What's the best time of year for a South African adventure?

South Africa

Whether you’re travelling solo or as a family, South Africa is a great place to explore. The climate is warm year-round, and there’s a fantastic variety of activities and expeditions to suit all ages and preferences. You can get up close to some of nature's most impressive species on a safari through the wilderness, soak up the sun on sandy beaches dotted along dramatic coastlines, sample incredible cuisine and wine in the Winelands or traverse the bustling cosmopolitan cities. Whatever type of holiday you’re looking for, South Africa has it all. 

But depending on what exactly you’re looking to get out of your holiday to this scenic country, you may choose to visit in a specific season. So, what’s the best time of year for a South African adventure?

Beaches, festivals and summer fun

If you’re looking for a sunny getaway to escape the cold winter of the Northern Hemisphere, head to South Africa between the months of November to February. Winter in the north means summer in the south, and you’ll find this vibrant country comes to life with festivals, bustling markets and plenty of exciting attractions throughout its summer.

With over 2,000 miles of coastline fronting two oceans, there’s no shortage of winter sun to be found in South Africa. Be sure to stop off at Boulders Beach in Cape Town, to see the infamous penguin colony basking on the sand and playing in the waves. The West Coast is dotted with bays and coves, including Paternoster Beach on the edge of a sleepy fishing village – perfect if you fancy a more private beach day. If lazing about on the beach isn’t your style, grab a saddle and enjoy a coastal ride beneath the rugged cliffs and along glistening beaches on horseback.

African penguins on seashore beside boulder
Photo by Casey Allen on Unsplash

If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, consider attending the radical event known as Afrika-burn, held yearly between April and May. This one-of-a-kind gathering sees thousands of people from all over the world come together to build a town from the ground up and celebrate inclusion, diversity and community. Whilst it’s not for the faint hearted, Afrika-burn is certainly a memorable experience.

Winelands and sea turtles

With fewer crowds and continued optimal weather that continues until late May, Autumn in South Africa is one of the best times to visit if you’re looking to appreciate the natural beauty of the country with a less touristy vibe. From January to April, hundreds of sea turtle eggs begin to hatch on Sodwana Bay, within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. The park itself is a haven for biodiversity, and is one of the best places in South Africa to enjoy some snorkelling or scuba diving adventures. 

Autumn is also when the iconic winelands begin harvesting the fruit for their delicious wines. Along with sampling the wines, you can expect a host of fun activities such as vineyard tours, exhibitions, tractor rides and brilliant feasts complete with wines from the previous year's harvest. For equestrians, you can even explore the stunning winelands on horseback for a unique view of the Western Cape.

Landscape photography mountains under blue sky with ocean behind
Photo by Lina Loos on Unsplash

Safaris and surfing

Winter in South Africa is the perfect time to head out on safari. June marks the beginning of the dry season, where the animals begin to congregate closer to water-holes, and spotting them becomes much easier. With 19 national parks to choose from, including Kruger National Park, there’s no shortage of impressive wildlife to be discovered here. Head to the eastern regions during the winter months of June - September to find big cats, elephants, rhinos and buffalo easily throughout many picturesque landscapes across the country. You can opt for a traditional jeep safari or even hire some horses and take a ride through the Savannahs.

For avid surfing enthusiasts, you’ll find the best swells around the Cape between June and September, where the waters remain warm and there’s a variety of beaches for each level of surfing expertise. Jeffery’s Bay on the Eastern Cape draws many surfers to test its consistent swells, created as the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic and cascades onto the beach with waves reaching up to 10ft high. July and August is also the perfect time to go whale watching in the Western Cape, as the herds migrate along the coastline.

Giraffe and zebra on green grass field on sunny day
Photo by Yoni Kozminsi on Unsplash

Time and time again

With so much to offer in each season, South Africa is likely to be a destination you’ll want to return to time and time again. Try visiting at different times of the year to discover an endless supply of magical experiences and adventures. 

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