Winter in South Africa is not quite as dreary and inhibiting as it can be in many other places in the world. While the winter days may not lend themselves to lazy beach holidays, they are certainly pleasant enough for safari trips, camping, whale watching and more.
In terms of safari and game viewing trips, winter may actually be the best time to visit South Africa, particularly in the northern provinces, which experience drier winters than those closer to the coast.
Advantages of choosing a winter safari
Because of the hot, sunny summers, South Africa experiences a higher influx of tourists during the period between December and April. So, for visitors that want to come in autumn and winter (May to August), there are often considerable savings to be taken advantage of. This applies to accommodation, experiences and attractions, including safari packages. In addition, costly flights are also a lot cheaper during winter; both internationally and locally.
More Temperate Weather
The winters are generally more temperate in South Africa than in other destinations. KwaZulu Natal, the Northern Cape and Gauteng stay dry, while the coastal areas (such as the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape) experience winter rainfall. The daytime highs seldom dip below 20 degrees Celsius. Night times can be chilly. A small number of high-lying regions do experience light annual snowfall.
The summer months can actually become stifling in their heat. The sun is strong and the UV rays damaging. Therefore, for those with skin conditions and those that do not enjoy the heat, winter is a far more pleasant time to experience the beauty of this country.
Easier to Observe Wildlife
During the dry winter seasons, the foliage generally thins out, making it easier to observe the wildlife that lives in it.
The Southern Right Whales and Humpback Whales frequent the South African coastline from June to December. This provides fabulous opportunities to spot these majestic marine mammals as they skim along the shore, often with young calves.
Less Risk of Malaria
A few areas of South Africa are still considered to pose a threat in terms of malaria. However, this is far less of a danger during winter. In fact, most of the insects that annoy, bite or sting are far less active during winter.
More Active Wildlife
The animals are often a lot more active during the cooler months. The hot summers can cause them to become lethargic. They may even be concealed in shady spots, trying to escape the sun.
Remember, though, that a South African winter is still a winter. Bring along warm jackets and opt for layers that you can peel off as the day warms up a bit. Nights are the coldest, and can get very chilly in the northern provinces, so ensure that you have thermal underwear or hot water bottles to keep you warm and cosy. Game drives are an essential part of a safari. They usually yield the most animals sightings in the early morning or evening, which can be very cold. So, be sure to dress warmly in preparation.
Even in the winter, it is advisable to wear a good sunscreen and protective sunglasses.