One of the most common questions that clients wanting to visit Southern Africa ask us is: “When is the best time to visit Southern Africa”?
When planning your trip to Southern Africa it is important to take into consideration certain aspects that may ultimately influence the enjoyment of your holiday. The “best time to visit” an area in Southern Africa is always a debatable topic and would depend entirely on the individual and what they are looking to experience. With respect to this, we have highlighted what to expect, at different times of the year, in different areas:
Western Cape (including Cape Town, The Winelands, and the Garden Route)
The Western Cape of South Africa has a Mediterranean climate which can be extremely different to the rest of Southern Africa. Sometimes it feels as though you can experience all four seasons in one day. Hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters epitomise this area. Summer months (December to March) have very little rainfall and average around 27 degrees Celsius (or 81 degrees Fahrenheit) during the day and drop to 15 degrees Celsius (or 60 degrees Fahrenheit) during the evenings. Conditions inland can vary 3 – 5 degrees Celsius warmer. One thing to consider, at this time, is the wind factor which can, at times, be rather strong. In winter (June to September) the temperature drops. This is rainy season in the Cape and temperatures can drop to 7 degrees Celsius (45 degrees Fahrenheit) at night time and average 18 degrees Celsius (or 64 degrees Fahrenheit) during the day. Inland temperatures vary from 5 degrees (or 41 degrees Fahrenheit) in the evenings to 22 degrees Celsius (72 degrees Fahrenheit) during the day.
A big secret, and probably the best time to visit the Cape, is in the months of March and April and even the beginning of May. Temperatures are not as sweltering and the wind is less of a factor. Sunsets along the coastline are gorgeous! In the winelands, vineyards change to an appealing red and brown colour.
September brings about spring time in the Western Cape and with it the flowering season. The variety and colours that one can experience are truly fantastic with the Cape Floral Biosphere being among the most diverse in the world! It is also a great time to view the migration of thousands of whales to the Cape’s shores, coming very close to the coastline for viewing pleasure.
Planning on visting Cape Town? See our private day tour options here.
Kruger National Park and surrounds (including the Sabi Sands)
The seasons here are separated into the rainy and dry seasons. It is a subtropical climate.
The rainy season normally starts around the end of November/beginning of December and lasts until March/April. What you can expect are hot and humid days, a fair bit of rain and lush bushveld vegetation. It can be a beautiful time to visit the Kruger region but comes with its advantages and disadvantages. It is a great time for bird enthusiasts with many migratory birds flying south and making this area their home. The calving season for many animals means that there are plenty of youngsters and babies to see prancing around the bush. The surrounding areas are very green and lush. Water systems, such as rivers and dams will be full.
From April to October the rains will start to cease. Clear skies are the norm to expect and early mornings/evenings can be cool to cold. Days are comfortable (even right through winter) and are normally found to be in their low/mid 20’s celcius (around 76 degrees farenheit). Rivers and dams begin to dry up and as the season draws longer, vegetation starts to die away and animals tend to congregate around perennial (year long) sources of water. This would be the optimum period to view wildlife as it is easier to find the game around these water sources (they aren’t dispersed as far) and spotting them through the bush becomes easier as the lush vegetation gives way.
Our personal favourite time to be in the bush are the months of August and September. During these months, the temperature starts to climb again, vegetation is almost non-existent and animals are found all around the waterholes and rivers. Predators know this too and know they don’t have to look too far for their next meal. Although a difficult time for the herbivores, it is an exciting time to be out in the wild. This is a popular time to be on safari and bookings need to be made well in advance to secure the best lodges.
Botswana and Zimbabwe
Weather and climate conditions are very similar to the Sabi Sands. I want to just make mention of Victoria Falls and the Okavango Delta as they may warrant a slightly different way of thinking:
Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe/Zambia. Most clients will pair a visit to this incredible landmark with a safari. They will therefore visit them at the same time of year they plan to do their safari. The falls themselves are probably at their most magnificent just after the summer rains when they are flowing at their peak, normally in the months of March/April. The spray can be quite intense but the power of the falls is unbelievable. A nice touch is the lunar rainbow that can be formed (during these months) when the spray is high and the moon is full.
The Okavango Delta, a World Heritage site, is a splendid combination of islands and waterways that flood, this otherwise dry region, from the months of May to August. This is due to the flow of water which inundate the area, from the Angola Highlands, and create the World’s largest inland Delta. In our opinion this would be the best time to visit the Okavango Delta as animals become concentrated on the islands where many lodges are situated.
Namibia is partially covered by desert and rainfall here is not as frequent as many other regions in the world. In fact, they have about 300 days a year of sunshine. The climate is very dry and pleasant. Summer rains fall between December and March mostly over the central and east regions (virtually none over the desert area) and mostly take the form of afternoon thunderstorms when the conditions are more humid.
March and April are great times to go as there is very little dust in the air and the landscape is more green. The winter months of June to August can be extremely cold at night time (when temperatures drop below freezing) but the days are very pleasant. During September and October, the landscape is very dry and hot. It is great for game viewing then but can be quite dusty.