When to go on safari in South Africa

Being such a large country with diverse landscapes and climates, a safari in South Africa is a great experience any time of year. Although peak season for travel throughout South Africa falls over the summer holiday months of December through to February, this is not necessarily the best time for wildlife spotting in all regions. Below is a breakdown of the most popular safari destinations in South Africa and the best time to visit each one.

Kruger National Park

The Kruger National Park is a great year-round destination with a wet season and a dry season each offering a unique safari experience.
Peak Season: November to April
Low Season: May to October
Best time for wildlife viewing: We recommend the dry winter season from May to October as the best time for wildlife viewing and walking safaris as vegetation is sparse making animals easier to spot.

Advantages of going in peak season

  • The dry landscape is transformed into lush green scenery during the wet season starting in November, peaking in January and February, and lasting until April.
  • Many young animals are around during this time (which is also alluring to predators).
  • Best time of year for birding as well as combining your Kruger safari with a beach holiday.

Disadvantages of going in peak season

  • Book well in advance as availability will be limited and prices will be higher than other times of the year.
  • Days can get uncomfortably hot and humid especially from October to February.
  • This is also peak season for mosquitoes so you may have to take antimalarial drugs.

Advantages of going out of peak season

  • With less availability of water during the dry season, animals are drawn to drink at permanent watering holes which makes for rewarding game sightings.
  • Warm daytime temperatures with little rain.
  • Low malaria risk with fewer mosquitoes.

Disadvantages of going out of peak season

  • Early mornings and evenings can get very cold between June and August, especially when out on safari in an open vehicle.
  • September and October can get uncomfortably humid.

Sabi Sands

Peak Season: October to March
Low Season: May to September
Best time for wildlife viewing: We recommend May to September which is the dry season. September is the least cold of the winter months.

Advantages of going in peak season

  • Beautiful green scenery.
  • Sightings of new-born wildlife (which is also alluring to predators).
  • Migratory birds arrive making it the best time for bird watching.

Disadvantages of going in peak season

  • Book well in advance as availability will be limited and prices will be higher than other times of the year.
  • Days can get uncomfortably hot and humid especially from October to February.
  • There are more mosquitoes during the wet summer months so you may have to take antimalarial drugs.

Advantages of going out of peak season

  • This is a great time for wildlife viewing due to animals gathering around waterholes and rivers to drink.
  • Sparse vegetation makes it easier to spot wildlife.
  • Mild sunny days with little to no rain and low humidity.
  • Low malaria risk.

Disadvantages of going out of peak season

  • Even though daytime temperatures are mild, early mornings and evenings can get very cold between June and August, especially when out on safari in an open vehicle.
  • The air can get dusty and dry.

KwaZulu Natal

Peak Season: October to March
Low Season: April to September
Best time for wildlife viewing: We recommend going during the shoulder months of April, May, September, or October when the weather is mild, with little rain. KwaZulu Natal is however another of South Africa’s destinations which has plenty to offer year-round and presents a warm escape from the rest of the county’s cold winters.

Advantages of going in peak season

  • The wet summer season offers magnificent scenery and lush landscapes.
  • Migratory birds are present making for excellent birding.
  • New-born animals can be seen in the wild making for great photographic opportunities.

Disadvantages of going in peak season

  • Due to the abundance of water and lush vegetation wildlife viewing may not be as effortless.
  • The peak of summer from December to the end of February can be extremely humid and hot.
  • These months are also more expensive and the busiest time of year.

Advantages of going out of peak season

  • May to September is the dry winter season and the best time for wildlife viewing as vegetation thins out and animals gather around water sources.
  • Although mornings and evenings can be cold, days are beautiful and sunny with little wind.
  • The sky can be hazy with dust depending on the area you are visiting.

Disadvantages of going out of peak season

  • The temperatures inland can be extremely cold. (However, the coastal regions remain warm.)

Eastern Cape

Peak Season: November to February
Low Season: June to September
Best time for wildlife viewing: The Eastern Cape is a great year-round destination for game viewing due to the arid and semi-arid climate which draws animals to drink from water sources.

Advantages of going in peak season

  • October to April offers good weather, although this is the wetter season.
  • Migratory birds arrive in the area, so this is an ideal time for birdwatchers.
  • Landscapes are lush and very scenic.
  • During the height of peak season from December to February, the days are very warm, great for a safari and beach combination.

Disadvantages of going in peak season

  • If you are planning a visit during December or January, book long in advance as availability will be limited.
  • Prices are higher than during other times of the year.
  • Although most people enjoy the warm summers, some may find the heat and humidity in January and February uncomfortable.

Advantages of going out of peak season

  • Typical of spring there is abundant greenery and new-born animals make for remarkable wildlife viewing experiences during September and October.
  • June to August are the coldest months, but the days are still beautifully sunny with less wind and rain.
  • The lack of water in the bush means animals head to water sources for a drink which makes for easier wildlife spotting.
  • Prices are lower during the winter period.

Disadvantages of going out of peak season

  • Winter can get pretty cold, especially when taking an early morning or evening safari in an open vehicle. Make sure you have warm clothing in layers as the days do warm up during the afternoon.

Garden Route

Peak Season: December to February
Low Season: June to August
Best time for wildlife viewing: We recommend spring and autumn, especially the months of September, October, and March to May, however, the Garden Route is spectacularly beautiful year-round.

Advantages of going in peak season

  • Peak season boasts a great warm climate.
  • The area is bustling with holiday goers and loads of outdoor activities.
  • Days are longer allowing you to get the most out of your safari.
  • It is easier to spot animals as the vegetation is not as overgrown as other times of the year.
  • The dryer climate forces animals to head to water sources for a drink, which counts in your favour for convenient wildlife viewing.

Disadvantages of going in peak season

  • Book well in advance as availability will be limited.
  • Prices are higher than other times of the year.

Advantages of going out of peak season

  • Skipping the height of peak season and visiting the Garden Route during autumn and spring allows you to enjoy moderate temperatures, little wind, limited rainfall, and witness the blooming of Fynbos flowers.
  • Prices will be somewhat lower that over Christmas or Easter.
  • You stand a good chance of spotting some whales between July and October.

Disadvantages of going out of peak season

  • Visiting during the winter months from June through to August can get very cold.
  • The days are shorter, and the weather is very unpredictable.

Western Cape

Peak Season: November to March
Low Season: June to September
Best Time to go: We recommend late January to April, September or October.

Advantages of going in peak season

  • The weather is ideal for combining a safari with other activities.
  • The bush is less dense due to dry weather making it easier to spot wildlife.
  • Warm and long sunny days with late sunsets.
  • Festive atmosphere and busy beaches.
  • Markets, festivals, and loads of outdoor activities.

Disadvantages of going in peak season

  • Peak season over the December holidays can get very busy in Cape Town itself. That means lots of people, lots of traffic, and high prices. Since safaris are somewhat outside the city, this should not affect your safari experience. Just make sure to book well in advance as availability will be limited and leave enough time for travel to and from airports and other activities.

Advantages of going out of peak season

  • Traveling just outside the height of peak season, from end January to April allows you to enjoy the very best of this amazing destination at slightly lower prices, and at a time of year that is less windy.
  • The temperature is ideal for taking a safari and the evenings are perfect for sundowners in the bushveld and outdoor dining.

Disadvantages of going out of peak season

  • Traveling to the Western Cape from June to August can score you great pricing, however, you may need to amend your plans day to day due to unpredictable weather.
  • Although this time of year is cold and can make for cozy fireside wine tasting, rain or mist can make for poor safari experiences. Even if the animals are out, you may not be able to see them very well. Having said that, some winter days are beautiful and sunny, but unfortunately, this is one aspect of your trip that we cannot pre-arrange.