When is the Best Time to Visit South Africa?

The best time to go to South Africa for a safari is from May to October. These months are superb for game viewing in Kruger, Madikwe, Pilanesberg and KwaZulu-Natal as the animals are concentrated around water sources and are easier to spot in the dry season’s thinned-out vegetation.

South Africa is a large and diverse country with a climate that varies from region to region. Generally, the summer lasts from about December to March before winter takes over from June to August. Cape Town and the Western Cape experience winter rainfall and a largely dry, hot summer. Most of the rest of the country, including the Kruger Park area, have summer thundershowers and a dry winter, while the Garden Route and Eastern Cape can experience rain at any time of year.

For a Cape Town beach holiday, you simply can’t beat the hot summer months between November and March - it is arguably the best place to visit in South Africa. The KwaZulu-Natal coast has year-round sunshine, a beautifully mild winter and warm ocean temperatures – so any time is a good time to go. If you want to see whales along South Africa’s Whale Coast, then visit between June and November – numbers are usually at their highest in September.

Summer Winter
Months December to March June to August
Average Temperatures 25°C / 77°F 17°C / 63°F
Rainfall Short and sharp thunderstorms around Johannesburg, Kruger and KwaZulu-Natal Mostly in Cape Town and the Western Cape
Highlights Beach holidays in Cape Town, Garden Route and Eastern Cape Game viewing in Kruger, Madikwe, Pilanesberg and KwaZulu-Natal
Choosing the best time to visit South Africa depends entirely on what you want to see and do:
Experience Best Time
South Africa safari May to October
Cape Town beach holiday November to March
Cape Winelands tours All year round
Garden Route holiday All year round
Whale watching July to November

South Africa Safari: High vs Low Season

High or Peak Season Low or Green Season
About June to August About November to April
Highest rates Lowest rates
Need to book well in advance No need to book too far in advance
Cool and dry weather Hot and occasionally wet weather
Animals are easy to spot Animals are not as easy to spot
Not many baby animals around Lots of baby animals around
Most crowded Least crowded
Great photography conditions Beautiful lush and green landscapes with the best light of the year for photography

Month-by-Month Guide for Travelling to South Africa:

Visiting South Africa from January to March

A lion lying on the grass in Kruger National Park, South Africa

January is one of the best times to visit South Africa. It’s ideal for beach holidays anywhere along the South African coast, although the Kwa-Zulu Natal coast can be rather hot and humid. Game viewing in the Kruger Park and other reserves can be slightly challenging, as animals are dispersed away from water sources and thick vegetation can reduce visibility. However, the lush and green conditions of the bush during the low season are less crowded, with lots of baby animals around and the best light of the year for photography.

February is one of the hottest months in the country, particularly in Cape Town – but coastal towns are usually cooled down by welcome sea breezes. It’s the best time to visit South Africa if you want to avoid the festive crowds, but it’s still a busy month and can get booked up well in advance. Read more about our tips for travelling to South Africa.

March is the last month of summer. It’s still considered a good time for beach holidays with different regions offering varied climates. Game viewing in the Kruger Park and other reserves offers easier wildlife spotting as the lush summer vegetation starts to clear.


Visiting South Africa from July to September

Whale watching off the coast of South Africa

July is another great month for whale watching. Southern right whales can be spotted along South Africa’s Whale Coast after their long journey from the Arctic, to give birth to their young in the warmer waters. This is also when to go to South Africa for a safari in the Kruger – game viewing is superb, daytime temperatures are moderate, and the risk of malaria is very low.

August is usually the month when flowers begin to bloom across the Western Cape and the Northern Cape regions. Travelling up the West Coast to see the wildflowers is a popular pastime, witnessing the landscape bloom into a tapestry of bright colours after the last drops of winter rain. It can be very cold in Gauteng before spring really begins, while the Cape can also be cool. The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway may be closed for maintenance at this time, so it’s best to check beforehand to avoid disappointment.

September marks the official end of the winter months and is the best time to visit South Africa for a safari in Spring at one of the many game parks across the country. Shamwari Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape, Phinda Game Reserve in Kwa-Zulu Natal, and the Kruger all offer some of the best game viewing on the continent.


Travelling to South Africa from October to December

A view of Table Mountain from the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa

October is a vibrant month as the landscape is lush and ready for the summer months. Temperatures start to heat up throughout the country, and the afternoon and evening summer rains in the north of the country are on the horizon. This is the best time to visit South Africa for a coastal trip, combined with an inland game drive before the peak season begins.

In November the rains begin in northern KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, while visitors to the Western Cape can experience the last month of whale season before they begin their long journey back to the Arctic. This is the best time to visit South Africa and explore inland areas such as the Karoo or the Free State.

December is a busy month across South Africa, especially along the coast. It’s a good idea to book restaurants and excursions well in advance during the festive period.


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