South Africa climate
South Africa has diverse climactic regions, given its size, but the summers are generally warm and sunny (December to April), with heavy rains in the afternoons. Winters in the Cape are cool and wet and snow falls on the mountain ranges, as well as in Natal. Gauteng and the northern areas experience regular evening thunderstorms in summer, while winters usually see warm days and cold nights.
When to fly to South Africa
As South Africa is a year-round destination, the best time to book flights to South Africa depends on what you want to do.
The best time for game watching is in spring. Whale watching time for Southern Right Whales is between mid-June and the end of October, while the Humpback whales are seen between August and December. Summer is prime surfing and diving time, while hiking is most pleasant in spring and autumn.
Getting around South Africa
Eight airlines operate domestic flights around South Africa. South African Airways, the national carrier, flies between Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, George, Upington, Kimberley, East London, Mthatha, Margate, Sun City and other destinations. South African Express flies between Johannesburg, Cape Town, East London and George and other cities.
British Airways flies from Johannesburg to Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth, as well as between Cape Town and Durban. Other domestic airlines include Kululu.com, Mango and Nationwide. There are also smaller charter airlines.
By Bus: Intercape, Greyhound and Translux run coach services around South Africa.
By Rail: Spoornet connects the major cities. The luxury Blue Train (scheduled and charter) runs between Pretoria and Cape Town and there are also special packaged routes. Luxury rail journeys are also run by Rovos Rail, while the Steam Train Company offers scenic old-style tours.
By Road: South Africa's roads are excellent and the major international car rental firms have branches at the airports and around the country. You can also rent a motorbike or campervan/motorhome. Drive on the left.
South Africa insider information
- Kruger is the largest and best-known of South Africa's 20 national parks. Established in 1898, Kruger is the habitat for 147 mammals, 114 types of reptiles and 507 bird species. The big animals include hippos, crocodiles, Impala antelopes (most numerous animal), zebras, buffaloes, giraffes and elephants. Big cats also call Kruger home, including 1500 lions, 900 leopards and 300 cheetahs. You can stay overnight in several rest camps throughout the park, from huts and family cottages to luxury guesthouses.
- Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park - spanning more than 3.6 million hectares - incorporates South Africa's Kalahari Gemsbok National Park and Botswana's Gemsbok National Park. Vegetation is sparse and most of the animals are concentrated around the Auob and Nossob riverbeds. The biggest populations are the ground squirrel and suricate (meerkat); badger, pangolin (anteater) and fox also live there. There are big bird raptors (eagles, vultures, falcons and kestrels) as well as big cat predators (cheetahs, leopards, hyenas and lions).
- Johannesburg has an Apartheid Museum and the MuseuMAfricA history and cultural museum.
- For whales, turtles and penguins: view breaching whales at Hermanus, south of Cape Town, where the town's whale crier blows his horn in a “Morse” code to signal the their position. African Jackass Penguins nest on Boulder’s Beach in Simonstown (Simon's Town). To spot Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles, head to St Lucia in KwaZulu Natal, where the turtles nest between November and January and hatch between January and March.
- The historic cable car at Cape Town's Table Mountain, which takes you to the summit (1085m) in less than ten minutes, has a rotating floor allowing you to enjoy sweeping 360-degree views. More than 18 million people have been ferried to the summit since the original cableway was built in 1929.
- Far from their Austrian roots, the South African Lipizzaners, traditional dancing horses, can be seen in action every Sunday morning in Kyalami.