August in Southern Africa marks the end of the region’s short-lived winter and the welcome return of warmer temperatures. Down in Cape Town, the last few winter storms wring themselves out. Further north, in safari country, the weather is perfect: sunny, warm and dry.
Travellers planning to visit Southern Africa in August are spoilt for choice. Every safari destination, from South Africa’s Kruger National Park to Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, is settling into peak game-viewing season. Photographers enjoy luminous early-morning light and red dusty sunsets. Thirsty animals concentrate around water, trampling and stripping vegetation, making them easier to see – for you and predators.
But big game viewing isn’t just restricted to dry land. August is whale season and the waters of South Africa’s Western Cape welcome southern right whales as they migrate to find warmer waters in which to calve. And although the ocean here isn’t one you want to swim in (unless you’re used to the icy Antarctic), there are plenty of Southern Africa beach add-ons that are perfect in August.
With plenty of opportunity to combine safari, seaside and desert landscape, here are our top picks:
Namibia: Sossusvlei & Damaraland
The great thing about Namibia is that it allows you to take your African adventure into your own hands. Set off on a self-drive safari to explore the wonders this country has to offer at your own pace – There’s no better way to explore the desert landscapes and mountains, and experience unique outdoor activities.
August marks the ideal time to visit two key areas in Namibia: Sossusvlei and Damaraland. As the end of the southern hemisphere’s winter draws near at this time, the region is in its dry season and Namibia’s usual scalding temperatures come down to a pleasant 25°C (77°F). Rain is non-existent, clouds are few and the sun is always shining.
Sossusvlei is famous for its picturesque sand dunes, particularly the much-photographed and often-climbed Big Daddy and Dune 45. Neighbouring Deadvlei, on the other hand, is renowned for its hauntingly beautiful dry clay pan. Photographers are in for a treat with this landscape, where you do little more than push a button to capture an award-winning shot. More active travellers can kick off their shoes and hike the massive dunes, rewarded with the most stunning views from the top. A drive further north reveals the breath-taking mountains of Damaraland, a hidden haven of grasslands and rivers that serve as vital resources for the majestic desert elephant.
South Africa: Whale Coast & Kruger National Park
The bitter cold and rainy weather are all but gone during August in gorgeous South Africa. Winter coats are put away in favour of a light jacket, a welcome nod to the nearing Springtime. It’s the start of whale-watching season in the country’s western region, where southern right whales slowly make their way back from the Antarctic to breed in the warmer waters of the Atlantic.
Walker Bay is the best place to see these aquatic mammals; the waters bordering the charming seaside town of Hermanus in particular are a favourite mating and breeding ground. View whales on land at one of the many points along the magnificent coastline, by boat, kayak or helicopter. To top it off, foot traffic in August is low, which means you’ll miss the crowds before things begin to pick up in November.
You’d be remiss to visit South Africa and not stop by one of the most popular safari destinations in the world. The Kruger National Park is a Big 5 haven that boasts incredible wildlife viewing year-round and is suited for every type of traveller, from first timers to wheelchair- and halal-friendly safaris. August is a great time to visit the Kruger, as the tail-end of winter and humble beginnings of spring create a comfortable temperature that is neither too hot nor cold.
Falling in the region’s dry season, the permanent water sources draw large concentrations of wildlife that is easily spotted due to the low and sparse vegetation, making for excellent game viewing. The added benefit of this cooler and drier weather is that the malaria risk in Kruger is much lower in August.
Zambia: South Luangwa National Park
While your mind might immediately go to thoughts of game drives in 4x4 vehicles when you think about safaris, there’s more than this one way to experience Africa’s untamed wilderness. Explore nature from a different perspective with a walking safari, shifting you from being a passive observer to an active participant on your African safari. Game drives might cover a lot of ground, but traversing the wild plains on foot allows you unrestricted access to any part of the wilderness.
South Luangwa National Park is the birthplace of walking safaris, offering the best and safest experience of tracking game on foot. The cool and drier weather of August provides the perfect conditions for a day of trekking South Luangwa. And game viewing is at its peak during this time of the year, so you stand a good chance of successfully tracking an apex predator. Be greeted by the crisp, fresh air at dawn before embarking on your journey with an armed scout leading the way. Meander down the Luangwa River as you spot herds of elephant and buffalo quenching their thirst while Nile crocodiles tan on the sunny riverbanks and big cats skulk through the surrounding woodlands.
Zimbabwe: Victoria Falls
Africa’s adventure capital offers incomparable experiences of all kinds, from game drives through the Victoria Falls National Park to water sports on the Zambezi River.
August is one of the best months to visit the world-famous falls. Dry season is in full effect and with sparse vegetation, wildlife is drawn en masse to permanent water sources, like the Zambezi River, making it easy to spot big game. Expect clear views of the waterfall, with healthy water levels and a little mist on the Zimbabwean side.
More adventurous travellers will delight in white-water rafting on the river, where the water levels and flow are perfect for this adrenaline-filled activity at this time of year. And if you need any more reason as to why August is a great time to visit Zimbabwe, the famed Devil’s Pool that sits on the very edge of the falls opens in the middle of the month.
Botswana: Chobe National Park
While the Botswana’s temperatures are high during August, the game viewing in Chobe National Park is sensational. If you’re someone who can withstand a bit of heat, then this is the ideal time to for a visit. In the midst of the region’s dry season, hordes of elephant, buffalo and many other wildlife are concentrated around the Chobe and Serondela River, while the Savuti area offers spectacular viewing of the large pride of resident lions. Once again, game drives aren’t the only way to explore this wilderness. If you stay in the national park, you’ll be able to enjoy a Chobe River cruise safari to view the abundant wildlife drawn to the riverbanks.
Mozambique: Bazaruto Archipelago
After a week of game drives and ‘roughing it’ in the untamed African wilderness, it’ll do you well to recoup on a sunny beach with a cocktail in one hand and your favourite book in the other. It might be the end of Southern Africa’s winter, but the tropical islands that make up the Bazaruto Archipelago hits their stride during this time.
August falls right in the region’s dry season. Usually sweltering temperatures drop, and vegetation thins out, exposing the wildlife for easier viewing. And, of course, water-based activities are abundant, from scuba diving and snorkelling to fishing for big game the impossibly blue waters have something for everyone. There’s also the possibility of spotting humpback whales as they migrate from icy Antarctica to the warmer waters of East Africa.
Malawi: Lake Malawi
For an alternative take on a beach holiday, look no further than the indescribably beautiful shore of Lake Malawi. One of Africa’s undiscovered gems, Lake Malawi has sandy beaches and crystal-clear water without the worries that come with the ocean – you won’t find strong tides or shark warnings here.
August in Malawi sees clear skies with sunny days, no rain and balmy nights – the ideal conditions for a coastal escape. Known as the ‘lake of stars’, the water entices hippos, warthogs and the occasional elephant to its shore. It’s a ‘beach’ getaway like no other at Lake Malawi, with days of kayaking, snorkelling and diving in the pristine waters surrounded by African wildlife.