You've already chosen your next travel destination: South Africa! That’s amazing. But do you know when to go to South Africa? This vast country with its many attractions and ever-changing climate has many surprises in store for travelers. Whether you wish for a South African safari, a stay by the ocean or a cultural discovery, let's see together when is the best time to travel to South Africa 😀
Climate and seasons in South Africa
Good news! The weather in South Africa is pleasant all year round. So don't worry too much if you don't have much leeway in choosing your travel dates – there's simply no bad period to visit this country! That said, this doesn't mean that some months aren't even better for travel than others 😉
The first thing to note is that South Africa is located in the southern hemisphere, so its seasons are reversed. The southern winter takes place during our summer – although there's obviously little chance of you making snowmen in Cape Town, even in August!
In this vast country, the climate is similar to the Mediterranean-type regions around Cape Town. It becomes warmer and drier as you head northwards along the Atlantic coast, while the Indian Ocean coastline is more subtropical. Overall, the southern summer is hot and humid, while the southern winter is cool and dry. The off-seasons are also very pleasant, and can be a great alternative to the more popular tourist periods 🙂
The climate of northeast South Africa
It's in this region that you'll find the famous Kruger National Park as well as other parks and reserves. These parks are one of the main reasons why many travelers choose to discover this country. The climate in this part of the country is subtropical.
During the austral summer (between November and March), the climate is hot and humid. Heat spikes can occur inland, and thunderstorms are quite common at the end of the day. If you're looking to go on safari in South Africa, this may not be the best time of year, due to the high heat and humidity.
During the austral winter (between April and October), the climate is cooler and drier, with fairly wide variations in temperature between day and night. It's never really cold in the middle of the day: the average temperature is over 68°F (20°C) and the sun shines brightly. It's the perfect time to discover the north of the country and go on safari to enjoy really favorable conditions 🤩
The climate in the Cape region
The climate is Mediterranean in the Cape Town region and along the Atlantic coast. The further north you go along the Atlantic coast, the hotter and drier the weather becomes.
During the austral winter (reminder: between April and October), temperatures can be quite cool, although conditions remain very pleasant for travel, with plenty of sunshine and average temperatures close to 56°F (13°C). But beware: the Cape region is notoriously windy, especially in winter!
During the austral summer (reminder: between November and March), the region becomes an earthly paradise. The climate is particularly pleasant – which is not always the case in the rest of the country. Temperatures often exceed 77°F (25°C), and even when it's hotter, the atmosphere never becomes stiflingly humid.
Climate on the Indian Ocean coast
The climate is also subtropical in the southeast of the country, with cool, dry winters and hot, humid summers.
During the austral winter, although the weather is usually fairly mild, cold snaps can arrive from Antarctica and make temperatures drop significantly for a few days.
During the austral summer, it's not uncommon for the thermometer to rise above 86°F (30°C), though the sea air makes it more pleasant than inland. The conditions are just right for a pleasant seaside holiday, with water temperatures often close to 77°F (25°C).
Climate in the Johannesburg region
In the Johannesburg region and on the South African plateau, the climate is ultimately quite similar to that found on the coasts of the Indian Ocean – except that altitude plays an important role here. In Johannesburg, which lies at an altitude of around 5,600 feet (1,700 m), temperatures are more temperate, with greater variations between day and night.
In the austral winter, although the sun is out and it rarely rains, it can freeze at night.
During the austral summer, the weather is often hot and humid, and it's not uncommon for thunderstorms to break out in the early evening.
The climate in central South Africa
In the center of the country, the climate is almost desert-like (the Karoo Desert is located there). Still, conditions remain relatively favorable for year-round travel. Rainfall is almost non-existent.
During the austral summer, temperatures regularly rise above 86°F (30°C), with very dry conditions that can be hard to bear!
It rains even less during the austral winter, but temperatures are much more appreciable, with an average close to 59°F in the middle of the day (15°C).
When to go on safari in South Africa?
If the reason for your travel is to see the animals of South Africa, the safari season runs from April to October. The conditions are particularly pleasant and you definitely won't regret your trip. It rains less during this time of year, which also makes it easier to travel the park trails in a conventional vehicle. On top of that, the less dense vegetation makes it easier to see the animals. If you're particularly interested in birdwatching, from mid-October to the end of November is the best time to go 😉
From November to March, during the austral summer months, humidity makes the heat harder to bear. This is also the period when vegetation is most abundant and lush. As a result, the scenery is often superb, but not at all conducive to animal watching! What's more, this high humidity is accompanied by a greater presence of mosquitoes. As well as being a nuisance (as they are everywhere else in the world), in Africa they’re likely to transmit diseases such as malaria. So remember to always take all the necessary precautions – and find out about vaccinations for travel to South Africa before you go!
When to go whale-watching in Africa?
Whales come to live in the warm, fish-filled waters around southern Africa between June and December. They are particularly numerous from June to October – a time that is also perfect for a safari in South Africa's parks and reserves. This time of year is also a perfect to go swimming with the sharks 🦈
When is the best time for a beach holiday?
Between December and March, right in the middle of the austral summer. These are the warmest months, when water temperatures are at their highest. You'll have plenty of time to enjoy the beach, swim in the deliciously warm waters and enjoy water sports like surfing and diving 🤩
When to go to South Africa at the best price?
If you're traveling on a tight budget, choosing the right time to go to South Africa becomes very important. If you want to travel at the best possible price, and without missing out on all that this country has to offer, you'll need to leave at times when there are fewer tourists, when prices for activities are lower, all while making sure conditions remain as pleasant as possible.
South Africa's peak tourist season runs from December to March. There is another peak from April to May and from October to November. These are the periods to avoid if you want to save money.
June, July and September are the months of the austral winter, and are ideal for a safari in South Africa while avoiding the tourist influx.
As far as hotel prices are concerned, they vary very little throughout the year – especially if you plan ahead and book early enough.
Plane tickets, which I also advise you to buy several months in advance, are often more affordable for departures in June and September, and the same is true of car rental prices.
All in all, if you want to go on safari in South Africa at the best possible price, June and September are the months to go.
For a more classic trip (when you care more about a safari than about the climate conditions), it's mainly on the plane ticket that you'll be able to make savings, and in this case you'll want to avoid July, August, December and early January 🙂
That's it for this article on when to go to South Africa 🙂 I hope you enjoyed it and that you now have all the information you need for your next trip! Don't hesitate to check out my article on how to get to South Africa if you want to know more.