South Africa: when to go

September 23, 2019

What is the climate of South Africa, and when is the best time to organize a trip? Read our guide to find out when to go to South Africa and what to visit.

Typical African wildlife

The climate of South Africa is characterized by a mild conditions all year round, with hot summers and moderate winters.

Being in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are reversed compared to European ones, but thanks to the always pleasant temperatures, you can travel in South Africa all year. The temperatures annually vary from 8 to 28 degrees, with average rainfall that does not exceed 500 millimeters per year. Moreover, South Africa is one of the countries with the highest rate of sunshine and there is no rainy season.

Obviously, from region to region the climate changes slightly, passing from the Mediterranean climate of the south coasts to the temperate climate of the interior.

Cape Town colorful beach huts, South Africa
Colorful beach huts.

The best period for a trip to South Africa

When to go to South Africa then? You can organize a trip practically twelve months a year, with some precautions only in relation to which activities you want to practice.

Here is a small guide:

  • To observe the animals and to go on safari, the best time is between August and October.
  • The best months for surfing and diving are between April and September.
  • To enjoy beach life we ​​recommend the austral summer, between December and February, which is very hot and not recommended for excursions. The beaches however could be crowded.
  • To see the whales, you need to travel between July and November.
  • To see the flowering of Namaqualand it is necessary to visit it between August and September.
Elephant in South African nature
Elephant on the banks of a river.

So there really is no best time to visit South Africa, every month is good!

Safari in South Africa: when to go

If you are thinking of a trip to South Africa, you almost certainly want to experience the thrill of the safari, in large national parks or in small private reserves.

For example, at the Kruger Park, the most famous for safaris, located in the north, the best period is the austral winter, that is from May to October, when the climate is dry and the sparse vegetation allows you to see the Big Five better. In all the natural parks, during the dry season, the animals gather around the pools of water to drink for the joy of those who want to photograph them.

In this period the mosquitoes are less present, thus decreasing the risk of contracting malaria.

Two rhinos in Kruger National Park, South Africa
Two rhinos in Kruger National Park,.

Surf and diving in South Africa: best period

If you want to surf the coasts of South Africa are the right place! For those heading to Cape Town, it is important to take into account the best conditions of the waves (more than the temperatures of the water), which occur when the sea is more stormy, namely between June and August, the wettest period. However, in South Africa it is possible to surf all year round.

The best place to surf in South Africa is the Durban area, with beaches equipped for all water activities with a favorable climate all year round. The waters of the Indian Ocean are also warmer here than around Cape Town.

If you are a diving lover, the months between October and May are the best ones to try diving with sharks. The activity is carried out with protective cages and with the assistance of expert personnel.

In general, for those who love diving South Africa is a real paradise, thanks to the richness of its sea bottoms. The main diving areas are two, the north-east coast, characterized by the presence of tiger sharks, manta rays and sardines, and the south coast, near Cape Town, characterized by colder waters.

A fairly famous diving center on the south coast is Simon's Town, a town near the Cape of Good Hope. Diving in South Africa can be done all year round, bearing in mind that visibility in the water is slightly worse in the summer (European winter).

Sea and beaches in South Africa: when to go

Want to enjoy some beach life in South Africa? Then you have to head towards the south coast, where the spectacular Garden Route and Cape Town are located, and especially the Durban area. Durban is renowned for its equipped beaches, where you can swim pleasantly all year round.

Summer (corresponding to the European winter) is hot, with daily temperatures ranging around 28 degrees. However, short afternoon thunderstorms may occur.

From May to September the temperatures in the Durban area fall to 23 degrees, but the rains are poorer and the sunshine is better. The best time to go to the sea in South Africa in the Cape Town area is summer, between December and February, although temperatures can be high, around 30 degrees.

Even in this case, some rains may occur in the afternoon. Winter, from May to October, is cool (around 18-20 degrees) and rainier. Cape Town is bathed by two oceans, Atlantic and Indian, which are rather cold throughout the year for the baths.

Cape Town coastline in South Africa
Beautiful Cape Town coastline.

Best period for whale watching in South Africa

If you have booked a trip to South Africa between June and November, you cannot go home without first sighting the whales.

This is indeed the best time to do whale watching, because in these months, the Southern Australian whales, the Bryde fin whales and the humpback whales transit along the coast of South Africa in their migration process.

The best cities to see whales are those of those of the Western Cape, so the coast of Cape Town, with Hermanus, Betty's Bay, Stanford and Gansbaai.

Whale tail in South Africa
Whale off South Africa's coasts.

Namaqualand and blooming desert: when to go

If you have already informed yourself about South Africa before leaving, you may already know that there is a desert, Namaqualand, which flowers spontaneously and gets colored with beautiful nuances.

The desert is located in Northern Cape and flowering occurs in the southern spring, between August and September.

Namaqualand blooming desert in South Africa
Namaqualand desert in full bloom.

In this period, about 4,000 different flowers bloom and cover the desert surface. A truly unforgettable show.

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