Considering a South African tour and not sure when to go in terms of weather? Step right up, we’ve got a concise guide to South African weather all drawn up and organised according to the country’s nine provinces! The country has varied weather zones and we recommend you go prepared and do the necessary research before setting out. You can find the info listed below according to the country’s nine provinces…
The short of the long
South Africa is a diverse country with 9 provinces, which range from mountains and beaches, to deserts and bushveld. Along with the variety of people and places, South Africa’s climate also differs from one region to the next.
The calendar dates for the seasons are as follows:
Autumn/Fall – 1 March – 31 May
Winter – 1 June – 31 August
Spring – 1 September – 30 November
Summer – 1 December – 28/29 February
Some provinces have summer rainfall, with warm days and cooling showers in the late afternoon. Others have scorching hot summers and windy, wet winters. But even then, it’s nowhere as low as winter temperatures in Europe. The country is quite dry, with rainfall averages at around 464mm or less. The average worldwide is 860mm.
Situated in the Southern hemisphere, Christmas in South Africa is a sunny, beach-bound affair. In fact, Christmas lunch is mostly enjoyed outdoors. While the whole country has summer over December, it’s good to read up on the specific areas you’ll be visiting. During winter, the coastal regions enjoy the warmest temperatures. Inland, the high altitudes cause temperatures to dip below freezing point. The daily average temperatures are also lower here in summer.
South Africa is flanked by two oceans. The Atlantic ocean and the Indian Ocean meet at the southernmost point of Africa, Cape Agulhas. There are two major currents that influence the temperature of the coastal waters. The cold Benguela current runs along the west coast. The warm Mozambique current runs along the south coast (the temperature is much better for swimming).
The Western Cape is a winter rainfall area. Summers are hot (very hot) and dry, while winters are wet and windy. Cape Town, in particular, is known for gale-force winds. Table Mountain also has an impact on the weather in different parts of the city. One side of the mountain may be sunny, while the other is rainy. Be ready to enjoy all four seasons in one day (i.e. pack sunscreen and a scarf).
Top Tip! When you see clouds hanging around Lion’s Head, rain is not far off. Pack your umbrella and a jacket if you’re heading out.
Summer is a wonderful time to enjoy all the outdoor attractions this region has to offer. Hiking, camping and surfing number among popular local pastimes. It’s also a good time to visit Kirstenbosch Gardens, Robben Island and the Stellenbosch winelands. Many South African tours also visit Knysna and the Cango Caves in the Karoo.
As for winter – fear not, there is plenty to enjoy! Aside from many wonderful museums, you can enjoy some shopping or a night at the theatre. When it’s not raining, you’ll still be able to enjoy outdoor adventures.
Fun fact! The Southeaster that often howls in Cape Town is also known as ‘the Cape Doctor’. This is because it blows away all the smog, clearing the air over the city. Also look out for ‘the tablecloth’. This refers to clouds that gather on top of Table Mountain and ‘spill’ over the top. Simply gorgeous!
Situated along the south coast, South Africa’s Eastern Cape province is known for lush greenery. The warmer water along the coast is tailormade for swimming and watersports. Towns like Jeffreys Bay are renowned for excellent surfing spots. As a summer rainfall region, it can get quite humid during the day. Summers are warm, but cool down a little at night. Winters are mild. Popular destinations in this area include Storms River Mouth and Tsitsikamma. It’s a wonderful area to do canopy tours, forest hikes and learn more about South African forestry.
Gauteng is a summer rainfall area that gets blazing hot during the day. Often the heat is washed away by an afternoon thunder shower. In winter the days are fairly pleasant, but the mornings and evenings are very cold. Be prepared to see some frost on the ground! Major cities in Gauteng include Johannesburg and Pretoria. Here you can visit museums dedicated to South Africa’s history. Shopping is also a big attraction, with many malls and markets on offer. Other must-see destinations include the Soweto Towers and the Cradle of Humankind.
If you’re coming to South Africa to see wildlife, Mpumalanga is the place to be. This savannah region is home to the Kruger National Park and many other wildlife destinations. The area enjoys summer rainfall, which means the best time to see wildlife is in winter. This is when the grass is shortest and visibility is the best. Just be prepared for some icy morning game drives! Daytime is fairly pleasant year-round, with temperatures seldom dipping below 8°C in winter. Expect an average high of 26°C in winter, 32°C in summer.
The Northern Cape is a huge province that comprises different rainfall zones. The west experiences rainfall in winter, while the east receives most of its moisture from late summer thunderstorms. Summers are hot, with temperatures upwards of 30°C. Many tours travel through the region to visit the Augrabies Falls and Orange River region. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier park is another popular destination.
Fun Fact! The Western Cape is not the only region in South Africa known for its wine. Orange River wines are magnificent!
The Limpopo province is situated on the northern tip of South Africa. The area enjoys long sunny days and mostly dry weather. During summer months, the heat is often interrupted by a short afternoon thunderstorm. Winter mornings and evenings can get quite cold, so pack some mittens and a scarf. The region’s most notable attractions include the Waterberg Mountain area and Soutpansberg region. This is a great place to enjoy mountain scenery with a less hefty price tag.
The Free State is a summer rainfall region that experiences real, larger-than-life thunderstorms. A perfect opportunity for avid photographers to get epic pictures! Winters are cold and very dry – bring your moisturising lotion. Popular destinations in the Free State include the Maloti Route and Golden Gate Highlands National Park. This is also where you’ll cross over to Lesotho for skiing and snowboarding. Jip, you read that right – skiing in Africa!
North West Province
The North West Province is a summer rainfall region. The summer months bring brief but refreshing afternoon thundershowers. The area has an above average rainfall of 300 to 700 mm annually. Summer temperatures range between 22 and 34°C and winter brings with it dry, sunny days and chilly nights. Popular destinations in the area include the Pilanesberg National Park and Sun City Resort. There are also plenty of Anglo-Boer War landmarks to explore.
Heading to KwaZulu-Natal? Expect a largely tropical climate and some rather spectacular beaches. This summer rainfall region has a very mild climate, with a low average of 12°C in winter, and average high of 28°C. Bear in mind that the humidity is very high, so the true feel could be a bit higher. Durban is the province’s biggest city and offers a lot to see and do. Think shopping, aquariums and more! Head inland and you’ll encounter the Drakensberg and the Valley of a 1000 Hills! Both hold breathtaking views! The Natal Midlands and historic Pietermaritzburg are also popular visitor destinations.
There you have it – a concise guide to provincial weather in South Africa. Keen to add this wonderful destination to your travel lineup? Have a look at our South African tours that depart from February 2018. We look forward to welcoming you on tour! In the meantime, here are a few interesting facts about South Africa to spice up dinner conversation. Cheers vir eers! (Until next time!)