When is the best time to travel to South Africa?

For pleasant temperatures and optimal wildlife viewing, the months of June, July, August, and September (dry season) are recommended as the best time to visit South Africa. However, the country is truly a year-round destination with plenty of reasons to visit in each season—some of which, have nothing to do with weather at all. 


A word about weather: Bear in mind that this guide is founded on historical “norms” and trends based on our cumulative safari expertise. Weather patterns, average temperatures, rainfall, and the natural phenomena that react to seasonal changes are becoming less easy to predict as the climate warms.

South Africa Climate & Weather Guide

Cape Town

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Cape Winelands

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Garden Route

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Greater Kruger National Park

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Madikwe Game Reserve

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Eastern Cape Reserves

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Southern Kalahari

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Located in the Southern Hemisphere and sharing a latitude with Australia, South Africa enjoys a lovely climate.  

Despite its land area measuring just larger than California and Texas combined, the country’s weather patterns aren’t entirely uniform, making it tricky to meaningfully answer “When is the best time to go on safari in South Africa?” in a single sentence.  

Temperatures and precipitation can vary widely between the semi-arid Kalahari, Karoo, Kwa-Zulu Natal, and the Western Cape.

The best time to safari in Greater Kruger, Madikwe & Limpopo

General consensus agrees that the dry season—May through September—is the best time to go on safari in South Africa. This is the case for Greater Kruger, and Extraordinary Journeys safari favorites like Madikwe and Limpopo

With less precipitation, grasses are low, and the trampled bushveld is thinner, offering better visibility for spotting wildlife. It also means that animals tend to congregate closer to water sources.  

That said, the dry season spans South Africa’s “winter.” While morning mercury in the 40’s might not seem extreme, multi-hour game drives with possible wind can cause a chill. Dress in layered apparel so the weather doesn’t distract from the magic of your safari.  

For this reason, we really love to recommend spring and fall safaris in South Africa. Particularly, May, September, and October.  

However, we don’t want to suggest that South Africa is a seasonal destination. It truly offers year-round safari and there are upshots to secret season safaris. From November to April, the vegetation is revived, and landscapes are lush once again.

The best time to safari in KwaZulu-Natal

Sundowners overlooking the bush as the sun sets at Phinda Vlei Lodge, Phinda Private Game

KwaZulu-Natal is a subtropical coastal province that steadily gives rise to mountains. With the exception of alpine micro-climates, temperatures are warm year-round—think Florida’s climate.  

Safari in KwaZulu-Natal favorites like Phinda and Thanda Private Game Reserves typically experience two distinct seasons.  

October through April can be hot and humid, but game drives wind through green landscapes. Growth might make wildlife sightings more of a game of hide-and-seek, but you’ll get to see wobbly newborns and young animals—and perhaps some predator action.  

From May to September, the temperatures and precipitation relent. Winter months are cool and dry, and the bush thins which makes game viewing easier. Our safari experts favor July, August, and September in Phinda and Thanda, but May and June are also good. 

The best time to safari in South Africa’s Eastern Cape 

Our Top 7 Malaria-Free Safaris, 3 rhinos standing in the green grass while a vehicle stops to watch them from afar

The Eastern Cape is a coastal province, but thanks to its higher elevation, the region can be cold from May to August. However, the game viewing is good, and the afternoons are warm and beautiful—so dress in layers.  

Unlike the rest of South Africa, the Eastern Cape’s game viewing is still strong during the summer months of November through April. For that reason, combining safari destinations like Amakhala, Shamwari, or Kwandwe with Cape Town and/or the Cape Winelands is a great fit. This time of year gets nice and hot. The heat of the day can climb to the high 90°s, meaning that you can actually enjoy the gorgeous pools or plunge pools at your luxury South Africa safari lodge.

The best time to visit Cape Town and the Western Cape

South Africa has a broad travel appeal not limited to going on safari. Touring Cape Town, visiting the Cape Winelands, and driving the Garden Route is best between September and April—with one exception. Late December and early January are very busy with local domestic travelers and generally, we advise against visiting Cape Town between December 20 and January 5. 

June to November offer the best whale watching along the Garden Route, but especially between Hermanus and Plettenberg Bay.

The best time to safari in South Africa’s Southern Kalahari

This July Loapi Tented Camp is opening in the Tswalu Kalahari Game Reserve, tucked into the contours of a valley snug between the Korannaberg Mountain.
Korannaberg Mountains blanketed in foliage. Credit: Tswalu

The best time of year to visit the Southern Kalahari is May to September when the desert’s hottest temperatures have abated.  

If you visit Kruger during green/secret season and you’re not a beach person, ending your luxury South Africa safari in a place like Tswalu is a nice spot to dry out under a Kalahari sun before heading home. 

When to visit South Africa: a month-by-month guide

Summer: Visiting South Africa in December, January & February

December, January, and February are summer in South Africa. Temperatures start to climb in November.  

By December, interior regions, like Greater Kruger will be quite hot, with average temperatures in the low 90s—but possibly climbing even higher by mid-afternoon. Clouds may gather through the day and erupt as an afternoon thunderstorm. If you’re averse to high temperatures and the chance of rain showers you might reconsider visiting parts of South Africa in January and February.  

A nice alternative to Kruger is the Eastern Cape Reserves: Kwandwe, Shamwari, Kariega, and Amakhala. Located at a higher elevation in the Karoo, it’s a cooler place to be, and the game viewing is strong. Our experts point out that February is a great time for an Eastern Cape safari. The weather is agreeable, and you’re weeks out from festive season and Easter school holiday travelers. 

However, if summer is the season that works with your schedule, then you’ll enjoy landscapes that are lush and green, and moody, photogenic skies in Kruger. Birdwatching is excellent and toward the end of summer, you’ll start to spy newborns—and the predators who keep a careful watch. Migratory birds have arrived, and some are sporting splashy breeding plumage. 

Conversely, summer in coastal Cape Town and along the Garden Route is splendid—hot (mid-80s) and dry—ideal beach conditions. From December 20 through January 5, South Africa is quite busy with festive season travelers, so book well in advance to secure preferred hotels, and tasting room or dining reservations. Note, the Cape Winelands can get hot, with inland temperatures that can push 90 degrees.  

If you’re in the Southern Kalahari, a wash of rain is often accompanied by a tide of desert blooms and greening shrubs and grasses. Newborns like antelope and jackal, and migratory birds make a regular cast of characters.  

Fall: Visiting South Africa in March, April & May

March, April, and May are autumn months in the southern hemisphere—one of our favorite seasons for a South Africa luxury safari—but exactly where is key. 

It’s a great time to be on safari in the Eastern Reserves. Dry conditions mean the veld is thinning, making wildlife sightings easier. Mild temperatures and the reduced likelihood of precipitation makes travel more comfortable. Cool evenings and dry weather mean you’ll reach for a packable puffer rather than a raincoat. 

Fall can be a bit temperamental in Greater Kruger. You might have clear skies and dry game drives. Or you might encounter huge March-April rains that can wash out roads and airstrips. In May, migratory elephants make their way to northern Kruger. 

In Cape Town, the fall sun (especially March and April) means it’s a great time to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and biking.  

March is harvest in the Cape Winelands. Vineyards are picture-pretty—leafy and laden with grapes—and winemakers are abuzz with action.  

May is a magical month that falls between typical holiday seasons in both hemispheres (read: fewer crowds). The weather on safari and in the Western Cape reaches a good compromise: it’s warm in Cape Town and mild in Greater Kruger.  

In fall, rains are abating in the Southern Kalahari. Days are mild and the landscape is often still green in April and May.  

Winter: Visiting South Africa in June, July & August

June, July, and August are winter months, and dry season, in South Africa.  

June kicks off whale migration season, which runs until November. Whales are migrating back south from East Africa and southern right whales are arriving from Antarctic waters where they will mate, give birth, and rear calves off South Africa’s “warmer” coastal waters.  

In Hermanus, you can experience land-based whale watching right from shore, peaking between July and September.  

Concurrently, in Kwazulu-Natal, a large sardine run that spans May through July, causing a flurry of underwater marine activity.  

In July and August, temperatures dip to their coolest and driest in the interior. In Greater Kruger, the average sits in the low 60s. Consequently, leaves have dropped, grasses have thinned, and the landscape has faded to tawny brown. Game viewing is plentiful, thanks to sparse vegetation, and wildlife congregates closer to water sources—splendid conditions for a luxury South Africa safari. Morning and night can be downright cold, especially when traveling in open-air safari vehicles. Dressing in layers makes the experience much more pleasant; blankets are often supplied for extra coziness.  

Pack a light raincoat if touring Cape Town in the height of winter because the “winter rains” may occur. Average temperatures in the upper 60s might not seem cold to Americans, but 68°F in the windy Mother City just feels cooler. By August, the first wildflowers in the Western Cape (Namaqualand) are blooming in a spectacular display. Peak whale watching continues along the Garden Route

In the Southern Kalahari, freezing overnight temperatures invite elusive nocturnal animals like aardvark, pangolin, and aardwolf to radiate in the late afternoon sun—an exciting prospect for safari-goers.  

Spring: Visiting South Africa in September, October & November

September ushers in spring, welcoming wildflowers and coaxing leaves back onto branches. Temperatures begin a steady rise, and the days lengthen. After months of dry conditions, animals are still concentrating at water sources in early spring. 

As precipitation increases, wildlife will begin to disperse, leaves begin to unfurl, and shades of green begin to paint the veld. Depending on the region, it could be dry, or still drizzly. Spring safaris in Greater Kruger are ideal (especially in the central and south).  

In November, whale season comes to an end.  

Deeper into the season, rains arrive in Kruger. Heat hangs in the air once again, here and humidity builds in Kwa-Zulu Natal. Shades of green intensify across the landscape. Toward the end of spring, afternoon thunderstorms increase in regularity.  

In the Western Cape and Cape Town, it’s warm—ideal for outdoor pursuits, exploring destinations along the Garden Route, patio lunches, and wine touring. Pair a visit with an Eastern Cape safari for good weather and fewer crowds.  

In KwaZulu-Natal, loggerhead and leatherback turtle nesting season kicks off in November and stretches to January.  

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