What’s the best time of year to travel to South Africa? It depends a little on what you plan to do and see. Read on for information about when to visit South Africa if you’re planning to go on safari, visit Cape Town, tour the Winelands, spend time at the beach, see the wild flowers, hike in the Drakensberg, surf, and all the other other great activities on offer.
Best Time to Go on Safari in South Africa
The best time to go on safari in the Kruger National Park area is during the dry season, from May – November. This is winter when the temperatures can get a little chilly, but you won’t burn in the sun on your morning drives. Most importantly, the wildlife congregates around waterholes and the grass is shorter. These are all factors that make it easier to spot wildlife. The dry season also means fewer mosquitoes, so there’s less chance of catching malaria. If you are planning to camp, you should avoid the peak of summer from October – April. But if you like to see little ones, many young are born around November – December when the bush is lush and there’s plenty to eat.
If you are planning a safari in other parts of South Africa, check the weather for the time of year.
Safaris in general are better when its dry, for the reasons mentioned above. If you want to avoid malaria completely, there are some excellent malaria-free safari options in South Africa. If you wish to go on safari while visiting Cape Town, the best time to visit would be in the drier summer months from November to March (the opposite to Kruger).
Best Time to Visit Cape Town and the Winelands
There’s so much going on in Cape Town, it’s really a year-round destination. But the dry summer season (November – March) is the most pleasant time to browse the markets, hike up Table Mountain and enjoy the beach (see below). It can get crowded with local tourists, especially around the Winelands region during the peak summer season, so if you’d like to avoid the crowds aim for September – November and March – April. It’s still dry and not too chilly and windy.
Best Time to Hike in the Drakensberg Mountains
The best time to hike the Drakensberg is April – May. Once you hit the winter months (June – August) it can get very chilly and snow is common (yes it does snow in Africa).
December – Feburary can offer a nice respite to Durban’s sunny, humidity – but that’s when the rains fall as well, and you have a good chance of getting very wet.
Best Time to Enjoy South Africa’s Beaches and Oceans
South Africa is blessed with many fine beaches on two oceans so the best time to swim, sunbathe, watch whales, dive with sharks and surf — depends on where you go. If you’re headed to Cape Town, keep in mind that both oceans are quite chilly throughout the year – especially the Atlantic. But the sunniest and driest time is November – March, perfect for sunbathers and swimmers.
If you wish to dive with sharks October – May is your best bet when the warm current brings many shark species to this part of the coast. For surfers who care more about swell than water temperatures, June – August brings the most storms and better waves. But surfing is quite good year round here. If you’re in the Western Cape area and want to do a spot of whale watching, the best time is June – November. You can spot southern-right whales and hump back whales from land (nice if you get want to avoid getting seas sick).
The Garden Route is well known for fisherman and beach lovers. The best time to head down is during the warm summer months between November – March. But all of South Africa tends to flock to this lovely stretch of land during the long school holidays, so do book in advance if you plan to go between December and January.
Durban is known as “South Africa’s playground” with its lovely beaches and great surfing waves. It helps that the weather here is tropical year round, and the Indian ocean is much warmer here than around Cape Town. Yes, there are sharks along this coast too, but luckily swimmers are protected by shark nets that line KwaZulu-Natal coast. Surfing is good year round, but for the advanced surfer the best time is during the winter months (June – August) when the winds are from the northwest.
Other than swimming and surfing, the KwaZulu-Natal coastline offers some very unique experiences. You can check out the amazing Annual Sardine Run and swim with Tiger sharks.
Best Time to See South Africa’s Wild Flowers Blooming
South Africans will drive for miles to the Northern Cape to get their first glimpse of a Namaqualand daisy (Dimorphotheca sinuata) in bloom. It means spring has arrived. It’s breathtaking and seriously worth planning your trip around. Millions of flowers burst into bloom and carpet the veld for hundreds of miles in fluorescent orange, pink, purple, yellow and white. It is a natural festival of color that is one of the finest shows on the planet. With almost 4,000 species of flowering plant clamoring for space on stage, it is never the same from year to year. The flowers tend to bloom from the beginning of August to September. How long they last beyond September depends on how the rains have fallen that year.