South Africa with Wilderness Safaris

When to go?

Wildlife viewing in Kruger is good all year round, but each season has its own nuance and special charm – there simply is not one ‘perfect time’ to visit. On the coast, the pristine dive sites of Maputaland are excellent for year-round diving and relaxing on the beach, while summer is the best time for viewing nesting marine turtles.

It is important to remember that while game viewing can never be guaranteed, there are some trends that can be seen when we combine our knowledge of seasons, habitats and water availability with animal distribution, their numbers, and thus where they can be found. The table below gives some insight into these trends. For more details, it is best to speak to your Journey Specialist or a seasoned Africa expert.

  • Transition Season Highlights

  • Green Season Highlights

  • Dry Season Highlights

  • Nov
  • Dec
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
Green Season - December To March

South Africa’s summer is hotter with higher rainfall and humidity (except for Cape Town which gets its rain in winter). Excellent photographic opportunities with excellent light, colour and subject matter.    

Pafuri Camp, Kruger National Park

This is a time of abundance as wildlife capitalises on the lush vegetation and ready availability of water. Many general game species have their young at this time, with large nursery herds of impala being seen. The abundance of antelope young makes it a good time for predators such as leopard and spotted hyaena. Elephant density is lower in the Pafuri area, although lone bulls still linger along the Luvuvhu River as does the odd breeding herd. Large herds of buffalo are also still frequently seen. Hippo sightings remain good. This is a fantastic period for birds: resident racket-tailed roller and Arnot’s chat breed at this time and migratory specials like thick-billed cuckoo are present.

Rocktail Beach Camp, Maputaland

Despite any rain, diving continues as the water temperature, warm weather and visibility are all excellent. The arrival of gamefish and whale sharks coincides with summer with whale shark sightings normally occurring late December and early January and February. A highlight during summer is the spotted ragged-tooth shark. In December, humpback and southern right whales may be spotted on their journey south to the Antarctic. This is also the peak time (which also extends backwards into November and October) for loggerhead and leatherback turtles to be seen on the beach at night laying their eggs – or a few weeks later, hatchlings emerging and running for the sea. Many birds breed at this time too, such as Livingstone’s turaco, rosy-throated longclaw and the busy blue-mantled crested flycatcher.

Transition Season - April To May; November

In April and May, the climate is moderate; these and November portray the fascinating dynamics that take place during a change in season.

Pafuri Camp, Kruger National Park

Vegetation starts to thin as winter approaches. Game viewing remains excellent from general game, while larger numbers of elephant start moving back onto the concession. This is an exciting time for birding with resident specials such as three-banded courser and eastern nicator. November is typically hot and dry – a pensive month full of wildlife drama as all await the arrival of the first rains. At Pafuri, antelope such as impala, nyala and bushbuck may already drop their first foals. Predators from leopard to baboon in turn predate on many of the young.

Rocktail Beach Camp, Maputaland

April and May tend to be the months with the best diving conditions, as days are warm and seas are generally calm. Divers can see manta ray, bottlenose dolphins, spinner dolphins, hawksbill and green turtles and several different species of reef fish. While the official start of the turtle egg-laying season is in October, November sees more loggerhead and leatherback turtles moving into the area to nest.

Dry Season - June To October

Winter in South Africa, this is the cool and drier time of the year – except for rains on the west coast. Temperatures begin rising in the spring – September / October.

Pafuri Camp, Kruger National Park

Diminished water means that high game densities are attracted to the Luvuvhu River, often the only water source in the area. Large herds of buffalo and elephant are seen daily coming to drink. General game sightings are profuse at this time and leopard are frequently recorded. Unusual sightings could include Sharpe’s grysbok, aardvark or even pangolin owing to drier conditions and leafless woodland making visibility easy. Birding, even in the absence of migrants, remains very good and there is a seasonal penetration of bird species such as crimson-breasted shrike or chestnut-vented tit-babbler that have a more atypical westerly distribution.

Rocktail Beach Camp, Maputaland

A highlight of the winter months is the arrival of the humpback and southern right whales on their annual migration up north to Madagascar. Fantastic sightings have taken place between June and late August. August to October is quite a windy period for diving, but there are excellent sightings nevertheless of spinner dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, eagle rays and the usual abundant resident marine life, both large and small.