cape and Garden Route. We like to promote our spring and autumn as a good time to visit South Africa as one can generally enjoy great weather in Cape Town and the Garden Route, and also enjoy excellent game-viewing.
Spring – September & October
Summer – November to February
Autumn – March & April
Winter – May – August
South Africa can be divided into summer rainfall areas and winter rainfall areas. The Western Cape (Cape Town) and Garden Route areas have winter rainfall and dry summers. The northern, central and eastern parts of the country (which include areas of interest such as Kruger National Park, Johannesburg, KwaZulu- Natal, Madikwe Game Reserve and Northern Cape) have a summer rainfall, and cool, dry winters.
In the summer rainfall areas, the rain comes predominantly in the form of thunder showers or downpours, which are generally of short duration with a few exceptions here and there. The maximum average daily temperature varies between 82 – 95 degrees Fahrenheit, depending where in this region you are. As a result of the summer rains and associated warm & sunny weather, the vegetation is very green and often thick. From a safari perspective, the summer months (green season), are the best time to see the African bush at its most lush. The birdlife is at its best, and spring/summer is the calving season for many of the antelope species. The sunsets during this time of year can be a riot of pinks and reds and the air is generally very clean. The bush, when on safari during the green season, is thick and visibility can at times be limited. Another factor to consider is that increased surface water causes game movements to become less predictable than in winter where the animals are forced to drink at the permanent water holes and rivers.
During dry season (southern hemisphere winter months), this region turns into shades of yellow and brown. The night time temperatures can vary between 32 – 54 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on what part of the region you are in. It is during this season and into spring that it is considered the best time to go on safari. Many trees and shrubs lose their leaves, the grasses are shorter and the visibility increases dramatically. The surface water (pans and puddles) that were present in the summer months dry out, and game movements become a little more predictable.
The winter rainfall areas of the Western Cape and Garden Route tend to be green in winter and less so during summer. The rains typically come in the form of cold fronts that sweep in from the south, bringing with them rain, cold and often wind. These cold and rainy spells can last 2 – 3 days, but are invariably followed by what can be only be described as champagne days – crystal clear air, blue skies and brilliant colours. The summer months are typically warm to hot (82 – 88 degrees Fahrenheit), and a great time to explore Cape Town and the Garden Route.
Best periods for different activities:
- Safari: May to October, but good all year at private reserves
- Cape Town & Garden Route: Summer months and February & March in particular
- Wine harvest: February & March
- Whale-watching: June to October (Southern Right) and Aug to December (Humpback)
- Diving (scuba & shark): April to September
- Wild flowers: August & September
- Birding: Intra-African migrants in October and Palaearctic migrants arrive in November
- Hiking: Spring & Autumn
- Fly-fishing: Spring & Autumn