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To help you fully appreciate the beauty, attractions and activities in South Africa, here is a guide to planning your trip at the right time.
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Best time to go

Find out when is the best time of year to visit South Africa

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January Excellent time to go

January is the best time of the year for a beach and photography getaway with lush landscapes and dramatic thunderstorms. Until mid-January, most of South Africa’s coastal towns and game parks are crowded with locals who are making the most of the summer school holidays. If you are planning to travel in the earlier part of the month, you should try to book in advance to avoid disappointment. Game viewing in the Kruger National Park and other reserves like Madikwe and Pilanesberg can be challenging as animals move away from rivers and waterholes and spread out into the thick bush. When visiting any of the South African game reserves, it is recommended that you consider private concessions in order to have a more exclusive safari experience. Skilled rangers lead the off-road morning and afternoon game drives, and are able to track down animals in the lush vegetation. The greenery and blue skies make for the best photography. It is also a wonderful time for bird watching, with many resident species breeding and migrant birds flocking to the region. Temperatures on the east coast are very warm but the humidity can be uncomfortable for some. The Indian Ocean has a warm current which makes swimming pleasant throughout the year. On the beaches of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, loggerhead and leatherback turtles arrive to begin the nesting season. Turtle tours operate in the evening and bring you up-close with these incredible animals.

February Excellent time to go

February marks the peak of the summer season, with the country experiencing sunny weather and occasional rainfall. February is the best time to visit South Africa if you looking to go on a safari and beach getaway. The Kruger National Park is hot by day, warm at night, and has an occasional thunderstorm. When going on a safari, it is best to take advantage of the cooler early mornings and evenings when animals are out and about. This ensures a greater opportunity of seeing a variety of wildlife, including the big five and various migratory birds. It is also the calving season for many antelope species, such as eland, impala, and gemsbok. With newborn animals about, there is a lot more predator activity. KwaZulu-Natal has a wonderful contrast of coastal and inland destinations, making a visit here very rewarding. Although the province experiences a lot of rain, it doesn’t distract from the experiences had in places like the Drakensberg, Phinda Game Reserve, and Durban. February also falls into the nesting season for loggerhead and leatherback turtles along the beaches of iSimangaliso, and turtle-tracking tours are offered in the evenings.

March Good time to go

March is the best time to visit South Africa if you are looking for a beach vacation, with all of the beaches along the South African coast offering lots of sunshine and a variety of water adventures. Durban in particular experiences very warm and humid conditions, and fewer crowds in the month of March making it a really good place to visit.   March marks the end of the nesting season for loggerhead and leatherback turtles along the beaches of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu Natal. Cape Town experiences warm days and regular windy spells, with cooler evenings and early mornings. The majority of activities are not affected by the weather conditions in Cape Town, except for those activities that are weather dependent, such as helicopter flights, boat-based activities, and diving. Game viewing in the Kruger National Park, Madikwe, and other reserves start to pick up as the rainfall subsides and makes it easier to spot wildlife. This is an excellent time for birdwatching with a number of resident and migratory birds present. The summer months are special because it is when you are most likely to see animals give birth to their young.

April Good time to go

April is the best time to visit South Africa if you looking for ideal weather conditions that allow you to go on a safari, dive amongst pristine coral reefs, or go hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains. April is a wonderful time to visit the Cape Winelands, indulging in exceptional cuisine and visiting century old vineyards to discover how wine is made and sample wines that have won local and international awards. In the nearby town of Paarl, you could even take to the sky at sunrise in a hot air balloon - a once in a lifetime experience. The Drakensberg Mountains offer the most spectacular scenery during the month of April, and pleasant weather conditions make it easier to experience the wide range of activities on offer in the region - hiking, mountain biking, fly-fishing, and swimming. The landscape in the game reserves starts to change with leaves falling from trees and trees bearing fruit - a favorite time for elephants and monkeys. The reserves generally experience hot and humid days that usually result in an afternoon thunderstorm. Migrant birds have generally left and April marks the start of the best game viewing season.

May Excellent time to go

Not too hot and not yet cold, the month of May is the best time to visit South Africa for a safari, city, and beach experience. There is only a small chance of rain so you can expect a great dose of sunshine each day. After the summer rains, game viewing in the Kruger National Park and other South African game reserves tend to improve as animals start to congregate around the more permanent sources of water. Considered to be the autumn season, leaves begin to fall off the trees and the lush bush begins to shrivel up with the lack of rainfall. This is most beneficial to spotting wildlife. Cape Town and the Western Cape experience warm, pleasant days and cooler evenings; with a chance of wind and rainfall. There are a number of food and wine festivals and the pleasant daytime temperatures afford you the opportunity to enjoy top attractions in Cape Town. There are generally some great accommodation specials running during this time, making it the best time to visit South Africa if you are on a specific budget. In the evenings, you can enjoy a number of the finest Cape restaurants that prepare the most sumptuous cuisine, paired with great wine and a fireplace for a warm and cozy atmosphere.

June Excellent time to go

June marks the beginning of the winter season and is the best time to visit South Africa if you would like to venture into the bushveld and escape to the mountains. Winter in the Drakensberg Mountains is spectacular, with extremely cold weather conditions and a high likeliness of snowfall at the higher mountain peaks. Despite the cooler weather, with average temperatures of 9°C (48°F) during the day and -3°C (26°F) overnight – it is a wonderful time to take a hike, try out on of the various 4x4 adventure trails, and enjoy a number of outdoor activities. The Golden Gate Highlands National Park too transforms into a winter wonderland with snowfall seen for miles. The KwaZulu coastline doesn’t really experience cold winters, with temperatures averaging ranging from 24 – 26°C (75 – 78°F) and the warm Indian Ocean hardly ever dropping below 20°C (68°F). It is a destination still worth considering, especially if you are a keen diver.

July Excellent time to go

By the month of July, South Africa is well into the dry season in the northern and eastern regions of the country. Temperatures average around 13°C (55°F), so visitors to South Africa are encouraged to pack warm clothing. Out in the wilderness, in parks such as the Kruger and Madikwe Game Reserve, the skies are blue, the vegetation is shriveled up, and water sources are limited; making it the best time to visit South Africa if you are looking to spot the elusive leopard and wild dog.   The winter night sky is full of stars and is best appreciated in the untouched wilderness regions, particularly Tswalu Private Game Reserve. Stargazing and bush dining experiences are at their very best during this time of the year.   When traveling to Cape Town or the Garden Route, you may expect some rainfall so be sure to pack in a waterproof jacket or umbrella just in case. The Knysna Oyster Festival takes place in July each year and is jam-packed with wine tastings, oyster competitions, and sporting events; so it advisable to book a trip to Knysna well in advance.

August Excellent time to go

The month of August is part of the dry winter season, so days are warm, evenings are cold, and the vegetation is less dense; making it the best time to visit South Africa for a safari adventure. With the cooler weather conditions and minimal water supplies, an abundance of wildlife is regularly seen congregating around permanent rivers and waterholes. The chances of seeing the famous Big Five are incredibly high, often spotting the more elusive nocturnal species on evening and early morning game drives. Don’t forget to pack in some warm clothing! August also marks the start of the whale-viewing season in Hermanus and shark cage diving in Gansbaai is still at its best, with plenty of breaching activity. It is a wonderful time to enjoy an ocean safari with pristine diving sites and plenty of marine life.

September Good time to go

September is the best time to visit South Africa if you looking to go on a safari and beach vacation on the Indian Ocean coastline of KwaZulu Natal. The daytime temperatures are pleasant with very little chance of rain, and the vegetation is still relatively dry, making it easier to spot wildlife. Animals are still seen gathered at the permanent water sources. It is usually a quieter time to visit the Kruger National Park and other game reserves but can get busier towards the latter part of September when the local schools break for their holiday.   The weather conditions on the Eastern and Western Cape coastline are not as predictable but this shouldn’t hold you back from visiting the region’s top attractions or going on a safari. September is a fantastic time to go whale-viewing in Hermanus, whilst the West Coast National Park offers the opportunity to see rolling fields of spring flowers.

October Good time to go

The month of October is the best time to visit South Africa if you are looking to visit the Western Cape and go on a big five safari. October is part of the peak whale-viewing season in Hermanus and the Western Cape, so land and boat-based excursions are available. There are also many festivals and outdoor events are held in and around Cape Town during this month. A gorgeous array of flowers are now in bloom, making it the perfect time to visit the Kirstenbosch Gardens for an afternoon picnic. A trip to the Cape Winelands and self-drive along the Garden Route are great add-ons to your South African vacation, exploring century-old vineyards and 200 kilometers of gorgeous coastline.     This month usually offers excellent game viewing in the Kruger National Park, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal, Madikwe, and Pilanesberg. Although some rainfall may be experienced in the late afternoons, the game reserves in South Africa are still relatively dry and animals continue to congregate around the permanent water sources, affording fantastic sightings.

November Good time to go

The month of November is the best time to visit South Africa if you are a keen birder, enjoy photographing gorgeous landscapes of lush greenery and colorful flowers, or just wish to enjoy one of South Africa’s pristine beaches.   In the Kruger National Park, temperatures rise considerably during the day, generally resulting in dramatic afternoon thunderstorms. The dense bushveld makes it more challenging to spot animals but if you decide to stay in one of the private concessions, you will have an expert guide who will track animals down during off-road game drives. It is a bird watching paradise in the Kruger, with many migratory birds abound.   November is an ideal time for beach vacations along the South African coastline. Beaches in  KwaZulu Natal are a popular choice, boasting the Indian Ocean and some of South Africa’s most pristine diving sites. It is also the start of the loggerhead and leatherback turtle nesting season in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Turtle-tracking tours are offered in the evenings in order to witness this incredible event.   Cape Town experience hot, dry days and cooler evenings; making it a wonderful time to explore the city’s top attractions. It is also an ideal time to venture along the Garden Route or visit the West Coast National Park and Namaqualand for incredible sightings of wildflowers. It is also generally the last month to see the whales in Hermanus who then migrate north.

December Excellent time to go

Christmas is peak season in South Africa as the local schools close for their long summer holidays and many families travel to popular beaches and game reserves. Seaside towns such as Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, St Lucia, and Sodwana Bay are some popular vacation spots amongst local South Africans. The hot and humid weather conditions are what attracts many to the coastline, looking to experience an array of water adventures such as diving, jet skiing, fishing, and surfing. With so many locals about, it is the best time to visit South Africa if you want to gain in-depth knowledge of the South African culture. National reserves such as the Kruger National Park, Pilanesberg, and Hluhluwe all receive a number of local travelers with many cars seen on the roads. If you wanting to go on a safari in December, you need to book well in advance but may want to consider the private game reserves such as Sabi Sands, Madikwe, and Phinda Game Reserve who offer exclusivity.

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