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Famous for its sunshine and relatively low rainfall, South Africa is a fantastic holiday destination which can be visited throughout the year.When planning a holiday to South Africa you should bear in mind that as its vast country with mountains and the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other side and the climate varies from region to region. The best month to visit depends on where you want to go and what activities you want to do.
South Africa is in the southern hemisphere which means that the seasons are opposite to those of Europe and North America. The summer in South Africa is characterised by hot, sunny weather, often with dramatic thunderstorms in the afternoons, whilst the winter tends to be warm, dry, clear days with cool or cold evenings. Cape Town is the exception as it has a Mediterranean climate - it experiences dry summers and rain in winter months from May-July.
January is the peak of the summer and you’ll experience contrasting weather depending on where you go in South Africa. If you’re visiting the Western Cape you can expect bright sunshine, cloudless skies and dry weather which make it a wonderful time of year to travel to Cape Town, the Cape Winelands and the Garden Route. The Drakensberg Mountains have high temperatures and mostly sunny days, however you should also expect the occasional tropical storm.
If you plan to visit Kruger National Park in north-eastern South Africa you should bear in mind that the summer (January-March) is the rainy season and it can get very wet, hot and humid. Heavy downpours are likely, however these usually occur in the afternoons so you can still enjoy morning and evening safaris. The rain fills the rivers and waterholes and the landscape becomes lush and beautiful with many plants flowering and Marula trees fruiting, however game viewing can be more difficult in the summer because the vegetation is dense, making it harder to locate and observe wildlife.
February is one of the hottest months of the year on the Western Cape, although coastal towns are slightly cooler due to the sea breeze. It is an excellent time month for a self-drive holiday exploring Cape Town, the Cape Winelands, the Garden Route, and the Eastern Cape Reserves.
South Africa’s game parks and reserves are lush and green in February, however the weather can be very hot and humid.
March begins with a decrease in rainfall from the previous summer months and it is generally drier than January and February. Temperatures also start to decrease, although not dramatically. This is a fantastic time to visit Cape Town and the Western Cape and you can expect hot sunny days and warm, balmy nights.
Daytime temperatures in Kruger will be in the high 20s, but warm layers are recommended for early morning or evening game drives.
March is the end of the summer rain season in the Drakensberg Mountains and the start of the best hiking season (mid-March to mid-June).
April marks the end of the summer in South Africa and there tends to be very little rainfall during this month. The temperatures cool down at night, however the days are still pleasantly warm and humidity levels drop so it starts to feel more comfortable than the earlier summer months.
April is a great time for bird watching and migratory birds are present in South Africa’s parks and reserves.
Although May marks the start of winter, it is still a great time of year to visit South Africa. The weather tends to be warm and dry across the regions, although it gets chilly in the evenings and you’ll need to pack warm clothes.
If you’re visiting the Western Cape you should expect some cloudy and rainy weather, interspersed with beautiful sunny days. If you’re planning to visit Kruger National Park during the winter months you should be prepared for cold temperatures at night and at dawn.
June, July and August are the winter months in Cape Town, therefore it is not a good time to visit if you want a beach holiday. Cold fronts come across the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Town experiences heavy rains and strong north-westerly winds at this time of year. The sea is often very rough and we advise you to be cautious when walking along the beaches or Seapoint promenade.
In the game parks and reserves the landscapes start to turn into shades of browns, yellows and oranges which create fantastic scenes for photography, and wildlife tends to be much easier to spot due to the thinning vegetation.
The spectacular ‘Sardine Run’ occurs in June or July along the KwaZulu-Natal coast.
The colder months of July to September are incredible for game viewing in South Africa, however it can get very chilly on the early morning and late afternoon game drives, therefore we suggest that you pack warm clothing. The weather can be cool and drizzly in the Western Cape in July and we recommend that you pack a light rain jacket and an umbrella.
The spectacular ‘Sardine Run’ occurs in June or July along the KwaZulu-Natal coast. July also sees the start of the incredible whale watching season when southern right whales migrate from Antarctica to mate and rest in the Western Cape’s waters.
August see the the start of spring and temperatures rise, yet rainfall remains relatively low making this is a fantastic time of year to visit South Africa.
During August the usually arid and desolate Namaqualand region becomes transformed with the blossoming of thousands of Namaqualand Daisies.
The Western Cape is chilly at this time and in early August the Table Mountain cable car closes for annual maintenance. KwaZulu Natal is the best region to visit at this time of year with warm temperatures and plenty to see and do.
You can feel spring in the air by the end of August and into September, and throughout September bright sunny days are common. It is a fantastic month for a self-drive holiday exploring the Garden Route, and the Eastern Cape Reserves such as Amakhala Game Reserve near Port Elizabeth.
Temperatures in Kruger National Park and the surrounding reserves average around 22°C and although rainfall has risen from August, it is still only around 24mm average throughout the month which is unlikely to have a huge impact on your safari experience.
This is a great month to visit South Africa as the temperatures start to rise throughout the country. The rains tend to start towards the end of October, but if you’re visiting Kruger National Park early in the month you can expect hot dry winds and sparse vegetation. Before the rains arrive the rivers and waterholes remain low which means that high concentrations of wildlife can be viewed at these areas and game viewing in general is very good.
November sees the start of the wet summer season (with the exception of Cape Town which has dry summers). It can get very hot and humid in Kruger and the surrounding parks and reserves - thunderstorms electrify the afternoon sky, however the dramatic storms can create superb backdrops for your photographs.
Summer in Cape Town begins in November and lasts until the end of February and you can expect warm temperatures, blue skies and very little rainfall in the Mother City during these months.
December is the height of the summer and wet season - days can be hot and humid and there are often spectacular thunderstorms, yet it is still a popular time to visit South Africa. Many parks and lodges can get particularly busy over the festive season, therefore we recommend that you book months in advance.
If you want to avoid the crowds on safari we suggest that you choose one of Kruger National Park’s private concessions or one of the smaller, lesser-known parks.
Cape Town tends to experience blue skies and sunshine during December and unlike the rest of the country there is little or no rainfall. It is a wonderful time of year for a self-drive holiday exploring Cape Town, the Cape Winelands, the Garden Route, and the Eastern Cape Reserves.