If you’re planning a trip, the smart thing to do is to book your visit well in advance. Because one person’s “well in advance” may be another’s “last minute”, we’ve created a list of seasonal booking tips for your African holiday. Locals and visitors alike will find this helpful, so keep it handy and share it with friends.
Peak times throughout the year
First thing’s first – here are the busy periods when people are most likely to go on holiday (in South Africa):
- Summer season – between November and March
- Main school holidays – December/January and June/July
- Easter long weekend
- Other special holidays such as Valentine’s Day
Planning your trip by season
Summer is the busiest time of year in South Africa with locals flocking to seaside towns and international travellers arriving on our shores. We advise you book your summer escape as early as possible – as in, arrange next year’s December holiday as you’re checking out of this year’s accommodation. Nope, we’re not exaggerating. The reality is that the best places get snapped up earlier and earlier each year, leaving many disappointed travellers unable to enjoy the coastal festive season they hoped for. To avoid disappointment and the stress of last minute scrambling, get yourself booked in somewhere super early.
When to book?: Up to a year in advance (latest by the end of February – so 10 months beforehand).
Winter on the coast is a lot quieter in terms of visitors, but this is when safari season peaks – see below for more on this. Outside of game reserves, rates are often 50% less than in peak season. Great places to go in SA winter include:
KwaZulu-Natal: With its tropical and warm climate all year round, it provides the ideal escape from the cold.
Karoo: Days are sunny and mild, and whilst the nights can get very chilly, the faux summer days are perfect for exploring without summer’s intense desert heat.
When to book?: Roughly six months in advance, but there’s a lot more flexibility than in summer and you can often find plenty of last minute winter specials.
Easter and Valentine’s Day getaways can be booked anywhere from six months to a year in advance. If you want to have your pick of places to stay and not be left breaking the bank with the Penthouse Suite, then book well in advance to get what you want and possibly save on costs too.
Planning your trip by type of holiday
The type of holiday you’re after determines when you should visit.
With the rainy season having no exact schedule and different regions offering a variety of game viewing both in and out of season, strictly speaking there is no set time to go on safari. That said, there are peak seasons for safari which in South Africa is in the dry winter months.
When to go?: May – October with July being the best month
The dry season is prime animal viewing time because the shorter grass and thinner bush increases visibility. Wildlife and birds tend to congregate around limited water sources, providing additional opportunities to spot them.
Tip: The wetter months are better for birding. This is when nesting/breeding takes place and migrant species are present.
When to book?: We recommend booking at least 18 months in advance if you’re planning to go on safari in peak season. This will ensure you secure your booking with a wide selection of places to choose from. Safari lodges in private reserves in particular have limited space, as they don’t cater for the masses like big hotels do. If you’re set on going on safari at the most popular time, advance booking is your best friend.
Victoria Falls & Botswana
These two popular destinations combine easily for a classic African itinerary. Ideally you’d visit Victoria Falls shortly after the summer rains (February to May) when the Falls are at their peak, but if your plan is to combine the Falls with Botswana (a very popular option), the best time would be during the dry season (June – August). This gives you a premium safari experience in peak season and, while the Falls are not at full volume, you can enjoy water-based activities that are too dangerous when they’re in full flow.
When to go?: The most popular month is July
Avoid going: At the very end of the dry period (October to November). The weather is hot and humid at this time, and water levels will be at their all-time lowest.
When to book?: 12-18 months in advance
Click here to see our Ultimate Safari Guide.
Diving in crystal blue waters, baking in the hot sun and eating the freshest seafood you can possibly imagine… this is what you’ll find in magical Mozambique. Its tropical climate draws people all year round, but there is still a peak season.
When to go?: Dry season between June and September. Locals tends to go at the end of the year (December/January) but temperatures are sky high, so going earlier means you’ll be able to spend more time in the sun without consequences.
Good to know:
- February and August are the windiest months so whilst diving is possible year-round, it’s best to avoid these months as the wind can affect visibility.
- Whales can be seen of the coast between June and October.
- September is the best month for game fishing.
Don’t forget about the wild flowers…
Flower season in South Africa runs between August and November, with the months of August and September yielding the best results. The burst of colour and array of flower species that present themselves throughout the Cape is something that photos simply don’t do justice. Be sure to arrange your accommodation early though because places fill up fast, particularly in Namaqualand – without a doubt the best place to see those gorgeous blooms.
When to go?: With August and September being prime flower viewing time, areas tend to become very busy, particularly with many tour groups. We recommend you visit the flowers in October or November for a more relaxed experience that still provides the perfect photo opp.
For extensive itinerary planning and advice that will make your travel dreams a reality at the best possible price, get in touch with our Portfolio Journeys team who will gladly assist.