Admittedly we’re hardly out of autumn yet, but already the chill of the air is enough that the average South African is bundling up both morning and evening, and overhead dark clouds are more often than not the order of the day – or at least they are where I live.
To put this in perspective for overseas visitors: South Africa is pretty mild, in most places, during winter. We average 16 degrees during the day (in some places it is warmer than this) and at night it gets chilly, going down to around 5 or 6 degrees.
Places like Sutherland in the Northern Cape, or the Drakensberg mountains of KwaZulu Natal get a LOT colder – there you can anticipate snow, without the added reassurance of central heating.
That said, winter in South Africa is one of the best seasons for game viewing. The Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces both bask in warm days with vaguely chilly evenings – you can light a fire if you feel like getting cozy, but it isn’t essential.
OFF THE BEATEN TRACK – WHERE TO HEAD IN WINTER
The bushveld of the Limpopo is known simply as the Waterberg – a geographical wonder. Closer to Gauteng and North West provinces than the Kruger National Park, the beauty of this region is often overlooked. A rugged and warm clime during winter, this is one of the closest authentic African savannah experiences you can find.
The Waterberg is a biosphere reserve with incredible rock formations, sublime scenery and a large area given over to the conservation of elephants, white rhino, leopard and buffalo, and a history of human settlement that goes back three million years.
Find a series of bush lodges, retreats and game farms in the Waterberg/Bushveld see – Bushveld Accommodation
THE NORTHERN CAPE’S KALAHARI
The section of the great desert that lies in the Northern Cape is only a portion of the huge Kalahari Basin that covers 2.5 million square kilometres over parts of several countries. Warm days and chilly nights with big, blue skies typify this place of ‘great thirst’ – sand dunes, mining towns and villages, and expansive reserves are typical of the landscape.
Night skies as you’ve seldom experienced them, and red sand, are the hidden bonuses. Towns that barely get a mention in tourist brochures embrace visitors, whilst places with names derived from ancient San languages – like Kathu and Kgalagadi – form the backdrop to unbeatable holidays.
Book your accommodation in lodges, reserves, guest farms, cottages and guest houses in the Kalahari see – Kalahari Accommodation
KWAZULU NATAL’S ELEPHANT COAST
The Elephant coast stretches from Lake St Lucia up to Kosi Bay, virtually at the border with Mozambique. This is untamed coast with an incredible variety of habitats and eco-systems that combine into unspoilt scenery and a playground for adventure seekers.
African elephants used to live in the sand forests centuries before in the region that now serves as an ecotourism mecca – sand dunes, swamps, coastal forests, rocky shores, coral reefs, mangrove swamps and the largest protected wetland in southern Africa – the iSimangaliso Wetland Park – make this an unforgettable destination for winter.
Book your lodge, self-catering cottage, guest house or game reserve on the Elephant Coast see – Elephant Coast Accommodation
EASTERN CAPE’S AMATOLA
The Amatola region of the Eastern Cape is named after the Amatola mountains – a range of densely forested peaks that form the eastern end of the great Cape coastal mountain range. Ancient forests filled with yellowwoods, white stinkwoods, and Cape chestnuts famous not only for their beauty but also for the hiking trails.
The Amatolas stretch all the way from Grahamstown in the north to Stutterheim in the west. They form the backdrop to frontier towns like Cathcart, Fort Beaufort and Adelaide, Alice and beautiful Hogsback. But the region also includes the coastal towns of Cintsa, Gonubie, Kidds Beach and the city of East London.
Book your self catering, B&B, guest house or lodge in the Amatola region see – Amatola Accommodation
MPUMALANGA’S WILD FRONTIER
The south eastern edges of Mpumalanga share borders with Mozambique, Swaziland and the southern tip of the Kruger National Park.
It’s warm here, and you’ll be able to explore the historic towns of Barberton, Komatipoort, Kaapmuiden and Badplaas, visit the Mkonjwa mountains, which evidence sites as the cradle of life, or cross the borders into Swaziland or Mozambique for a day. Enter the Kruger National Park, or other game reserves, for a few days of game viewing and soak up the sunshine and slow pace of life.
Book your accommodation in a guest lodge, game reserve or farm cottage in Mpumalanga see – Wild Frontier Accommodation
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The South Coast of KwaZuluNatal is a great winter destination, the sea temp is around 20degrees so you can still swim in the ocean. The winter days are warm with very little rain or wind.
Whales are often seen off our coast in the winter months. Winter is also a great fishing time and if your lucky you might also catch the ” Sardine Run”
The Witzenberg Valley home to the towns of Tulbagh, Wolseley and Ceres are wonderful winter destinations close to Cape Town. The high mountain peaks are frequently covered in snow during the winter months and from April the fynbos is coming into flower.