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Audley Traveller

Planning a trip along the Garden Route in South Africa

We are thinking of visiting South Africa for a couple of weeks. What’s the best time to go and how much time should we allow to drive along the Garden Route to get the most out of it?

Mr Willow, Nuneaton, 25 May 2011
Self-drive to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens,Cape Town

Answer

South Africa is such a fascinating and diverse country that a visit in any season will always be a memorable one. However, each of the seasons have their attractions in different regions of South Africa, so planning when to go largely depends upon what your interests are, and what aspects of this vast country you would like to see!

South Africa’s seasons are the reverse of those in the UK, and the climate varies from region to region. If you are wanting to visit the Cape region, from Cape Town and the Garden Route to Port Elizabeth, the best time to visit is the summer (November to March) for good weather. At this time, sunny skies and daytime temperatures in the high 20s to low 30s Celsius are the norm. This is also a superb time for a safari in the Eastern Cape, for example in the Shamwari or Amakhala private game reserves near Port Elizabeth. Many animals have their young at this time, and the birdlife is prolific.

For a trip to the north of South Africa, for example a safari at the Madikwe private game reserve or the Kruger area, or a visit to the Drakensberg mountains or KwaZulu Natal’s historic battlefields, the summer months are hot and humid with a mixture of sunshine and heavy, thundery downpours. To avoid the worst of the rain and humidity, a trip in October or November, or March and April, would work well. Both the wet and dry seasons have their attractions for a safari, as the savannah is lush and dense during the rains, but during the dry season the animals tend to congregate around the rivers and waterholes, making game viewing easier. For this reason, October and November is a great time for a safari in Kruger or Madikwe.

If you don’t mind spells of wind and rain in the Cape, and cold mornings on safari, a trip in the winter provides you with the opportunity to view the spectacular migration of Southern Right and humpback whales along the Indian Ocean coast all the way from Cape Town to KwaZulu Natal. The whales often come within fifty metres of the shore at locations such as Hermanus, making this one of the best whale watching locations in the world. The migration takes place between June and November each year, so by visiting in October and November, you can combine whale watching with a good time for safari in South Africa.

A two week trip is usually around the right length of time to get the most out of Cape Town and the Garden Route, including whale-watching (in season) and some indulgence in the stunning Cape winelands. For a trip that includes Cape Town, the Garden Route and safari, this is also feasible in two weeks, although 17 or 18 days would probably be the optimum time for such a trip. For a longer trip, you could easily spend three or four weeks covering the attractions and sights that this spectacular country has to offer – and still come back again and again and see something new!

- Answered by Specialists

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