While there is no bad time to go to this country, the best time to visit South Africa depends on what you hope to do.
Those travelling to Cape Town will experience warm days and less wind when visiting during early summer, from October to April.
May to October is great for safaris in the Kruger, Sabi Sands and Madikwe Game Reserve with lower grasses and great visibility. The wetter summer months, however, see fuller waterholes and newborn animals.
The winelands are great to visit all year round, while those visiting for South Africa's beautiful wild flowers will want to head over in August and September.
In general, most of South Africa has warm days and cooler nights, but conditions do vary from region to region. Aim to visit in April and May or September and October for the most agreeable and predictable weather. You’ll find the climate has a Mediterranean feel down in the south west, while the interior plateau is a little more temperate. The north east leans towards sub-tropical, while a small part of the north west has a desert-like climate.
One of the most pleasant times to visit Cape Town and the Garden Route is during early summer (October to April) when the winds drop. Winter is from May to September with dry sunny days, and sharp temperature drops at night. However, locals will be quick to tell you that you can often experience all four seasons in one day in Cape Town! From September to March, you may make the acquaintance of the Cape Doctor, a strong and dry south easterly wind. Its name comes from the fact that it clears away any pollution that rests over the city. One thing to be aware of is that the summer months can be very hot and dry, and veld fires start and spread very quickly, especially if the wind picks up. Be vigilant when it comes to cigarette butts - one carelessly tossed ‘stompie’ can be devastating for the environment and wildlife.
South Africa’s winelands are waiting to be discovered and enjoyed all year round. If you’re keen to get involved in harvest festivities, it’s best to visit in February and March when the skies are blue and the vines are heavy with grapes. Many wine farms organise festivals which allow wine enthusiasts to stomp on grapes and challenge friends to barrel-rolling races. As autumn approaches at the end of March, the lush greens of the vineyards are replaced with picture-perfect earthy oranges and yellows. Then in the crisp June and July winter air, the blue skies return and brilliant white snow dusts the tops of the nearby mountains.
Even locals flock to see the explosion of wild flowers in Namaqualand in spring. In August and September the desert-like sands between small towns across the semi-arid parts of the country come to life as the flowers open. 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. There are over 4,000 species of plant waiting for the perfect weather to paint the landscape.
For game viewing in areas like Kruger National Park, Sabi Sands and Madikwe Game Reserve, May to October is the perfect time for wildlife viewing. These drier, winter months mean lower grasses and better visibility for big cats. It also means that watering holes are smaller and fewer, and animals are drawn together in greater numbers. However, with the wetter summer months come fuller waterholes, lush vegetation and new-born animals.
With 3000km of coastline, South Africa is a great destination for beach lovers. If you’re just wanting to spend time lazing on the sand in Cape Town, head for the shores between November and March, but don’t forget the sunscreen and a hat – the summer sun in South Africa can be brutal. The weather along the KwaZulu-Natal coast is generally sunny all year long, so even winter is great for beach days. There are also loads of world-class surfing spots, and you’re generally likely to 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. Always pay close attention to any shark warnings, and ensure you know where the life guard stations are.
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