South Africa offers an almost infinite variety of safari experiences, from classic game drives and walking safaris to ocean adventures. It’s a true year-round destination, and any time is the best time to visit South Africa on safari. Here, you’ll experience diverse landscapes, remarkable wildlife and warm hospitality, whatever the temperature.
A South African safari is excellent at any time of year. The extended Southern African winter (from April to October) is probably the best time to visit South Africa on safari though, and it’s justifiably popular.
Game viewing in the private Sabi Sands concessions and the adjoining Greater Kruger National Park is excellent year round, but is almost unrivalled during the winter months. Species which are notoriously hard to find in other areas, such as leopard, seem to almost delight in being seen here.
- Hard-to-find species like leopard can be seen on a South African safari.
- The extended Southern African winter is probably the best time to visit South Africa on safari. © Phinda Mountain Lodge
- April to October is justifiably popular for a South African safari.
- South African safaris are arguably the best for big cat sightings.
- Lodges might have increased rates during South Africa's best safari time. © Ngala Tented Camp
- A South African safari is excellent at any time of year. © Kwandwe Private Game Reserve
- The best time for a walking safari in South Africa is during the cool, dry months. © More Marataba Trails Lodge
- The best time for a birding safari in South Africa is during the green season. © The Motse
Cooler weather and the very low likelihood of rainfall make safari activities even more enjoyable, with the luxury lodges being more than prepared for the freshness of the winter mornings. Warm days are followed by cool evenings, which are perfect for watching the only channel on the ‘bush TV’ – that is, for sitting around the campfire.
Whether you’ve spent your day walking in the Waterberg, or encountering the arid-country wildlife of the Kalahari, the starry nights will be a highlight as you swap safari stories with guides and fellow guests.
The one climatic exception is the south of the country, which has a Mediterranean-style winter rainfall. As such, the best time to hit Cape Town, the Cape Winelands and the Garden Route is over the summer months, from November to March.
With long, warm days, you’ll have plenty of time to soak up more than just the sun at the many magnificent beaches. Think lazy lunches in vineyards, Cape Peninsula tours and snorkelling with seals…
- Zebra are common sightings on a South African safari.
- In South Africa's dry months, wildlife seek out waterholes.
- Lodges are prepared for the freshness of the winter mornings during South Africa's peak safari months. © Kingston Treehouse
- During the South African winter, game viewing is unrivalled. © Phinda Vlei Lodge
- During the low season, South African safari-lodge prices may be reduced. © Phinda Vlei Lodge
- South Africa is home to rhino. © The Motse
- South Africa's warmer months are the best for swimming with seals. © Animal Ocean
- The best time for Cape Peninsula tours on your South African safaris is during the summer months.
If you want to do a safari and beach holiday including Cape Town and the Garden Route, the summer period is where it’s at. A safari in the summer ‘green season’ brings its own delights, such as newborns, migratory birds, lush vegetation and exciting summer storms. Pair this with fine beach weather and you have the makings of a perfect, varied bush-and-beach escape.
However, if you want to enjoy a winter safari, the endless sandy beaches of warm Maputaland (famed for its spectacular diving) make a natural add-on to time spent in the Greater Kruger at any time of year.
BEST VALUE FOR MONEY
Unlike most other African countries, holidays in South Africa are priced in rands, so (apart from occasional vagaries) value for money is usually exceptional for First-World travellers with hard currency.
This is especially true if you visit Cape Town, the Cape Winelands and the Garden Route from April to October. As mentioned above, these are the rainy months of winter … but you’ll find the Cape winter much like a European spring, with cool, wet days interspersed with warm, clear ones. Or indeed, you might even find you have a cold night, a cool, wet morning and a perfectly sunny – and potentially even hot – afternoon!
Luckily, Cape Town is an exceptional city, and the occasional ‘four seasons in one day’ experience is easily managed thanks to a profusion of world-class restaurants, quirky cafés, whimsical bars, fascinating museums and arresting art galleries offering refuge (when required) from the unpredictable elements.
A holiday here now is typified by time drinking red wine next to a log fire, cosy lunches in the Cape Winelands and slow, sunny walks along pristine beaches – during which you have a good chance of spotting migrating whales!
- South African safaris rarely disappoint. © Ngala Tented Camp
- Value for money for a South African safari is usually exceptional for First-World travellers.
- Game drives on South African safaris are wonderful. © Londolozi Tree Camp
- Elephant can be seen in numbers on a South African safari. © Kwandwe Private Game Reserve
- The best time to visit the Cape Winelands is over South Africa's summer months. © La Petite Ferme
- Summer is ideal for visiting Cape Town as part of your South African safari.
- The best time to see whales on a South African safari is during winter. © Morukuru Ocean House
- The summer period is best for a South African safari-and-beach holiday that includes Cape Town and the Garden Route. © Lekkerwater Beach Lodge
And what better combination than adding a safari element to your winterish Cape escape? You’ll find some downtime down south is a perfect way to end off the excitement of tracking the Big Five up country – and it’s great value now too.
As a safari superstar, beach paradise, culinary hotspot and producer of award-winning wines, the country has pretty much all the ingredients you’ll need for a superb holiday – at any time of year. Whale watching and wine tasting in the same day, anyone?