March is perhaps the ideal month weather-wise, with warm temperatures and crisp, clear skies throughout the nation. The light is also softer than in mid-summer months. And most regions see only modest rainfall as the winter rains have yet to set in, although there's a chance of light showers around Cape Town. Temperatures average 73°F (23°C) in Cape Town, 72°F (22°C) in Johannesburg, and 84°F (29°C) in Kruger, while early mornings and evenings can be cool, especially in upland regions.
Crowds & Costs
April offers the best of both worlds: reduced hotel rates and fewer travelers to compete with, especially in the Cape provinces. The availability of accommodation is generally good, and more so toward the end of April following the busy Easter Week 10-day school holiday. You'll need to make reservations well ahead. The same holds for the northern game parks, where following the summer rains, April is the start of high season, meaning busier camps and higher prices.
Where to Go
April is not ideal for a beach holiday in Cape Town and the Cape provinces, as the weather is cool and autumn showers become increasingly frequent. However, this is a great time for lazing on the sands of KwaZulu-Natal, thanks to the warm current now flowing down the Indian Ocean. The ocean water is perfect for snorkeling, and peak surfing season is just beginning at Jeffreys Bay, where the big waves consistently reach 20 feet in winter. To escape the crowds, head further north to Umzumbe Beach, near Durban—it offers excellent swells and beautiful, net-protected beaches.
This is the time for a desert road trip into the northwest, where days are cooling off and the roads are quiet. Head to the Cederberg Mountains, with their dramatic caves adorned with Stone Age art. Continue to Augrabies Falls National Park, near the frontier with Namibia. One of the country's great natural wonders, the Orange River plunges into a vast granite gorge: intrepid hikers can follow the 3-day Klipspringer Hiking Trail.
April rains transform the desert into carpets of green. Nature-lovers and photographers will thrill by the many endemic species, such as the strange kokerboom (or quiver trees) and Verreaux's eagle. Other top spots in the region include Kimberley's "diamond capital" with its famous "Big Hole" and Kimberley Mine Museum, plus the golden grasslands of Kgagaladi National Park, patrolled by iconic black-maned lions.
April skies are crystal-clear, and there's no better time for star-gazing. For that, combine a North Cape journey with a weekend in the Groot Karoo semi-desert. A highlight will be the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), in the town of Sutherland, for a two-hour nighttime tour. Make your bookings well in advance, and avoid the full moon! If you're self-reliant and turned on by surreal self-expression, add a few days to attend the mind-blowing AfrikaBurn Festival.
What to Do
The cooler days of early autumn make April a great time for cycling, hiking, and other active adventures. There's no better month for hiking, so lace up your boots and head to the Drakensberg Mountains before the start of the winter snow. Crystal-clear skies and gorgeous green landscape in the wake of the summer rains make for fantastic landscape photography. A recommended hike is to the rock-wall Amphitheater, with its thunderous Tugela Falls—the world's second-highest at 3,110 feet (948 m)—in Royal Natal National Park.
April is not the best month for wildlife viewing, even as rainfall and temperatures diminish and afternoon thunderstorms become less frequent. Nonetheless, in Kruger and nearby game parks, the thick, lush vegetation is thinning; wildlife is becoming easier to spot. April is rutting season for warthogs, wildebeest, and impala. And this is your last chance to spot many bird species before they depart for warmer summer climes.
Events in April
Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Cape Town. Top artists from Southern Africa and around the world perform at this two-day event hosted at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. Check out the free concert on Greenmarket Square.
AfrikaBurn, Ceres. Nevada's world-famous Burning Man Festival fans will feel at home at this crazy, week-long festival, held in late April at Ceres, 50 miles (80 km) east of Cape Town. Promoting "Radical Self-Reliance," it features theme camps, mutant vehicles, and other-worldly creative expression.
Splashy Fen, Underberg. Held since 1990 over Easter weekend, South Africa's longest-running music festival is hosted on a farm near Underberg, at the base of the scenic Drakensberg Mountains. Fans of electronica and those who love camping are in their element for the four-day line-up of music.
Traveling to South Africa in April? Check out these great itineraries
Discover South Africa: Cape Town, Winelands, Johannesburg & Tswalu Kalahari – 13 Days. Visit four of South Africa's iconic venues, including the Kalahari Desert, after the blazing heat of summer subsides.
Wine & Nature in South Africa: Cape Town, Winelands & Cederberg – 7 Days. Combine the best of the Mother City and nearby Winelands with the dramatic landscapes and ancient art of the Cederberg Mountains.