South Africa is a beautiful destination to visit at any time of year. The best time to go depends on what you want to see and do while you’re there.
Read on to see the best times of year to experience South Africa’s most popular attractions: Safari, Cape Town, Great White Sharks, and the Garden Route. For more info, get in touch and speak with one of our South Africa travel experts!
Best Time to Go on a South African Safari
Image: Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, Greater Kruger National Park
In most of South Africa’s safari destinations, including Kruger National Park, the year is divided into 2 seasons: dry and rainy. The best time to go depends on what you want to see.
Keep in mind that safari lodges book up very quickly in South Africa, especially for dry season travel. We recommend planning 9-12 months in advance to secure the best accommodations.
- The dry season: May to October
- South Africa’s dry winter months are widely considered the best time for wildlife viewing. In these months, vegetation and water are scarce, so animals flock to the remaining waterholes.
- The beginning of the season (June to August) is the most comfortable time to visit, with mild temperatures and few mosquitoes.
- The peak winter months (September to October) can be quite hot and humid, but this is considered the very best time for game viewing in South Africa.
- The rainy season: November to February
- During the rainy season, or “green season,” South Africa’s landscapes transform into lush, vibrant scenes that make for stunning photographs.
- With abundant food and water throughout the game reserves, wildlife is more spread out and not as easy to spot compared to the winter months.
- You will have the chance to see newborn animals at this time, as well as plenty of thrilling predator action.
- If you are traveling in the rainy season, we recommend consulting a medical professional for malaria precautions. You can also visit one of South Africa’s malaria-free game reserves (a good option for families with young children).
Best Time to Visit Cape Town
Cape Town is on a different weather pattern than the rest of the country—when the popular safari destinations are receiving rain, Cape Town is dry, and vice versa. Cape Town’s temperate climate makes for pleasant temperatures year-round, but in the winter months, you can expect more rain and strong winds.
Summer (November to March) is the best time to visit Cape Town’s beautiful beaches. This is also the peak tourist season, so hotels are more expensive at this time of year.
If you plan to visit Cape Town during Christmas or New Year’s Eve, be prepared for high prices and be sure to book your trip well in advance. Cape Town will also be busier during South African school holidays in December and January.
The winter (June to August) will have fewer crowds but more unpredictable weather. If you’re keen on hiking up Table Mountain, it’s best to avoid this time of year, as your Table Mountain activities may be cancelled due to weather.
Best Time to See Great White Sharks in South Africa
Image: Birkenhead House, Hermanus
- In Gansbaai: Cage diving with Great White Sharks is available year-round.
- In False Bay: Cage diving and surface viewing are available from February to September.
- June to August is the best time to see Great White Shark breaching (a rare behavior seen around Seal Island).
Best Time to Visit the Garden Route and Eastern Cape
Tsitsikamma National Park, South Africa’s Garden Route. Image courtesy of Candice Heckel
The Garden Route is a great vacation destination year-round, with temperatures around 60℉ in winter and 85℉ in summer.
- The winter months (June to September) see the most rain. But remember, on the Garden Route and Eastern Cape, you may get rain at any time of year.
- The warmest time of year is in the summer (November to April), but this is also the most popular time to go. Expect higher prices and busy beaches during these months.
- Late summer (February to April) is the best time for a beach holiday with fewer crowds.
- July to October is the best time for whale watching along the Garden Route.