Travelers often want to know- what time of year is the best to visit South Africa? While the country experiences moderate temperatures throughout the year, there are a few things that may influence your decision on when to visit. Most important is...
What do you want to do in South Africa?
Most visitors to South Africa want to visit the Kruger National Park. While there is no such thing as a bad time to visit Kruger, you may want to consider a few things when planning your trip.
South African school holidays. South African’s love their national park just as much as the tourists, so school holidays can be extremely busy. Camps usually get fully booked and they may turn day visitors away at the gates, if the park has reached its capacity of visitors. The South African school years runs from January to December. Students get a two-week break around mid-March to early April, a three week break at the end of June, as week around early October and around five weeks from early December until the new school year starts in mid-January.
Click here for more information on South African school holidays.
When is the best time to view animals?
While you can see animals at any time of year in Kruger Park, different seasons have their advantages.
Summer months (December to March) are hot, offering a great escape from northern winters. This is the rainy season in the Lowveld (Kruger Park region). Rains often happen as thundershowers in the afternoon. The rain leads to beautiful, green landscapes. However, the abundant foliage can sometimes make it more challenging to see the wildlife. Many of the animals have their young during this time, so there can be many babies about.
During the winter (May to September) the rains recede and the foliage becomes dry, brown and sparse. This makes the landscape less beautiful, but makes game viewing easier. You may miss that cheetah lying under a tree at any other time of year! Nights can be cool in the winter, so a jacket and solid shoes are needed.
If your vacation plans are centered around Cape Town and the Garden Route, you probably want to consider visiting in the South African summer months. Unlike the rest of the country, which receives rain in the summer, the Western Cape is drier in the summer. November to March offers warm days and evenings, with little rain. Winters in the Cape can be cool, windy affairs. September and October see less rain, and can be good times to visit for people not seeking too much heat. As with the Kruger Park, beach areas can be busy during school holidays.
Another popular site is the annual migration of the Southern Right Whales to the coastal areas around Hermanus, in the Western Cape. I have stood on the beach in Hermanus, watching whales frolic just off shore. You don’t even need a boat! This amazing spectacle happens from August to November.
Flower lovers may want to see the wildflowers bloom in Namaqualand. The site of this semi-desert area suddenly coming to life with a blanket of wildflowers is unforgettable. The blooms usually start in mid-August and continue through September.
Many tourists travel through Johannesburg, rather staying for a visit. This is a shame, because there is so much to do and see there. The Apartheid Museum and tours of Soweto are two things that provide excellent opportunities to learn about the country’s past.
Sitting on the high veld plateau, Johannesburg can get surprisingly cool. If you plan on spending any time there in the winter, be sure to pack accordingly. Johannesburg receives most of its rain in the summer months (December-February). This is often in the form of intense afternoon thunder storms. The high veld of South Africa experiences one of the highest rates of lightening in the world!
No matter when you chose to visit, you will be enchanted by this beautiful country.