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Best Time and Season to Visit South Africa: Complete Guide

Team AckoFeb 8, 2024

South Africa is an African wonderland filled with endless experiences that can satisfy even the pickiest traveller. From wine to wildlife and everything in between, this country can match your expectations and then some. Its magnificent cities are only rivalled by its beautiful beaches. South Africa has every type of landscape you can think of, and its beauty is highlighted in such a way that you will look back on your African vacation with immense fondness. Whether you are in it for a safari to spot the big 5, great food and wine, or a scenic road trip through the Garden Route, South Africa is a destination that you cannot afford to miss. So here’s how to figure out the best time to visit South Africa so that you can make the most of this country and the many pleasures that it blesses visitors with.

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When is the best time to visit South Africa?

The best time to go to South Africa would be between May and September, especially if you want to go on safaris without rain playing spoilsport. This stretch is the winter season, which is the best season to visit South Africa for wildlife watching. The climate is dry, which allows visitors to catch once-in-a-lifetime views of wildlife. This is true of Kruger and KwaZulu-Natal.

If you want to visit Cape Town and the regions close to it, then the stretch between November and March is the best time of year to go to South Africa. The weather in that region remains nice and toasty, with less rainfall during this time period. The majority of these months fall during the summer season. The Cape is a great destination for wildlife watching throughout the year.

Overall, the weather should not deter you from visiting this country because it varies throughout the year in most regions. So depending on when you get to travel, there will always be a part of South Africa that can welcome you. But if you plan with precision, you may be able to visit all regions and enjoy great weather throughout your visit so that you don’t miss out on attractions.

When is the best season to visit South Africa?

Peak season: The peak holiday season in South Africa begins in November and comes to a close in March. The beaches are lovely this time of the year. Another activity that can be a big draw for animal lovers during this season is bird watching. The Kruger region is lush and green, but wildlife watching becomes difficult here due to this factor. Cape Town and the Garden Route are most popular during this season. There are many festivals taking place in the country around this time, making it even more attractive to tourists. Prices go up during this season, and everything is booked solid well in advance, so plan well ahead if you are heading to this country around these months.

Shoulder season: The months of April, May, September, and October are considered to be shoulder season months for South Africa. This season is the best time to visit South Africa for wildlife. The months of April and May come under the autumn season, which is considered to be the best season for South Africa for those who want to experience glorious African safaris. Animals are easier to spot during this time and are on the move towards watering holes. September and October are peak whale watching months. These two months also see beautiful blooms come to life, making for spectacular photo ops.

Low season: June, July, and August are considered to be off season in South Africa. This is the best time to travel to South Africa if you are a budget traveller. These months provide ideal safari weather, so those won’t come cheap. But certain parts of the country, like Cape Town, where the weather is a combination of rain, chilly winds, and sunshine, can be more budget-friendly options.

A month-by-month guide to travel in South Africa

South Africa in January

 The first month of the year falls during the peak season. The summer is in full swing. Cape is the place to be to make the most of the weather. Kruger is hot in January but also witnesses showers, but they are mostly in the afternoon and don’t last for long. School holidays come into play till mid-January, so expect all the usual tourist spots to attract locals as well.

 Temperature range to expect: 25 degrees Celsius to 27 degrees Celsius

 Events: Battle of Isandlwana and Battle of Rorke's Drift Anniversaries, Cape Town Minstrel Carnival

South Africa in February

Summer heat is still in the air in South Africa in the month of February. You can escape to the Eastern and Western Cape to enjoy the sea breeze, which makes these regions more pleasant. February falls in the peak season in the South African tourist calendar and is a good time to visit South Africa weather-wise, so it is best to make bookings well in advance.

Temperature range to expect: 25 degrees Celsius to 27 degrees Celsius

Events: Up the Creek Festival, Ultra South Africa, Cape Town Pride Week

South Africa in March

March is the best month to go to South Africa. The fall season begins this month, and the temperature is nice and comfortably mild with the rains tapering off in the north. The coastal regions, with their amazing beaches, are the places to be.

Temperature range to expect: 20 degrees Celsius to 23 degrees Celsius

Events: Cape Town Cycle Tour, Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees, Cape Town International Jazz Festival

South Africa in April

April is another best month to visit South Africa, especially if you want to spot the wildlife that it is known for. The autumn months are a great time to catch a glimpse of the spectacular wildlife as, post-rains, the water sources such as lakes and rivers are filled to the brim and become their gathering spots. There’s also less vegetation around during this period, making animal spotting a bit easier. Hitting the beaches on the coasts is also a great option if wildlife watching isn’t for you.

Temperature range to expect: 20 degrees Celsius to 23 degrees Celsius

Events: AfrikaBurn

South Africa in May

If you are in South Africa, this is an excellent month to cross an African safari off your bucket list. This is because the rains are coming to a close this month as winter weather takes over. The nights can turn chilly, but the days can be warm and dry, making winter the best weather to visit South Africa. Since sweater weather has arrived, tourist footfall is low, so you can have a good safari experience if you choose to visit South Africa in May.

Temperature range to expect: 10 degrees Celsius to 15 degrees Celsius

South Africa in June

This is the beginning of the low season as the winter gets going in earnest. It is the cheapest time to visit South Africa. Going to beaches in and around Cape Town is not advisable as the weather turns chilly. Some rain can also come into play. The northern areas remain dry, and the parks there are best for safaris and wildlife spotting. The days remain pleasant, with the nights experiencing plunging temperatures.

Temperature range to expect: 10 degrees Celsius to 15 degrees Celsius

South Africa in July

The northern regions remain the "It" spot, as they remain dry and ideal for safaris. However, be prepared for chilly early mornings. The Cape experiences both rain and chilly weather, but there is plenty of sunshine thrown in as well. The Western Cape is an excellent destination for whale watching, as the southern right whales migrate to the South African coast to give birth to their young.

Temperature range to expect: 10 degrees Celsius to 15 degrees Celsius

Events: Whale Watching Season, Knysna Oyster Festival, J-Bay Open, Durban International Film Festival

South Africa in August

Spring has sprung, with the northern and western regions going into full bloom mode with wildflowers. The northern parts of the country, including Kruger, are dry. This is the best season to visit the parks in the north, including the Kruger National Park and those around KwaZulu-Natal Province. Hence, August is the best time to see animals in South Africa. Cape remains in the grips of winter weather well into the first half of this month.

Temperature range to expect: 14 degrees Celsius to 16 degrees Celsius

Events: Whale Watching Season, Wildflower Season

South Africa in September

September is the best time of year to visit South Africa if you love animals. Whale watching and baby animals that are born during the spring season are waiting for you this month. You can also enjoy the blooms that are popping up in the south and west of the country. Temperatures are on the rise across the country. Since the school holiday season begins in the middle of the month, it's best to sort out your travel bookings beforehand if you are travelling to South Africa during this period.

Temperature range to expect: 14 degrees Celsius to 16 degrees Celsius

Events: Whale Watching Season, Wildflower Season, Festival of Motoring Johannesburg, Winelands Chocolate Festival

South Africa in October 

Spring is the best time to go to South Africa. This is because the weather is mild and pleasant, making it the best weather to visit South Africa. October sticks to this weather pattern, with temperatures veering towards being comfortably warm. This is the best time to visit every region in the country without the weather creating any mischief. You can also combine a variety of indoor and outdoor activities during the spring months. The local school holiday, which may stretch till mid-October, can fill up tourist spots, which is the only downside to travelling to South Africa this month.

Temperature range to expect: 14 degrees Celsius to 16 degrees Celsius

Events: Whale Watching Season, Wildflower Season, Macufe African Cultural Festival, Durban Bierfest

South Africa in November

Rain has arrived in Kruger National Park and KwaZulu-Natal. The rest of South Africa sees an increase in temperature as spring comes to an end, leading into summer. Whale watching comes to a close this month, but peak season starts, so there is an increase in tourist footfall.

Temperature range to expect: 14 degrees Celsius to 16 degrees Celsius

Events: Whale Watching Season, Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts, Ficksburg Cherry Festival

South Africa in December

The summer season makes itself known, but the northern parts of the country can experience some wet weather. South Africa in December falls into the peak tourist season because of the weather and the festive season. Because of this, it's best to plan your trip well in advance and make all the necessary arrangements. But the first half of the month remains relatively tourist-friendly.

Temperature range to expect: 25 degrees Celsius to 27 degrees Celsius

Events: Afropunk, Durban Street Food Festival

When is the cheapest time to visit South Africa?

The months between June and August can be considered the cheapest time to visit South Africa. Barring safaris, travelling to this African nation during this time period can be easy on your pockets.

When is the most expensive time to visit South Africa?

The peak season, which falls between November and March, is the most expensive time to visit South Africa. The volume of tourist traffic is high, and school holidays also come into play during this time, making prices go up for all tourist essentials, including accommodations. Making your travel plans and booking well in advance is a must if you want to visit this country during peak season, as it is the best time to holiday in South Africa.

When is the best time to visit South Africa for a safari?

South Africa is a place where you can spot the big 5 (lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo, and rhino) in one day. The time period between May and September is the best time to visit South Africa for safari. The weather conditions in Kruger are especially favourable for good wildlife watching during these months, which fall in the winter season. You don’t have to deal with pesky mosquitoes, but you may have to put up with cold nights and take some warm clothing with you if you have opted for an early morning safari. All year round, game reserves in the Cape region are excellent for wildlife viewing. However, October to April is a better time to visit for a more pleasant viewing experience. But be warned that October to April is the high season for this region.

Tip:  Some of the most well-known wildlife spotting destinations are Sabi Sands, MalaMala Game Reserve, Phinda Game Reserve, Kruger National Park, and Pilanesberg National Park.

When is the best season for whale watching in South Africa?

The months of July, August, September, October, and November are thought to be the best in South Africa for whale watching off the Western Cape. Whales, dolphins, and sharks can also be spotted from Durban between May and June. If you want to spot whales close to the shore, Hermanus is the place to be in early April.

Why you must get travel insurance when visiting South Africa.

Vacationing abroad doesn’t always go smoothly. There are plenty of things that can go wrong, and they often catch us unaware. Besides the mental trauma of being stuck abroad and feeling helpless, incidents such as medical emergencies, loss of baggage, and flight delays can leave a big dent in your pocket. So, in order to eliminate the uncertainty, it's best to buy travel insurance before your trip to South Afirca.

Frequently asked questions

Here are some answers to the common questions related to the best time to visit South Africa.

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Which are the hottest months in South Africa?

Summer in South Africa is pretty hot. The months of December, January, and February are considered to be the hottest months in South Africa. Expect a low of 21 degrees Celsius and a maximum of 32 degrees Celsius during the summer months here. These months are also the best time to visit South Africa for a holiday and are considered to fall in the peak tourist season.

When is the rainy season in South Africa?

The region around Kruger experiences rainfall between November and April, especially in the afternoon. It can become rather humid and hot. Rain can occur between May and September in the regions surrounding Cape Town.

When is the best time to visit South Africa with family?

Safaris can be the main draw when it comes to visiting South Africa with your family. The months between May and September are the best for safaris. The winter season in South Africa is lovely, and safaris and even whale watching can be added to your itinerary, making it the perfect time to take your loved ones on an African getaway. As a family, you visit Pilanesberg National Park or Madikwe Game Reserve for an unforgettable experience.

When is the best time to visit South Africa from India?

South Africa holds the distinction of being a year-round destination. It has various activities and experiences to offer throughout the year. But if you have specific experiences in mind, such as a beach holiday, safari, or whale watching, you may have to plan your trip around the months that offer the best weather for these activities. If you are looking for a budget trip, then the months between June and August can be easier on the pocket, with the exception of safaris.

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Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. It is based on several secondary sources on the internet, and is subject to changes.

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