We are fortunate to live in a country that is a true year-round holiday destination, which means any time is the best time to visit South Africa on safari. In KwaZulu-Natal, every season has its charms. The long, hot days of summer are great for basking by the pool and the seasonal rainfall transforms the bush into a lush, green playground for wildlife. Winters are dry with early mornings and evenings spent cosy around the campfire, and there are regular opportunities for excellent animal sighting during game drives.
There isn’t any one time of the year that is better than another for a safari. It depends on what kind of wilderness experience you dream of having. If it’s your first safari, you might want to have the classic wildlife safari experience commonly associated with the winter months. Whereas an old-hand safari-goer or avid birder, might like the promise of migratory bird sightings that summer brings.
Each season offers a different experience from the one that came before it. This is what makes the bush such a captivating place throughout the year!
Visiting South Africa on safari in summer
Months: October/November to March/April
Temperature range: October & November ~ minimum of 16°C (61°F) and maximum of 26°C (79°F); December to February ~ min 19°C (66°F) and max 29°C (84°F); March & April ~ min 17°C (63°F) and max 27°C (81°F).
Rainfall: January tops the wettest month with an average 130mm (5.1in) of rainfall; although rainfall patterns have become quite inconsistent in recent years.
Known as the green or wet season, a summer safari in Manyoni Private Game Reserve brings its own special delights. This is the time when the bush turns into something of a maternity ward. Zebra, impala, giraffe and other game animals give birth to adorable newborns that are up and wobbling about on their gangly legs within half an hour of dropping. This incredible feat is crucial for their survival. If they can’t stand and gallop away, they are completely at the mercy of predators.
As Manyoni is the isiZulu word for ‘Place of the Birds’, the reserve is renowned for its abundance of birds throughout the year. Summer does bring an extra colour and flair though, as European and African migrant species fly in to enjoy the warmer temperatures. Visitors to the reserve can include various bee-eaters, Eurasian golden oriole, common and wood sandpipers, icterine and willow warbler, and the red-backed and lesser grey shrike.
For photographers, a summer safari in South Africa offers beautiful natural lighting at dawn and dusk, the times that our game drives are scheduled. Following the usual afternoon thundershowers, the air is washed crisp and clear by the rain, things cool down, and a rainbow is a common sight against the blue sky. The cloud-stacked sunrises and sunsets are sublime. Along with these opportunities for gorgeous landscape photography, there is plenty of animal and birding action to capture.
Extended holiday idea: Pair this with fine beach weather along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline and you have the makings of the ultimate bush and beach holiday in South Africa.
Visiting South Africa on safari in winter
Months: May/June to August/September
Temperature range: May ~ minimum of 13°C (55°F) and maximum of 24°C (75°F); June to August ~ min 11°C (52°F) and max 23°C (73°F); September ~ min 14°C (57°F) and max 25°C (77°F)
Rainfall: June is the driest month with an average rainfall of 38mm (1.5in); although rainfall patterns have become quite inconsistent in recent years.
Come winter and the bush shakes off its layers of thick greenery, giving way to bare trees and shades of brown. Without the rain to wash them away, dust particles hang in the air in the late afternoon and create intense colours across the sky at sunset. This then usually gives way to a cloudless night sky, perfect for stargazing back at camp.
Read more: Find out all there is know and love about a South African safari in winter.
We are true believers that the best time to visit South Africa on safari is whenever you can! Contact us or enquire and book using our easy to use online form.