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Best Time To Go to South Africa (Weather, Safaris & More)

South Africa is a country teeming with sights and attractions. At any time of the year, you’ll find countless things to do and see and hundreds of reasons to visit. This makes it the perfect holiday spot for any lover of nature, culture, history or adventure.

Not only is it one of the most scenic destinations in the world, but it’s blessed with a lovely, varied climate all year-round. Every season brings unique and wonderful things to enjoy. So whether you’re after the white sand beaches or the renowned wildlife, you’re sure to find it in our guide to the best time to go to South Africa.

This country has exquisite natural beauty and world-renowned historical sites which ensure that you’re always stimulated in South Africa. This guide will help you decide the best time to visit, according to what you want to experience. So that you can start planning your next trip to this wondrous corner of the world.

Best Time to Visit South Africa cover photo of a river running through the Green covered Drakensburg Mountain range
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Best Time to go to South Africa for Popular Attractions

Best Time To Go To South Africa image of the waterfront in Cape Town with Table Mountain in the background
While every season makes for a pleasant holiday experience in this bustling country, there are, of course, certain activities that are best at certain times of the year.

Countless tourists flock to this beautiful country in search of its vast, unfenced wilderness and sublime safari’s. But there are tons of other drawing points. Such as the pristine white-sand beaches, forests, mountains, vineyards, and modern cities.

There are also so many opportunities for outdoor adventure. Get your blood pumping with activities like skydiving, paragliding, bungee jumping and windsurfing. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular attractions that draw tourists from near and far to this yearround destination.

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When to go to South Africa for Sightseeing

Aerial view of the Cape Town coast with Lions head mountain in the background
Whether you’re a tourist or a local exploring your own country, you will have no shortage of activities and sights to see. It’s a good idea to remember that peak season in South Africa is over December and January. While the summer season has warmer weather, it also means longer queues and more foot traffic at attractions.

However, the warmer seasons allow for exciting experiences like a cable car ride up the famous Table Mountain which is adorned with indigenous plants and wildlife. Hot summers and sunny days mean better visibility from the mountaintop where you can enjoy sunset drinks and breathtaking views of the beautiful Mother City.

Start your South African vacation by kicking back with a perfect glass of Chardonnay visit the Cape Winelands. Or grab your friends and do a summertime road trip along the Garden Route, past lagoons and forest-lined roads.

Best Time For Safari in South Africa

When it comes to a safari, many wonder when the best time to visit South Africa is. While planning your trip, it’s important to consider the weather and time of year. This is because it will, to an extent, affect your sightseeing plans and what kind of itinerary you can plan. Let’s dive right into your burning safari questions.

Best Month To Visit South Africa for Safari

Giraffe walking through yellow grasses to knee height with an acacia tree in the background
There are two prominent seasons to consider when it comes to game-spotting opportunities on your African safari. These are referred to as the dry season and the wet or “green” season. Kruger National Park offers some great safaris from Joburg if you don’t have much time, and so does Cape Town, you should be spoilt for choice. Let’s take a closer look at when you’ll most likely get to spot animals.

Dry Season

Closue up of three white rhino lined up eating grass in front of a sparse green tree
If big game viewing is on your agenda then the dry season is the way to go (as the animals are easier to spot!) This falls over the cooler winter months in the northern regions and provides superb safari conditions.

The dry season runs from May to October. During this time you can expect warm, sunny days (22°C – 35°C) and chilly nights. Those early morning or evening game drives are the perfect opportunity to get cosy and snuggle up while you keep your eyes peeled for the Big 5.

These are the ideal conditions for game spotting because the winter months mean the grass is lower and trees are sparser which make for a less obstructed view of these beautiful beasts. During the dry months, there are also water shortages. This means that animals can be easily spotted making trips to the river or congregating around watering holes.

Wet Season

The rainy season of summer runs from November to April and is also a wonderful time to visit if you don’t mind the odd rain shower. Visiting in summer means you’ll experience the vibrant foliage come to life. It’s also the time animals give birth to their young.

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Best Time To Travel To South Africa for Birding

Bright yellow weaver bird sitting on a branch in focus surrounded by light green leaves
If your interests sway slightly more towards the avian side of the animal kingdom, then you’re in luck. If you’re wondering when the best time is to go to South Africa for bird watching, here’s your answer.

During the summer rainy months of November to February, you’ll get many opportunities to catch sights of these feathered cuties. This would also mean planning your trip in the ‘Green Season’, November to April, which certainly has its perks.

The bird watching in the northern regions are truly exceptional and will have you constantly reaching for the binoculars. This is the ideal time because migrations and breeding are in full swing. These feathered friends are attracted by the insects that hatch in the hot rainy conditions of these areas.

And besides the odd rain shower or exciting storm, temperatures should be rather pleasant, remaining relatively warm around 22°C-33°C. The wet season will also be ideal for those on a budget. There are generally fewer tourists for safari based holidays around this off-peak season. This means discounted prices on accommodation and tours which is always a big win.

Best Time of Year to go to South Africa for Whale Watching

Close up shot of a large whale tale about to slap on to the ocean
South Africa is a real jewel when it comes to viewing marine wildlife. There are many opportunities to do so, both from land or from boats. This corner of the world receives spectacular annual visits from southern right and humpback whales and enormous pods of dolphins year-round.

The southern right whales migrate to the Cape from Antarctica to mate and calve. These incredible creatures weigh the same as ten African elephants. For those who are intrigued by the magnificent ‘gentle giants’ of the ocean, the peak calving season is July and August. So if you’re wondering when the best time is to go to South Africa, the prime whale-watching season is around September and October.

All things considered, the weather in South Africa in September makes it a great time to visit and enjoy a variety of seasonal attractions such as South Africa wildlife and whale breaching.

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South Africa in December: Summertime and Beaches

Woman standing in the distance on the ebach at the oceans edge with Table Mountain in the distance behind the woman
The weather in South Africa in August starts gradually getting warmer in some places as winter begins to move into the rearview mirror. Summer peak, however, falls over December and January. This is when resorts in popular spots fill up fast. So plan your perfect SA itinerary well in advance if you’re wanting to book your dream holiday home.

Whether you’re looking for the best waves, the most secluded tanning spot, or a scenic boardwalk, South Africa has you covered. There are some true gems ranging from vast stretches of sand where you can enjoy whale and dolphin spotting, to idyllic aquamarine waters that could rival any Hawaiian postcard.

South African beaches cater well to adventure seekers too, with their world-class surfing, windsurfing, diving and more. But for those who are looking to relax and recharge, South African beach holidays are also the perfect place to stretch out on the sand with your favorite vacation read.

Best Times to Visit South Africa for Wine Tasting

A white farm building sits in the foothills of the surrounding mountains, with thick dark green vines in the foreground
Now you don’t need to be a wine connoisseur to appreciate a good glass of wine. South Africa, and particularly the Western Cape, is one of those truly remarkable wine regions of the world. With award-winning wines at affordable prices, it’s no wonder wine lovers flock here so eagerly.

And the best part is, there’s no right or wrong time to visit the Cape Winelands, as each season brings its charms. Bask in the delightful summer sunshine as you sip a chilled glass of white or wait until winter rolls around to cuddle up next to a crackling fire with a glass of red.

In the Autumn time, you can see the vineyards in all their orange and golden yellow glory, and in spring you can see the mountains sprinkled with wildflowers.

Two champagne flutes and one gladd of red wine being held together in a cheers, in focus, with the Stellenbosch mountains in the background
Travel from Stellenbosch to Franschhoek and experience some unparalleled natural beauty, and quaint little towns. Surrounded by stunning mountains you’ll find yourself enchanted by the rich history of the architecture of the area and marvel at the oak-lined roads bursting with boutiques and cafes. This is truly a vino-lovers paradise.

So whether you’re looking to relax after your African safari or you’re looking for the next best glass of wine, then look no further than this vibrant country.

Final Thoughts on the Best Time of Year to Visit South Africa

Sunset behind a silohuette of a single acacia tree
South Africa is an amazing destination for every type of traveller with something to be found around every corner for every taste and budget. And there’s also no ideal time to visit because there is an abundance of sights and activities to enjoy all year-round. It all depends on what it is you’re looking for from your South African vacation.

So whether you’re an adventure junkie looking for your next thrill, an avid beach bum looking for some postcard-perfect beaches or an animal lover in search of world-class safari’s, you’ll find it in this beautiful country. And, of course, if you let your stomach dictate your travels, you’re in for a further treat in this food-lovers paradise.

And that’s a wrap folks, we hope the South Africa guide has helped you to decide when is the best time to go to South Africa for what you are hoping to see and do.

And if you know someone who has always wanted to go to South Africa or just to Africa in general, SA is a fabulous place to start and we would love it if you could share this South Africa travel guide with them to help with their planning. It can be shared on Facebook, Twitter or Flipboard, and if you grab the image below – on Pinterest too!

Pin image featuring an aerial view of Cape Town and Table mountain at sunset with text overlay stating : The Best Time to go to South Africa (weather, sightseeing, safaris, birding and more)

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