Best Time for Safari in South Africa – When to Visit for Wildlife


South Africa is a stunning place to spot some wildlife. The wide-open plains, covered in waving grass, produce so many different species, that you can roam the country for years and still be awe-struck with every new day.

The famous Big 5 is an obvious attraction when it comes to South African animal life. However, learning about other incredible animals, like the king cheetah, makes safari both an educational and enriching experience.

There is so much more to the wild spaces of this beautiful country. It is one of the most biodiverse places in the world, and a safari is the perfect way to explore it.

The South African climate is pretty balmy all year round, in comparison to the northern hemisphere. So a vacation to these sunny shores is always a pleasure. However, if you’re wanting to experience a South African safari, you need to know when the animals are out and about.

So if you want to know when is the best time of the year to go to South Africa for an incredible safari, we’ve got you covered. From traditional game safaris to exciting marine animal boat trips, there are all sorts of ways to experience wildlife in this awe-inspiring country.

Best Time to Visit South Africa for the Perfect Safari

The best time to visit Africa depends on what kind of weather and wildlife you’re wanting to experience. However, if you’re wanting to make the most of your visit to South Africa, the very best time to go is during the drier winter months.

Winter, which runs from June to August, brings more animals to the water sources that dot the often dry landscape. They cannot gather water from just anywhere, so these spaces grow in importance, and animals will often trek from far away to get a drink.

There is also more excitement around a watering hole, as it brings a number of different species together. You can often see zebras standing beside the elephants, and perhaps even a lion having a sip at the same time. Sometimes there’s even a little drama between them, which can add to the excitement of a safari.

With animals all congregating in one or two easily found places, you won’t struggle to find life in the wide-open spaces. The vegetation is also thinner, so your view won’t be blocked by foliage and tall grasses.

So if it’s simply a fantastic safari that you’re after, winter is the right time for your visit to South Africa. And since the weather is so mild in this gorgeous country, you won’t need to pack in your heavy bomber jackets and snow boots for your stay at a game resort.

The daytime temperature averages at 17 degrees celsius. At night it dips a bit lower, particularly out in the bush. But still, you won’t find yourself freezing on this trip. If you want to have slightly warmer dates, during May, or from September to October are still great options for a cool-weather safari trip.

Best Time to Travel to South Africa for Beautiful Game Drives

Since South Africa’s wild spaces have so much to offer, you might not specifically be wanting to see as many animals as possible. The flora is, after all, almost just as famous and as varied as the game.

If it’s the beauty of these natural spaces that you’re wanting to appreciate more than anything else, autumn is a truly stunning time of the year.

Autumn, which runs from March to May, brings the traditional turning of colours. It may not be as brilliant as the Northern hemisphere’s proud fall displays, but there is so much beauty to appreciate in South Africa’s autumn.

The Kruger National Park, the world’s greatest safari destination, is the ideal place to safari during this time of the year. The lowlands produce beautiful colours. Try taking a game drive during the afternoon hours, when the sun shines through the leaves, turning them even more bright and blazing.

Best Time of Year to Go to South Africa for Baby Animals

If it’s serious cuteness that you’re after, you’ll want to head to South Africa during baby season. Like humans, many animal species mate throughout the year, and so their babies are born in a scattered timeframe.

Luckily for us, however, this is not the case for the majority of African animals. For most, the warm months herald the incoming tide of new life. This is because vulnerable young have a better chance of survival with warmer weather and all that comes with it.

When going on a South African safari, you’ll want to visit during the spring months. In the southern hemisphere, spring falls between September and November. So if you’re wanting to see new life spread across the plains, this is the best time of year to go to South Africa.

It isn’t only babies that are born during this time. The flora also takes advantage of the warming temperatures and flourishes. During October, the rainfall season starts, which adds to the growth in life. Of course, it is this abundance that feeds and sustains the babies of the wild.

Best Time to Go to South Africa for Sea Safaris

If you’re looking for something different, think about embarking on a sea safari. There’s certainly no better place to do it than this exciting country. Spend a day under the sun, sailing across the open seas.

During the safari, look out for dolphins, seals, sharks and whales. There is such an abundance of wildlife in the sea surrounding South Africa, that you’re sure to see something thrilling.

The awesome unknown is so exciting in a sea safari. It’s a world that we can have no real part in, so this glimpse into it is something special. The best place to set out for a marine wildlife tour is the V&A Waterfront. That way, you can also engage in one of Africa’s most contemporary, interesting spaces, before or after your adventure.

The best time to experience one of these tours is between January and June. These months are warm and comfortable, and the South African coastline thrives even more than at other times of the year. But things can get a bit more specific.

If you want to see the different dolphin species, January and February are the best months for your trip. This will, however, have you largely missing whale season, which occurs in the offseason, between July and November.

Since the seas don’t operate according to a specific timeline, nor within a certain space, you cannot be sure of seeing the animals that captivate you. But the experience of a sea safari remains exciting and beautiful, no matter the specifics.

When to Go to South Africa for Birding

As with just about everything else, South Africa is an excellent place to go to engage in bird watching. There are a plethora of different species, all across the country. All you need to do is be extra attentive to the skies and treetops.

The best time for bird watching in South Africa is during the rainy season. From September to April the viewing is good. But if you’re looking for amazing, peak times are between November and February.

Since South Africa offers such a diverse range of habitat, from mountainous regions to flat lowlands, there are tons of different avian species. If you’re wanting to see as many of these as possible, consider taking a road trip across the country, as you’ll then see as much as possible. Of course, always keep a pair of binoculars handy.

However, if you don’t have the time or the will to explore the whole country, there are a few prime places to check out. If based in Cape Town, visit West Coast National Park. You might even catch the incredible flower display if you are visiting in spring.

Kruger National Park is also a great option for bird watching. And there you can then experience a traditional safari at the same time. And let’s not forget about the iconic ostrich found in the Klein Karoo.

Last Words on the Best Time for Safari in South Africa

There are so many reasons to make South Africa your next vacation destination. Travellers and adventurers from all over the world flock to the plains, forests, mountains and beaches of this incredible country.

One of the main draws to our shores is, undoubtedly, the incredible and diverse wildlife. From whales to their direct opposites – fluffy little birds, there is an abundance of life throughout the country.

If you’re wanting to experience South Africa’s unforgettable safaris, you certainly have plenty of options. So you can choose exactly what you want to experience, and when.

Matt Davison
Matt has done marketing for travel and tourism for over a decade. His first love is SEO, with entrepreneurship hotter on its heels than a girlfriend. When he is not looking up flights back to his next destination, you can find him in the garden, making excuses to walk Rusty, strategizing with the team and tinkering on sites until the early morning.