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Best Time to Visit South Africa: Season by Season

Visit South Africa
Surfing, Durban

South Africa is undoubtedly the most visited part of the African continent. Its diverse topography and beautiful landscapes attract travelers from all over who wish to combine an African adventure with an R&R. With a typical dry and wet season occurring at opposite times as that in North America, South Africa beckons travelers who wish to escape the heat or extreme cold in his native country.

From safari adventures to coastal activities and wine tours, South Africa is a year-round travel destination with something to entice every traveler. The temperate climate is great for every travel choice throughout the year. As there is really no specific time when it’s considered best to visit South Africa, we’d like to list the attractions and things to do, season by season.

Spring season – September to November

The West Coast is the place to be for its magical wildflower treat. The entire region springs to life with carpets of blooms and lush greenery making it a sought-after destination for every nature lover and photographer.  Drive out to the West Coast National Park close to Cape Town.  Go on a self-drive or a hike through valleys of wildflowers surrounding you.

Further north is the Namaqualand Flower Route, the only arid biodiversity hotspot in the world. Take a great self-drive tour through undulating wheat fields, vineyards and deep river valleys. Be greeted by a dramatic display of colours as you come across millions of blooms along the road side and mountainsides.

Flowers entice more than the bees, and it holds true for the West Cape. Migratory birds make this Route a stopover, making it the perfect adventure for bird-watchers and nature photographers.

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Whale at Hermanus

It is also whale watching season along the East Coast. Whales migrate from their feeding grounds in Antarctica to the warmer shores of South Africa in springtime to breed. Head out to the towns along the Whale Route and get up-close with whales frolicking in the water metres away from you. Hear thunderous sounds of huge whales indulging in courtship rituals. A not-to-miss venue is Hermanus, the whale capital, a couple of hours from Cape Town.

Cape Agulhus offers the most spectacular five-day Whale Trail Walk, with bookings a year in advance. This beautiful stretch becomes whale nurseries during this time. Make it a “Marine Big Five” viewing adventure with southern right whales, humpbacks and Bryde’s whales; pods of dolphins, Cape fur seals, white sharks and the small African penguins.

Spring is also a great time for safari adventures in Kruger National Park and KwaZulu-Natal game reserves. The dry season makes it easy for game viewing, as vegetation is sparse and animals converge along rivers and waterholes.

Stay at the coastal towns of Durban and Ballito on the East Coast, for sight-seeing, swimming and water sports.

So why visit South Africa during the spring months? Besides whale watching, bird watching flower gazing and safari adventure? Well, it is less crowded. The rates are lower and rains restricted to short showers, making it a wonderful holiday with diverse travel attractions.

Summer season – December to February

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Cape Town beach

These are the wettest months with torrential downpour and high humidity.  However, the days are long and sunny. Cape Town is the hottest destination with beach fun and a vibrant night life. There is plenty of food, wine-tasting, summer events and hiking to fill your days with fun. Want to get away from the summer crowds? Take a drive along the Garden Route and check out the charming beach towns.

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Knysna lagoon

Take a cruise in the Knysna lagoon. Explore the forests of the Tsitsikamma Mountains and indulge in activities ranging from hikes, nature walks, horse riding and boat cruises to guided Segway and quad bike tours through lush green landscapes filled with forest ferns.

The Storm River offers splendid aqua adventures like Blackwater Tubing and Kayaking – Lio adventure for an unforgettable gorge experience. Oyster Bay is great for kayaking, mountain biking and sand boarding. The Dolphin Trail offers the hiker a multiple experience with beautiful forest trails, bird watching, snorkelling, swimming, and dolphin and whale spotting on-the-go. Adrenalin junkies can look forward to tree canopy tours over dense forests and zipline adventures over forested slopes, and waterfalls. Looking for an R&R? Play golf, laze on secluded beaches, or experience the natural beauty of the region on horse drawn carriages!

Safari enthusiasts will find pleasure in the newborn wildlife and abundant birds in the Kruger. As the rains begin to arrive the Kruger becomes a beautiful lush green landscape, adding to the safari experience.

So if you are an adventure enthusiast who favours activities in spectacular settings flush with natural beauty, visit South Africa during summers for an amazing fun-filled experience at Knysna lagoon and Tsitsikamma Mountains, while experiencing the international feel of Cape Town in summer. Include that ultimate safari adventure in Kruger, and enjoy a holiday like no other.

Autumn season – March to May

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Grande Province Wine Estate, Franschhoek Valley, Western Cape

If you looking at escaping the summer heat in your country and traveling to South Africa, then autumn is a fine season to go when the days are shorter and the nights cooler. Cape Town, Durban and the Drakensberg Mountains are popular destinations during these months, and you can chalk out your plans to suit your holiday preferences.

Head out for a countryside escape along the Constantia Wine Route, a mere 20-minute drive from Cape Town. Visit Franschhoek, South Africa’s ‘food-and-wine capital’ for its exclusive fine dining and wine tasting. The Breede River Valley has some of the best fruit and wine-producing valleys and is home to 300 years of wine-production. Franschhoek, the ‘gourmet capital’ of South Africa, is another must-visit for its French heritage and wineries.

For nature lovers and adventure travellers, KwaZulu-Natal is the place to be during the autumn months. This is the best time to go for high level treks in the Drakensberg Mountains. The Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve offers great bird watching and young wildlife viewing experience.

There is more for aqua lovers. The sea waters are warm and ideal for surfing, canoeing and snorkelling.  Watch dolphins frolic and whales make their seasonal migration to Mozambique. Take a break to hit the urban spots. Durban and Ballito have great nightlife and activities to keep you charged.

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Deer rutting

This is also deer rutting season when safari enthusiasts can expect to see one of nature’s great spectacle, deer rutting. Stags lock antlers in head-to-head battles for dominance to mate. Watch them fight, listen to their bellows and whistling.

So if you are a wine lover and foodie wanting to visit South Africa, then head out to the Eastern Cape Winelands during the autumn months. If you are a wildlife enthusiast, then include the Natal region in your holiday plans for the amazing deer rutting spectacles, birding, coastal fun and nightlife.

Winter season – June to August

The Cape Winelands are the best places to head out during winters. Take wine tours during the day and warm up at night next to crackling fireplaces with fine food and wines for a romantic and magical holiday.

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A cape buffalo herd at Kruger National Park

Kruger and Madikwe Parks are best safari destinations for high wildlife sightings. The thin foliage and dry weather compel animals to cluster along waterholes. Take a self-drive through the magnificent Panorama Route, a terrain marked by spectacular landscape through beautiful scenery, wild rivers and waterfalls. Take advantage of the Whale Season with sightings of humpback and southern whales along the Western Cape coastline. Take more safari adventures along the Elephant Coast, and at the Isimangaliso Wetland Park for hippo and wildlife spotting.

Safari adventures in South Africa are best done during winter months when you can combine wildlife viewing with whale spotting.