Most of the country is situated on a high central plateau with narrow coastal plains extending from the escarpment to the sea. On the east coast the Indian Ocean, warmed by the southward-flowing Mozambique Current, brings dependable rain to the coastal plains. So we have lush forests and bushveld on the east coast and along the escarpment.
Once on the central plateau, the rainfall decreases steadily towards the west until, on the west coast, we have semi-desert conditions. The Atlantic Ocean on this coast is cooled by the Benguela Current, which flows northwards from the Antarctic and so doesn’t bring much rain and only contributes a bit of moisture to this parched land in the form of early morning mists.
Right in the southwest corner of the country, the Western Cape is somewhat anomalous. Rainfall here is in winter and is brought by huge cyclonic weather systems, which are born deep in the southern ocean. The summers are warm and dry and, generally the whole floral and faunal assemblage is unique.
Higher-altitude areas are pleasantly warm over summer, but the mountains are rain and mist prone. The north-eastern regions can be humid, but swimming on the east coast is a year-round proposition. Summer can be exceptionally hot in the lowveld. Spring is the best time for wildflowers in the Northern Cape and Western Cape provinces. Winters are mild everywhere except in the highest country, where there are frosts and occasional snowfalls.
South Africa is famous for its sunshine. It’s a relatively dry country, with an average annual rainfall of about 464mm; the world average is about 860mm. While Western Cape gets most of its rainfall in winter, the rest of the country is generally a summer-rainfall region.
Temperatures in South Africa tend to be lower than in other countries at similar latitudes – such as Australia – mainly because of its greater elevation above sea level.
On the interior plateau, the altitude – Johannesburg lies at 1 694 metres – keeps the average summer temperatures below 30°C. In winter, for the same reason, night- time temperatures can drop to freezing point, and lower in some places.
South Africa’s coastal regions have the warmest winter temperatures in the country. There is, however, a striking contrast between temperatures on two different coasts, a result of the warm eastern Agulhas current and cold western Benguela current that sweep the coastlines.
In the southern hemisphere our seasons are opposite to those of Europe and North America, so, yes – we spend Christmas on the beach!
ummertime on the Cape peninsula has glorious months of rain-free sunshine.
Over much of South Africa, summer, which lasts from mid-October to mid- February, is characterised by hot, sunny weather – often with afternoon thunderstorms that clear quickly, leaving a warm, earthy, uniquely African smell in the air.
Western Cape, with its Mediterranean climate, is the exception, getting its rain in winter.
Autumn in South Africa is from mid-February to April. It offers the best weather in some respects. Very little rain falls over the whole country, and it is warm but not too hot, getting colder as the season progresses.
In Cape Town, autumn is fantastic, with hot sunny days and warm, balmy nights which many people spend outdoors.
Winter in South Africa – from May to July – is characterised in the higher-lying areas of the interior plateau by dry, sunny, crisp days and cold nights, sometimes with heavy frosts. It’s a good idea to bring warm clothes.
Western Cape gets most of its rain in winter, with quite a few days of cloudy, rainy weather that can be quite stormy with high winds. On 1 June 2013, for example, a cold front accompanied by an intense upper-air trough led to heavy rains and flooding in places over Cape Town, mainly in the informal settlements.
Heavy snow falls occurred over the high-lying areas in the south-western parts of Western Cape and Northern Cape, while it was extremely cold over the interior of the two provinces.
However, wonderful days are spread throughout winter that rival the best of a British summer.
The hot, humid KwaZulu-Natal coast, as well as the Lowveld (lower-lying areas) of Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces, offer fantastic winter weather with sunny, warmish days and virtually no wind or rain.
The high mountains of the Cape and the Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal usually get snow in winter.
Nowhere in South Africa is spring (which lasts from August to mid-October) more spectacular than in Northern Cape and Western Cape. Here the grey winter is forgotten as thousands of small, otherwise insignificant plants cover the semi-arid plains in an iridescent carpet of flowers.
The journey to see the flowers of the Namaqualand is an annual pilgrimage for many South Africans.
Best time of the year to travel?
That depends on what you want to do. The Namaqualand flowers are obviously best in August and September. Winter is a good time for game watching, as the veld is not as lush as it is in summer and the lack of rain means animals are more likely to congregate around water holes and rivers.
Southern right whales hang around off our coasts from about mid-June to the end of October, making for spectacular whale watching.
The “shoulder” seasons – spring and autumn – are best for hiking, as summer can be hot over most of the country. In the Drakensberg, summer thunderstorms are dangerous, while there is a good chance of snow in winter. In Western Cape, the winters are wet, so it’s not necessarily the best time for hikes.
If you’re a birder, the palaeoarctic migrants arrive around November and the intra- African migrants usually by mid-October.
Of course, if you want to lounge around on the beaches, mid-summer is the best time – though everyone else will be there too. And – big bonus – the beaches of northern KwaZulu-Natal are warm and sunny even in midwinter.
Mostly, Namibia has a subtropical desert climate characterized by great differences in day and night time temperatures, low rainfall and overall low humidity.
Dry season in Namibia is from May to October – Winter in the southern hemisphere
There is little to no rainfall during the entire winter and humidity is low. Wildlife will gather around waterholes and rivers when other water resources dry up making game viewing a leisurely and successful event.
May signifies the end of summer. The rains have stopped, but the scenery is still lovely and green. The nights aren’t cold yet and daytime temperatures are, on average, around 24-28°C/75-82°F. April and May are our preferred months for touring this beautiful country.
June – The nights are getting cold and can drop below 10°C/50°F. In desert areas, it can be freezing. Daytime temperatures are still pleasant around 20-24°C/68-75°F.
July & August are the main winter months. Be sure to pack warm clothing because morning game drives in open vehicles will be cold. The average maximum temperature is 21-25°C/70-77°F. The average minimum temperature is around 7°C/45°F, but can fall to below freezing at night in the deserts and higher areas.
September & October – September is a lovely month. It isn’t too hot yet, but the chill in the mornings is becoming less. It is dry and the skies are clear. During October the green vegetation is fading and the heat gradually builds up.
Wet season in Namibia is between November to April – Summer in the southern hemisphere
By November the heat continues to rise and it is very hot, but the humidity is still low, keeping it quite pleasant. On average, the daytime temperature is above 30°C/86°F, but can be a lot higher in the deserts. Clouds are starting to build up in the afternoons.
The first rains usually arrive in December and with it the temperature drops. The landscape changes after the first rains and everything comes to life.
January & February is midsummer. It tends to be hot and humid with maximum temperatures around 30-35°C/86-95°F with peaks of over 40°C/104°F in the desert. There may be torrential downpours in the afternoon but not every day. Mornings are usually clear.
March & April – Rainfall will decrease and stops around April. It cools down after the rains and the nights start to get cold again. Average daytime temperatures are around 25-30°C/77-86°F