What time of the year is best to visit South Africa?
Often referred to as “Sunny South Africa”, this phrase is has proved to be true for South Africa. In general South Africa has some of the more agreeable weather in the world. South Africa is a large and diverse country with a climate that varies from region to region and has various things to offer in terms of landscape and natural wonders.
For many travellers to this vast and diverse continent, wildlife is the major attraction.
But where to go………
Wildlife Safaris are often very high on the agenda, followed by the Garden Route, Cape Town, the whales of the south coast , the flowers of Namaqualand, the Drakensberg Mountains and of course the hundreds of kilometres of beach destinations to choose from. There are some adventures in South Africa that can only be experienced at specific times of year. For example, if you want to experience the world-famous Namaqualand daisies, then September (our spring) is the time to visit. The famous Sardine Run, a unique phenomenon when millions of sardines travel up the east coast of South Africa causing a feeding frenzy that attracts thousands of sharks, dolphins, whales, birds and other ocean predators, occurs between May and July.
South African season calendar
The seasons fall in the year as follows:
Spring – September & October
Summer – November to February
Autumn – March & April
Winter – June – August
Winter is best! Here’s why!
The drier winter months between May and October is the best time for superb game viewing on a game drive in Kruger National Park, Madikwe, Pilanesberg and KwaZulu-Natal.
- Animals are concentrated around water sources and are easier to spot in the thinned-out bush. This is also the low season for tourism.
- During this time the mornings and nights are cooler to quite cold during June & July.
- May and September are wonderful because it is less cold and, especially in September, the rain will come bringing with it colourful and diverse wildflowers.
- The wildlife viewing is excellent, this is because the wildlife is easier to spot because there is less vegetation and animals gather around rivers and waterholes.
- There is little to no rain, the skies are clear, most days are sunny and there are fewer mosquitos.
- This is the low season and parks are not crowded, except for Kruger during school holidays.
Don’t despair, Summer & Spring also has its perks…
- The summer months (often referred to as the green season), is the best time to see the African bush at its greenest with bursting river banks and dams.
- The birdlife is at its best, with allot of migratory birds visiting
- It will be calving season for many of the antelope species. Nothing cuter than baby Impala’s pouncing around.
- The sunsets during this time of year can be a riot of pinks and reds and the air is generally very clean.
The negative side to being on safari during the green season is that fact the bush is thick and therefore visibility can at times be limited. Another factor to consider is that surface water scattered all over the bush, causes game movements to become less predictable, in that there is now no reason for animals to go and drink at the traditional permanent water holes and rivers as they would have done in the dry season. Let’s not forget the temperature which can reach into the 40’s.
What about the Cape & other regions?
Autumn, winter and spring are also ideal times to visit the Northern Cape’s wonderful national parks with their black-maned lions, and is a good time to enjoy animal tracking adventures with the Kalahari Bushmen. During summer months, temperatures here can get unbearably hot.
As for the Namaqua National Park – an arid semi-desert landscape with mountains, roads, rocks and shrubs. In spring the transformation of this landscape is completely transformed by a blanket of beautiful flowers.
The world’s smallest tortoise, the speckled padloper (padloper means ‘path walker’), is found in Namaqualand. From horizon to horizon, orange daisies take over the Namaqua National Park in spring. It’s a sight so beautiful and unique, it’ll take your breath away.
The timing of the flowers and how many will bloom changes every year but its guaranteed that sometime between August and the beginning of October the dusty land will spring to life. It’s also rich in bulb flora and over 1000 of the estimated 3500 plant species that occur here are found nowhere else in the world.
World renowned Drakensburg Mountains
Hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains is also great all year round. Do be aware that in winter, night temperatures can drop below freezing, and snow can sometimes be found in the higher reaches. During the summer months, afternoon thunderstorms are a frequent occurrence. You can visit cascading waterfalls and crystal clear streams in summer with an array insects, birds and small mammals.
Wetland & Marine reserves
A very special slice of Africa, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park St offers Eco tourists some of the most diverse wildlife and outdoor experiences imaginable. Besides Lake St Lucia – a unique, 38 000 ha expanse of lake, islands and estuary – the park incorporates an astonishing variety of habitats ranging from the Ubombo mountains to grasslands, forests, wetlands, mangroves and vegetated dunes, with magnificent beaches and coral reefs.
You can dive on coral reefs or walk for miles along golden beaches; explore great dunes and wander through magical coastal forests; roam across grassy plains as the wind carries the whistling calls of reedbuck on the alert, go fishing or take a boat cruise on Lake St Lucia.
So, no matter what area you go to, you will no doubt find something special and memorable which will make you wanting to come back, again, again and again………
Kim & The Bushwise Team