Best Time To Visit South Africa – When To Go, Where To Go

There’s honestly no bad time to visit South Africa, but certain times of the year are better depending on what type of holiday you’re looking for and what your interests are. When it comes to the weather, there are two main things to remember. First of all, South Africa is in the southern hemisphere so their summer starts in December and their winter starts in June – with most o the big events and best festivals in South Africa happening during their summer.

The next thing to keep in mind is that South Africa is a massive country with a lot of micro climates. While cities like Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and destinations along The Garden Route can all get very cold, wet and windy in the winter months, other parts of South Africa like Durban and further North along the coast remain quite warm all year round. Here’s my guide to the best time to visit South Africa for safaris, surfing and a little bit of sunshine!

Best time to visit South Africa 

Best time to visit South Africa for surfing

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March – September

If you’ve seen the movie The Endless Summer or have been hanging out with keen surfers for any amount of time, you’ll know South Africa has some of the best surf spots in the world. Surfing mecca J-bay on The Garden Route is one of the best known spots, but their are plenty more secret surf breaks up and down the coast.

The best surf can be found in the Autumn and Winter months between March and September. While the waters around Durban and along the Wild Coast are warm year round (thanks to the warm currents from the Indian Ocean) the water along The Garden Route can get very cold and around Cape Town it is freezing cold year round!

Best time to visit South Africa for wildlife watching

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Whale watching

If you have your heart set on a whale watching tour then the best time to visit South Africa is between June and November. The Southern Right Whale can be seen very close to the coast of the Western Cape between these months while Humpbacks can be spotted up and down the coast between May and December. For an experience you will never forget, try visit between May and July when the famous Sardine Run takes place. This is where millions of sardines swim up and down the coast off Durban attracting thousands of marine animals from sharks and dolphins to whales and other ocean predators! 

Best time to visit South Africa for Safaris

The best months for viewing wildlife are June, July and August. These are the driest months of the year which means there is less foliage to obstruct wildlife viewing and lots of animals congregate around water holes making it easier to view them all together in one place. If you want to see newborn animals joining this world, then the best time to visit South Africa would be between September and Octoberv- there are the two best months to see this.

Anna Everywhere has written a great guide to doing a self-drive safari which should help you in budgeting for a safari to Kruger. Hannah from Getting Stamped also has a great safari packing list which might be useful!

Best time to visit South Africa for sun worshippers

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If you are like me and the sun puts a smile on your face, then you will want to visit sunny South Africa in the hot summer months. The weather starts to get really good from the middle of November right up until the end of March. December and January are high season, so expect everywhere to be very busy, but this also means the atmosphere is better.

During high season the hostels are full of people looking to make new friends and party and the beach bars are generally busier and great fun! This is personally my absolute favourite time of the year to visit. Nothing beats lying on the beach in the middle of December or spending Christmas at a beautiful winery in Stellenbosch, drinking good wine and listening to Christmas tunes!

  • Annika
    August 18, 2017 at 2:09 am

    Me and every local will disagree on high season with you. Too many crowds, too much traffic, no tables at said wineries available without a hassle. I always recommend people to come end of Feb or March for warm, balmy temperatures, less wind (very important), shorter queues and an overall relaxed atmosphere.

    • Janet newenham
      August 18, 2017 at 8:35 am

      Haha, I guess it depends where you go! I went in November and December the last 2 years in a row and didn’t find it too crowded. I think Cape Town gets busy but as you make your way up the coast we had no trouble getting accomodation last minute. I’m hoping to stay until March this year so will be nice to see what it’s like in Cape Town when things are less busy!