South Africa: When to Go

South Africa’s southwestern coast (including Cape Town and the Winelands) tends to attract the majority of visitors during the dry summer season of November to March. Days are hot and sunny, although it is often very windy during Cape Town in the summer.

Visitors should be aware that schools normally break up in early December for a month-long school vacation. At this time the popular coastal destinations can become extremely busy with local South African tourists and often accommodation prices increase substantially. If you prefer to avoid the crowds aim for September to November or March to April. These months are still dry and it shouldn’t be too chilly or windy. Book early if travelling over Easter as accommodation fills up fast.

The best time to visit on safari is during the dry winter months from May to October. As the dry season progresses the bushveld becomes more open as foliage and grasses die back, improving visibility.  Wildlife migrates towards remaining water sources, making rivers, dams and water holes a hive of activity. Ironically these winter months are the low season for many safari camps in South Africa and prices may be lower than during the less rewarding summer months.

The Cape is a winter rainfall area and May to August is very much its “green season”. At times it can rain continuously, although this is interspersed every few days with balmy sun-drenched days. From July to November southern right whales and hump back whales can be sighted from the shoreline of the Cape’s southern coast, and there are plenty of opportunities to see them by boat. Shark-cave diving has become increasingly popular and October to May are the best months for this when the warm current brings many shark species to this part of the coast.