South Africa

Complete tailor-made itineraries exploring this extremely varied country

South Africa is arguably the most varied country in the southern half of the continent; whereas safaris are the main driver of tourism to some of its neighbours, South Africa just about has it all – extensive mountains that are free of people, numerous and differing national and private game reserves, vibrant cities (especially Cape Town, but don’t write off the others), some of the most beautiful coastlines worldwide, exquisite wine farms (not to mention the wines!), historic and contemporary architecture, fascinating history with channels to discover it (eg. Zulu War Battlefields, Township Tours and Zulu Homestays), a melting pot of cultures …… and a lot more besides. 

Its excellent road infrastructure and flight network enable one to follow all sorts of interesting and adventurous itineraries that can be put together on a fully bespoke basis. Its a wonderful country to explore on a self-drive road-trip, enjoying ever-changing and surprising scenery and a wide choice of well-run accommodation to suit all sorts, with opportunities to engage with its myriad of local peoples.

Walks in Africa is a walking specialist, but our expertise and knowledge extends way beyond this – we are very experienced at putting together wider itineraries that encompass all that South Africa has to offer.  We’d encourage you to read through some of the reviews we’ve received that supports this little boast!

Drakensberg Hikes and Treks

The main section of the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg stretches from the northern limit of the Royal Natal National Park to the southern limit of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park and is approximately 200 kilometers in length. The range is a proper mountain wilderness where remoteness and solitude can easily be experienced – there is vast scope for hiking. We arrange all types of hikes, from hotel-based day walks to full-on multiday treks, and have been doing so successfully for over 15 years. The latter can be arranged on a self-carry, partially-portered or fully-portered basis depending upon your ambitions and which area you are focussing on.  Possibilities are seemingly endless and we cannot list all here, but the adventures below make a very good start.

Western Cape Hikes and Treks

Hikes in the Western Cape can easily be incorporated into wider tours of the region; there are a huge number of day hikes in close proximity to Cape Town, with Table Mountain and the variety of routes on that alone to name one obvious example, but you’ll find good, accessible walks all over the place – the Winelands, Hermanus, along the Garden Route and within the Cape interior.  The Cape also has a some excellent accommodated trails where catering and logistics are looked after, making these very easy for international visitors to join – some of these are run on a group or fixed date basis, whereas others, such as the Cederberg or Gamkaberg (Tierkloof Trail), are set up on a fully bespoke basis.

Walking Safaris in South Africa

Walking safaris can be found in the Kruger National Park, as well as KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape provinces.  Almost all walking safaris are run on a fixed date departure basis over 2 or 3 nights, for small groups which anyone can join.  Safaris tend to be seasonal, operating in dry periods when the bush is down, the best and safest time to explore on foot ….. and you won’t get wet! The maximum number of participants is usually either 6 or 8 persons. Here are our recommendations:

Complete Itinerary Ideas

South Africa has an excellent road network and a self-drive itinerary is a great way to discover the country’s magnificent and ever-changing scenery, linking a myriad of experiences.  We are experts at devising wider itineraries throughout South Africa and have put together some ideas that have walkers in mind.  The itineraries below are just suggestions that we think work well and will hopefully provide inspiration. There are of course many permutations and we think the best next step in devising a tailor-made itinerary that suits your interests and pace of travel is to get in touch with us and have a conversation.

Best Times to Visit South Africa

There is no best time to visit South Africa – it is truly a year-round destination with local emphasis changing according to the season.  Regional differences will dictate the optimal times to undertake specific activities, such as go on a safari, trek in the Drakensberg, or spend time on the beach, but in truth all of these activities can be undertaken at all times of year – you just go about it in a slightly different way (eg. undertake an accommodated walking trip in the Drakensberg winter, instead of camping in extremis) or by switching locations (swim in northern KwaZulu-Natal or nip into Mozambique in winter, as opposed to swimming in the Cape in summer). Safaris are enjoyable at any time of year – you just focus on different things according to the season.  South Africa has so many days of sunshine, that even going at a “wet” time of year need not mean you are going to get drenched, as much as going at a “cold” time of year need not mean that you are going to get cold. Here’s a more detailed guide:


In very general terms, the main inland plateau (the highveld) and the western and north-eastern reaches of the country (Upper Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga lowveld and Kruger Park) have dry winters and wet summers.  During the summer, the highveld enjoys a very pleasant climate with low humidity. With the exception of occasional cold fronts, summer rainfall is rarely sustained and occurs mostly in the form of short summer storms that break the heat in the middle part of the day, deluge smartly then disappear in time for tea or sundowners to be taken out in the open.  The lowveld is sub-tropical and experiences fairly high levels of humidity in peak summer, which is moderated on the coast.


The opposite is true of the Western Cape, encompassing Cape Town and the Garden Route, which enjoys a climate which is similar to that of the Mediterranean. The Cape receives most of its rainfall in the winter months and has very warm summers.  Cold fronts do roll through from time to time in the early summer months, with January through to March being generally dry and more stable. If you are planning a tour that is focused on the Cape, then it’s best to focus on the period between October and early April.  However, if you are visiting in the cooler months, perhaps for a safari, we’d urge you not to ignore the Cape, especially if it’s your first visit – South Africa receives high levels of sunshine throughout the year.  Note also that if you are planning to hike in the inland regions of the Cape, such as the Cederberg, Overberg or Klein Karoo, it’s better to avoid the peak and late summer months owing to heat.


The Drakensberg can be visited throughout the year, but seasonal variations will dictate how you visit it. Day hikes can be made all year round if you base yourself at one of the hotels or lodges that we recommend.  A winter outing beneath cloudless skies, with cool early morning and late afternoon temperatures, returning to sit in front of a log fire in your hotel has as much to recommend it as a warm walk in high summer, when everything around you is vividly green, with possible localised storms threatening the afternoon skies.


However, if you are planning a multiday trek which involves camping, greater consideration should be given to the choice of season and the challenges faced by extremes in mountain weather. With the right equipment, you can trek at any time of year, but owing to the degree of cold experienced on high in winter, this is the season that most will seek to avoid.  An exception to this is the 3-day Drakensberg Amphitheatre Trek, which is fully accommodated and is truly a trek for all seasons.


The summer months (Late October to Early March) are generally very warm and pleasant, the mountains are lush and green, and colours can be particularly vibrant, especially after rains.  However, the summer is when the Drakensberg receives its main rainfall and sudden storms are frequently the order of the day.  During the summer, it’s recommended that you start out early and take advantage of the generally good weather before the heat builds up and storms start appearing (anytime from late morning onwards). 


When hiking lower down, in the Little ‘Berg (sandstone level), one can very often seek shelter from storms in caves or rock shelters until the storm threat passes, and then you can resume hiking.  Note that sometimes summer storms can be very violent and sustained and your guide may direct you back to base when the storm threat looks particularly ominous.


In winter, the Drakensberg can get very cold and snow is not uncommon on the high tops – occasionally it covers the low-lying areas but rarely hangs around for long.  However, winter is generally a dry period and excellent for making day hikes.  Hikers planning to camp out need to be properly equipped for winter camping.  Temperatures in the high mountain (ie. up at 3000m) are frequently down around the -5 to -10 degrees C mark at night but can drop lower during a cold front.  During the daytime, temperatures are usually “fresh” early and late in the day, but skies are frequently cloudless and the light good.  Hiking low down, shorts could still be worn! 


The autumn (late March until mid-May) and spring (late August until mid-October) are generally considered the best times for following multiday treks that take in the upper reaches of the Drakensberg escarpment, as it’s generally dry and sufficiently warm on high for traverses with camping to be made in relative comfort.  During these periods, typical maximum temperatures during the daytime reach between 15 and 20 degrees C, and night-time temperatures typically fall to between 5 and -5 degrees C, depending upon whether it’s the warm or cold end of each of these periods.  Snowfalls can sometimes occur as early as April and as late as September, although this is more the exception rather than the rule. Snow tends to disappear quickly. At all times of year, there is always the chance that cold fronts can sweep up from the Cape, and these can bring cold, wet (summer) or snowy (winter) weather in the Drakensberg for up to several days at a stretch.


Hiking can be undertaken at all times of year in the Cape provided you are prepared. The Cape receives most of its rainfall in the winter months and has very warm summers, with the optimal time for general touring falling between October and early April.  It can become very hot when hiking during Cape summers, but doing so close to the coast, including on Table Mountain and the Cape Peninsula, is fine – temperatures may sometimes exceed 30 degrees C, but winds off the sea can be cooling and humidity is generally not a problem. Day hikes a little way inland, eg. in the Winelands, are also fine – just plan to start and finish early.  Note that cold fronts do roll across the Western Cape in summer and its not uncommon to experience very cool, wet days. The renowned south-easter wind, responsible for the “Table Cloth” on Table Mountain, can also blow in and this can cause severe wind-chill on the higher tops of the Cape Peninsula. You could be wearing shorts and T-shirt for a hike on one day and full wet-weather gear the next!


If you are planning to hike in the inland regions of the Cape, such as the Cederberg, Overberg or Klein Karoo, it’s better to avoid the peak and late summer months owing to heat if you can. Spring and Autumn months are much better for these areas.  The winter can be an exhilarating time to visit these regions too, but night-time temperatures can be very low (frosts low down) and it’s not uncommon for the higher elevations, particularly in the Cederberg, which has tops over 2,000m, to receive snowfall in winter.


In very general terms, the optimal time to go on safari is when the weather is dry as the lack of water forces wildlife to congregate around water holes and perennial rivers, and vegetation has died back, which extends lines of sight.  This is especially true for walking safaris – it’s also considered to be safer to walk when lines of sight ensure that you don’t startle wildlife, especially animals that pose a threat to life, that may be concealed until you almost walk into them.  Equally, it is often much more difficult to move through overgrown bush, for example, areas of grassland that can become very tall in the green season. Most, though not all, walking safaris are operated on a seasonal basis – in Mpumalanga, where the Kruger National Park is located, and KwaZulu-Natal, the optimal time is between about April and October. In the Cape (yes, there are walking safaris here too!), summer is the optimal time.


Most safari camps in South Africa operate all year round, and there can be good reasons for going at all times of year.  Although wildlife is most prolific (concentrated around limited sources of water) in the dry, winter months (especially August and September) there is always something to see.  Birding is also possible all year round, but the best time in South Africa’s main parks is during the summer months, when migratory birds are resident. Temperatures will also play a part – The Kruger Park and other lowveld game reserves become very hot during the peak summer months and you may wish to seek out a safari camp that has air-conditioning, or visit at a cooler time. April and May can be very good months as you will be past the summer heat, yet evening temperatures are still relatively mild.


If your primary motivation for visiting South Africa is a safari, then pick your season if you can. However, if you don’t have flexibility and are compelled to travel in high summer, do still consider incorporating a safari. Some reserves, eg. Madikwe, don’t suffer the humidity of those located in the lowveld.

Scroll to Top