When is the Best Time to Visit South Africa?
Published on: July 24th, 2017
Last modified: July 27th, 2023
The best time to go on safari in South Africa is during the dry season from May to October. These cooler months bring an average temperature of 16°C (60.8°F). Dry weather conditions, shorter grass and fewer watering holes mean better visibility for wildlife viewing.
These months are perfect to check off sightings of the Big Five at the multiple safari camps and game reserves across South Africa including the fantastic Sabi Sands, widely regarded as Africa’s premier game reserve and world renowned for the abundance of game (particularly leopards).
There is also the iconic Kruger National Park, best known for being one of the oldest and largest wildlife reserves in the world. Our pick of the local lodges is Singita Lebombo, an intimate, upscale property with a spacious deck area from which you can enjoy stunning views of Singita’s Kruger Concession.
South Africa hides some best-kept secrets as well, places that are yet to be discovered by the masses. One of these jewels is The Madikwe Game Reserve, bordering the Kalahari Desert and Botswana in South Africa’s north west corner. There’s no risk of malaria here, making the location great for families.
The Top Things to Do in South Africa
The Best Time to Visit Cape Town
The best time to visit Cape Town is between October and April. You get to enjoy warm and sunny days, with temperatures ranging from 16°C to 32°C (60.8°F to 89.6°F) in January – the hottest month in South Africa. March is the best time to visit for fewer crowds.
June and July are generally the coldest months in Cape Town. They come with shorter days, seasonal rain and wind but this period will surprise you with a quieter city. These winter months also mark the beginning of the whale season in Cape Town.
Come September, as spring makes its grand entrance, you have plenty of opportunities to scout for the best waves. This is also when you’ll want to take a trip out of the city to spot wild flowers.
From December to February, you can expect dry and sunny days, often with tropical thunderstorms. While it can get really hot during these months, it is also the best time to visit Cape Town for the vibrant beaches and end-of-year celebrations.
The Best Time to Visit the Winelands
The best time to visit South Africa for the Winelands is during the months of February and March when the vines are heavy with grapes. This is also the autumn harvesting season in South Africa. These months bring crisp air and clear blue skies.
During the autumn harvest, many vineyards organise festivals which allow wine enthusiasts to stomp on grapes and challenge friends to barrel-rolling races. The month of May also sees multiple wine festivals around Cape Town and its neighbouring towns.
If you are traveling between June and August, keep in mind that these are the winter months in South Africa. You will need to be prepared for temperatures as low as 6°C (42.8°F) in areas like Stellenbosch.
With longer days and warm temperatures, the summer months of December and January are also popular for visits to the Winelands as this marks the peak season in South Africa.
The Best Time to Visit South Africa to see Wild Flowers
The best time to visit South Africa for wild flowers is between the end of August and September. During this period, temperatures range from 16°C to 25°C (60.8°F – 80.6°F). This is a great time to combine whale watching, safaris and multi-region trips.
These months mark the beginning of the spring season in South Africa and temperatures start to rise. Keep in mind that mornings and late evenings can still be chilly. September also sees the end of the rainy season in South Africa.
During this season, wild flowers spread across South Africa’s west coast. Close to Cape Town you can get a teaser in West Coast National Park and Namaqualand, but it’s as you head further up the N7 that nature really begins to show off. Springbok, Kamieskroon, Port Nolloth and Garies are transformed by multitudes of bright flowers that blanket the ground.
When to Visit South Africa for Beaches and Surfing
November is the best time to visit South Africa for its beaches. This is the end of spring in South Africa. Temperatures start to increase significantly, days are brighter and longer. March is when you are likely to find good surfing conditions in South Africa.
If you’re just wanting to spend time lazing on the sand in Cape Town, you have up to March to head for the shores and enjoy perfect weather conditions. This is a great time to visit if you’re looking for a sun-drenched holiday. Keep in mind that these are the hottest months in South Africa. As this is summer, you will have to prepare for a few hours of tropical rain as well.
Along the KwaZulu-Natal coast, the weather is generally sunny all year long, so even the winter months between June and August are great for beach days.
There are also loads of world-class surfing spots, and you’ll find the best surf from March to September. From Jeffrey’s Bay and Muizenberg, to the Wildcoast, Big Bay and everything in between, there are a variety of waves to choose from depending on your skill or adventure levels.
The East African current makes for a warmer surfing experience, but you’ll definitely want to pack your wetsuit if you have your sights set on surfing around Cape Town at any time of the year.
The Best Time to Visit for Whale Watching
The best time to visit South Africa for whale watching begins from June. The best month to visit South Africa during the whale season is August. During these winter months, whales migrate from Antarctica to South Africa for calving.
A short 1.5-hour drive from Cape Town brings you to the town of Hermanus, along the Whale Coast. It’s one of the best land-based whale watching experiences in the world. Between late September and early October, you can also catch the Hermanus Whale Festival where visitors can enjoy live music, food stalls and craft markets.
The Best Time to Visit the Kruger
The best time to visit Kruger National Park is during the dry season between May and October. During this period, the weather conditions are ideal, the bush thins out and with fewer waterholes, animals will congregate. This is the perfect time for wildlife viewing.
May to September is winter in South Africa. This is when you can enjoy cooler temperatures in the Kruger. In fact, early morning game drives in open vehicles can get quite cold so we always recommend bringing layers. These months usually bring bright sunny skies with little to no rain. Since it is the dry season, wildlife gathers around water and the grass is lower, making viewing much easier.
The wet summer season in South Africa lasts between October and May. During these months, the scenery at the Kruger turns green. This is the best time to visit the Kruger for birding. Keep in mind that during this season, it gets hot and humid and you will want to consider malaria prevention.
The Best Time to Visit for Exploring the Whole Country
The best time to visit multiple regions across South Africa is between September and October. This is a great time to combine activities such as beach time, safaris, wildflower viewing, surfing and whale watching. Temperatures range from 16°C to 25°C (60.8°F – 80.6°F).
South Africa is a large and diverse country so the climate differs from region to region. For this reason, choosing the best time to visit South Africa for a multi-region trip will largely depend on what you want to see and do.
Between late September and early October, this is where you can catch the Hermanus Whale Festival. September is also the best time to visit for safaris in areas like the Kruger National Park and Sabi Sands. This period brings dry weather conditions, making it ideal to spot the Big Five.
While the best time to visit the Winelands is during the autumn harvest season of February and March, the area remains enjoyable all year round. Along the KwaZulu-Natal coast, the weather is generally sunny all year long, so September and October are also great for beach days.
Our Team's Favourite South African Trips
What is the best season to visit South Africa?
The best time to visit South Africa is between May and October which bring perfect weather conditions for wildlife viewing. From November to February, expect some rain and plenty of opportunities for birding. The best time to visit South Africa for surfing is March to September.
Visiting in South African spring: September - November
Visiting South Africa in spring, between September and November means warm and sunny days. As this is the end of the rainy season, the Northern Cape experiences occasional showers. With lower grass and better visibility, September is great for safaris in the Kruger, Sabi Sands and Madikwe Game Reserve. During this period, temperatures range from 16°C to 25°C (60.8°F – 80.6°F).
Visiting during South African summer: December - February
Summer in South Africa lasts from December to February. In areas like Cape Town and the Western Cape, you get to enjoy dry and sunny days. Tropical thunderstorms are expected throughout the rest of the country. With fuller waterholes, lush vegetation and new-born animals, this is a good time to go on safari.
Visiting during South Africa’s autumn: March - May
Visiting South Africa between March and May is a good time to explore Cape Town and the Winelands. These months bring shorter days, crisp air and cooler temperatures at night. Surfing conditions on the KwaZulu-Natal coast are also great during this season.
Visiting during the South African winter: June - August
Winter in South Africa lasts from June to August. Temperatures drop as low as 4.1°C (39.4°F) in areas like Johannesburg and it snows in the mountains. These drier months are perfect for safaris as there is better visibility for big cats. August is also the best month for whale watching.
Where to Stay in South Africa
Singita LebomboLebombo’s contemporary design acts as a counterpoint to the rugged landscape making it an architectural and design landmark. The large, spacious interiors are dressed in clean whites and feature vast windows which reveal the contrasting landscape outside. A spacious deck area with a long pool and comfortable outdoor beds for lounging, makes Lebombo a superior choice. The fifteen suites sit on various points of the hill, each decorated with a delicate balance of man-made and natural materials. Bleached branches adorn the roofs whilst floor to ceiling windows let the light in, providing a light, spacious feel. As well as the communal areas of the lodge, guests can enjoy the spa and curio shop. The game driving here is exemplary with excellent guides and trackers as well as comfortable vehicles. All in all, a stunning safari experience and beautiful lodge in terms of both design and feel.
The Mount NelsonThe Grand Dame, heritage property of Cape Town, the Mount Nelson comes with bags of history and is perhaps the most famous hotel in the city. It’s set in large grounds and is made up of a number of different smaller buildings. Most rooms have been refurbished with a contemporary refresh, adding comfort and modern touches to the historic décor. The bar and restaurant have had a similar treatment making them a popular place to visit for Capetonians (a great sign for any hotel restaurant, particularly in the fickle and competitive Cape Town restaurant scene). From their vermiculture project and on-site beehives, to their use of locally produced organic vegetables, the hotel puts a strong emphasis on having a positive impact on the environment and local community. Rooms are very comfortable and spacious and are located in several buildings dotted throughout the large property and gardens. This makes it stand apart from other larger hotels in Cape Town as in this most outdoor of cities it’s great to have large, green gardens to take a stroll through and outdoor pools (and for the more active, there are also tennis courts). Though The Mount Nelson is very much a location in itself, the large grounds sit just a short stroll away from downtown and also the Kloof Street Area, which is famous among locals for excellent new restaurants and boutiques. Afternoon Tea at the Nelson (or Nellie as it is affectionately known) is a Cape Town institution and well worth trying.
Mont RochelleLocated in Franschhoek, a traditional vineyard town known as South Africa’s food and wine capital, Mont Rochelle is part of Sir Richard Branson’s hotel portfolio and features a fabulous 37 hectare vineyard. This beautiful property features 22 bedrooms including six spacious suites – two of which can accommodate families, two restaurants, a cosy bar, a spa with Hammam facilities, a gym, an outdoor heated pool and a wine cellar. The luxurious rooms are divided into five categories: Shiraz with king-size beds and courtyard or valley views; the larger Merlot with valley views; Cabernet with a private terrace overlooking the valley; the huge Pinotage Suites with separate lounges; and the Cap Classique Suites with a lounge, private terrace and their own plunge pool. The hotel’s decor is contemporary, light and airy, and rooms feature superior touches such as Africology branded bathroom amenities, mini speakers and a complementary minibar. With a superb location just a short walk into the centre of Franschhoek, Mont Rochelle is perfectly placed for exploration. But there’s plenty to do at the hotel itself too: be sure to take advantage of personalised tasting sessions at the wine cellar, horse riding, picnics in the stunning grounds, mountain biking and golf.
South African weather by month
South African weather by month (Temperatures & Climate Guide)
Weather in South Africa in January
January is the hottest month in South Africa. Temperatures go as high as 32°C (89.6°F). Despite tropical rainfall, it is one of the best months to visit South Africa for its beaches and incredible sunsets.
Weather in South Africa in February
The average temperature in February is 19ºC (66.2°F), which is made up of highs of 29ºC (84.2°F) and lows of 16ºC (60.8°F) at night. This is a good time to visit the Winelands as the vines are heavy with grapes and you can enjoy harvest festivities.
Weather in South Africa in March
With up to 12 hours of sunshine a day, blue skies and cooler nights, March sees an average temperature of 22ºC (71.6°F). This is when you are likely to find good surfing conditions in South Africa. Keep in mind that it typically gets cooler at night, with temperatures dropping as low as 14ºC (57.2°F).
Weather in South Africa in April
The month of April in South Africa brings predictable weather conditions and an average temperature of 23°C (73.4°F). You can enjoy warm days and cooler nights. It is a good time to visit Cape Town. Come the end of April, occasional rain showers mark the beginning of winter.
Weather in South Africa in May
The best time to visit South Africa for safaris begins from the month of May. During this dry season, you can enjoy up to 20°C (68°F) in Cape Town and Johannesburg. It stays nice and warm in the evenings too with temperatures only cooling to 16ºC (60.8°F).
Weather in South Africa in June
The month of June brings crisp winter air to South Africa. Beginning this month temperatures drop as low as 4.1°C (39.4°F) in areas like Johannesburg and up to 18°C (64.4°F) in Cape Town. It also starts to snow in the mountains. This is a good time for game viewing.
Weather in South Africa in July
In July, daily high temperatures in areas like Cape Town are around 18°C (64.4°F) and cool down to a chilly 7°C (44.6°F) in the evening. Some of the hottest areas go up to 30°C (86°F). Keep in mind that July also sees a few spells of rainfall as it marks the beginning of the wet season.
Weather in South Africa in August
The best time to visit South Africa for whale watching is the month of August. This is the end of winter in South Africa, with temperatures as low as 6°C (42.8°F) in areas like Johannesburg. Hotter places can go as high as 27°C (80.6°F). This is also when wild flowers start to bloom.
Weather in South Africa in September
September is one of the most agreeable months in South Africa. As spring starts, you can enjoy day-long sunshine and warm temperatures of up to 29°C (84.2°F) in hotter areas. This is the best time to combine game viewing and visits to the beach.
Weather in South Africa in October
The month of October in South Africa offers comfortable temperatures as high as 28°C (82.4°F) and daily average of 16°C (60.8°F) in cooler areas. It is the spring season in South Africa. This dry period is great for safaris and multi-region trips.
Weather in South Africa in November
November is the end of the spring season in South Africa. Temperatures start to increase significantly, days are brighter and longer. It gets as warm as 25°C (77°F) on average. This is the best time to visit South Africa for its beaches. It is also the beginning of the rainy season.
Weather in South Africa in December
In December, areas like Kruger National Park in the North-East have an average maximum temperature of 32°C (89.6°F). In Johannesburg and Cape Town, temperatures range between 14°C (57.2°F) to 26°C (78.8°F). This is the summer season in South Africa. It gets hot and humid, with possible afternoon thunderstorms.