January is a great month to visit: it’s right in the middle of the bone-dry summer, offering lovely weather in the Western Cape. However, this region—where southeasterly breezes, and often gale-force winds, take the edge off the heat—is at its busiest, while Kruger National Park is at its hottest and rainiest, making off-the-beaten-track venues so much more appealing.
South Africa Travel Advice
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February is considered one of the best months to visit South Africa, especially for northern hemisphere travelers escaping the cold winter snows. Although summer is in full swing, the crowds of peak season begin to thin at this time, and the strong winds that batter Cape Town and coastal zones in January give way to pleasingly cool sea breezes.
March is a fabulous time to visit South Africa as the country transitions into autumn, with warm weather and low rain nationwide. In fact, those in the know consider this perhaps the best month overall. Kruger and the other major game parks will be green with fresh foliage. There’s room to spread out on Cape Town’s beaches. And March also sees two of the country’s biggest shindigs, the Klein-Karoo National Arts Festival and Cape Town Jazz Festival.
By late April the crowds have disappeared and autumn is here, with warm, generally dry weather throughout the country. In the north, safari destinations like Kruger emerge from months of heavy rain, while the summer season of Cape Town is winding down. It’s a fabulous month for a longer tour that combines regions, balancing the dry weather of the safari regions with still-warm sunny days in the Cape.
No doubt about it, although days are shortening, May is one of the best months to visit South Africa, especially if your main focus is a safari. While temperatures vary depending on region, the mild weather will likely be pleasant, with sunshine and clear skies. Plus, you’re not competing with summer crowds in most areas, except in the game parks, which are beginning to reach their prime.
Halfway through the year marks the start of safari peak season in the north, where the wildlife viewing is enhanced by less dense winter foliage and the concentration of game at waterholes. By contrast, this is the rainy midwinter “green season” in the Cape, with cooler temperatures, unpredictable rains, and even snow dusting the mountaintops.
July might be right in the heart of the chiller South African winter, but those who venture here during this month are in for some pleasant surprises. July is as good a time as any for a safari, pregnant female whales are giving birth close to shore off the Western Cape, the wildflower season is beginning, and snow in the mountains means skiing! Plus, South Africa hosts some cool shindigs, from film festivals to the nation’s top horse-racing event.
By August, Spring is in the air as wildflowers begin their spectacular blooms on the West Coast and throughout Northern Cape, fluffy penguin chicks are hatching on beaches near Cape Town, whales can be seen close to shore, and wildlife visibility in the game parks is at its best. Plus, temperatures are starting to rise nationwide, while rainfall remains relatively low. All in all, August is a fantastic time to visit.
Spring is in the air. Temperatures are rising throughout the country, whale-watching is at its peak off the southern coast, and wildlife viewing is at a prime as many animals give birth. And September offers a last chance to admire the wildflower takeover of Western and Northern Cape. It’s a good month to vacation anywhere in the country, and a great time to combine regions.
October is a good month to visit as temperatures are nowhere extreme, the rains in the north have yet to arrive in force, and you can still take advantage of low shoulder season rates. On the West Coast, the spring flowers are still in bloom. And in the game parks, many animals are giving birth as new foliage springs up with the first rains.
With warm weather throughout the county and low off-season rates without the crowds, what’s not to like about November? Even the northern game parks are worthwhile, despite increasing rainfall and thickening vegetation that makes wildlife harder to spot. This is your last month for viewing whales, and the perfect month to view nesting leatherback turtles. Plus, it’s a great time for a Cape Town beach holiday before the crowds pack the sands.
December is the busiest month of the year, peaking during the Christmas and New Year, when prices are the highest of the year and Cape Town’s hotels and beaches are at their most crowded. Still, the festive season spirit is reason enough to visit Cape Town, where the weather is hot and clear. And this is a good time to seek out more remote beaches, such as iSimangaliso, where it’s nesting season for loggerhead and leatherback turtles and the birding is splendid.