Cape Town is delightfully mild to warm and receives relatively little rain in October, although some days will be windy. Further north, as the month progresses, summer downpours grow more frequent in Johannesburg and nearby game parks. Temperatures in Kruger can regularly exceed 85°F (30°C), and mosquitoes return with the winter rains.
Since the northern game parks lie in the malarial belt, check with your doctor about appropriate medication before you travel. Expect average temperatures of 70°F (??°C) Cape Town, 77°F (25°C) in Johannesburg, and 86°F (30°C) Kruger.
Crowds & Costs
Many hotels are eager for business after several relatively quiet months and offer their best rates of the year in October. Popular destinations can fill up, however, during the spring school holiday that extends into early October. And by month’s end, Cape Town’s gorgeous cloudless skies are edging the city into high season. Most game parks are also still relatively quiet in the shoulder season before the busy high season begins.
Where to Go
Although October is an off-season month for Kruger safaris, there are advantages to game drives this month. Vegetation is sprouting afresh with the onset of the wet season, and many animals give birth in October to provide their offspring the best chance of survival. And although Kruger and the northern game parks will be hot by day, early morning game drives are no longer icy. Plus, in early October many animals have not yet dispersed; by month's end, spotting them is more challenging as they move into the thickening bush.
Combine your Kruger safari with a visit to Johannesburg, where the October temperature is sublime and the city is abloom with vivid purple jacarandas. To see them at their best, drive along the leafy avenues of the Greenside and Parktown suburbs, then explore Soweto Township, including the Nelson Mandela Museum. And depending on weather conditions, the stupendous wildflower display of spring should still be carpeting the West Coast and semi-desert of Northern Cape, where the flood of September tourism will have abated. To catch the tail-end of this photogenic spectacle, head to West Coast National Park or, further north, Namaqua National Park.
What to Do
Early October is a great time for a self-drive safari, as the weather is still mostly dry and road conditions aren’t a challenge; by late October, rainfall can be quite heavy and protracted in Kruger and surrounding game park. It’s a perfect month for a long road trip through the Karoo and Kalahari, with Kglagadi Transfrontier Park a great destination—wildflowers should still be in bloom, and the excessive heat of summer is still a month away.
The warm, generally dry weather of October is perfect for two-wheel exploration. Many tour operators offer mountain bike safaris in the private game parks—a novel and less intrusive way to see eye-to-eye with gazelles and giraffes. Or rent a bike to create your own cycling holiday in the South African wilderness. For an easy ride, follow the deep, lush Langkloof Valley inland of Knysna. It’s best done eastward, so the gradient is in your favor.
There’s no better month for spotting newborn whales off the Overberg coast of Western Cape. Early October, immediately after the seam-bursting Hermanus Whale Festival, is best. Book a room in a clifftop hotel in Hermanus, the De Hoop Nature Reserve, or Plettenburg Bay and you should have great land-based views of whales in the shallow coastal waters before they begin their return journey to Antarctica.
Events in October
Cape Town International Kite Festival. Held the last weekend of October, Africa’s biggest kite festival sees hundreds of kites take to the air over Muizenberg.
Oktoberfest. Pack your dirndl and lederhosen and head to Port Elizabeth for Africa’s largest Oktoberfest, with all the frothy beer, oom-pah-pah music, and schnitzel and wurst you can handle.
Traveling to South Africa in October? Check out these great itineraries
Classic South Africa: Cape Town, Johannesburg, & Kruger Safari – 9 Days. Make the most of the Cape provinces’ fine weather, Johannesburg’s culture, and Big Five sightings on a bush walk and game drives.
Discover South Africa: Cape Town, Winelands, & Tswalu Kalahari – 10 Days. Explore Cape Town’s highlights, visit the stellar wineries of Frankschoek, and catch the end-of-spring wildflowers in the extreme north of the country.