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South Africa Climate

Situated in the southern hemisphere, South African seasons are opposite to those in the northern hemisphere. South Africa is famous for its sunshine with a predominantly semiarid climate with sunny days and cool nights and is subtropical along the east coast of South Africa.

South Africa's average annual rainfall is about 464mm, with the Western Cape getting most of its rainfall in winter, and the rest of the country in summer. There is a noticeable difference between temperatures on South Africa's east (Durban) and west coasts (Cape Town), due respectively to the warm Agulhas and cold Benguela Currents that line the South African coastlines.

Winter months in South Africa are from May to July. Cape winters are wet and windy, while Highveld winters boast sunny and dry days with below freezing nights. The Drakensberg offers the best chance of winter snow. The beaches of northern KwaZulu-Natal are warm and sunny even in mid-winter. Summer months are from mid-October to mid-February. It's common for summer thunderstorms to roll in during the late afternoon with thick navy blue clouds and lightning, rarely lasting more than 20 minutes, followed by clear South African skies and sunshine.

Best time to travel to South Africa

The best time of year to travel to South Africa really does depend on what you want to do. Summer temperatures are generally high, so a waterproof sun block of at least SPF 30 is advised, reapplying every half hour and after each swim.

December and January in South Africa are glorious for relaxing beach holidays, as long as you don't mind sharing with the locals as it's during the main South African school holidays. The beaches of northern KwaZulu-Natal are however warm and sunny even in mid-winter.

Surfing and scuba diving in South Africa are year round activities but are best from April through to September. River rafting varies between provinces; the Cape is best at the end of winter, KwaZulu-Natal from end-November to mid-February, while Mpumalanga and Limpopo are good year round. From mid-June until end-October, southern right whales frolic the coastlines. The annual South African sardine run, between May and July, is a unique South African natural extravaganza which sees millions of sardines swim north from the colder southern oceans.

Depending on the rains, August and September are ideal for the flower season. The semi-desert environment of the Namaqualand is one such place where visitors can witness the marvel of millions upon millions of desert flowers rising from the parched soil within days of the first rains. Game viewing is best in September and October, before the summer foliage sprouts, providing welcome shade and good camouflage.

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