ISIMANGALISO WETLAND PARK
The country’s now third-largest protected area in St Lucia includes Lake St Lucia and spans 280 km of coastline, a natural ensemble of lakes, swamp forest, ancient coastal dunes, and an estuarine system, with World Heritage status.
One of the world’s largest game parks, Kruger is one of the country’s biggest drawcards, and never more so than during the winter months (outside of school holidays).
One of the best parks at which to see black and white rhino, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi lies in the heart of Zululand close to the village of Hluhluwe and manages to combine lush scenery with a network of hiking trails, and camping deep in the bush.
BLYDE RIVER CANYON
When it comes to dramatic beauty the Blyde River Canyon, the world’s third deepest canyon is hard to beat. Combined with the Panorama Route it is on every tourist’s list and a winter must.
CRADLE OF HUMANKIND
The World Heritage site just outside Johannesburg is where they unearthed the 2.3 million-year-old Mrs. Ples. It’s the world’s richest hominid site, producing 40% of the world’s fossils of our human ancestors.
KGALAGADI TRANSFRONTIER PARK
It may be in the northerly reaches of the country but this vast semi-desert wilderness, with its surreal landscape, is almost twice the size of Kruger and incredibly hot between November to March. June to August (winter) is perfect, but take the woollies along for early mornings and evenings.
The rugged and isolated Drakensberg highlands lie in the Eastern Cape at the southerly tip of this range of mountains, with Rhodes as the pivotal town. One of the country’s least populated areas, some parts of which are practically unnavigable, one can only reach this area via a series of mountain passes, or hiking trails. It’s great for snow in winter.
One of the most likely spaces in the country to find snow on the ground during winter, the Matroosberg, just outside Ceres, boasts the highest mountain peak in the province.
SWARTBERG NATURE RESERVE
The Swartberg Pass is one of the most incredible mountain passes in the world; a dirt road that winds its way up to a summit of 1583 meters above sea level. It lies within the Swartberg Nature Reserve, flanked both north and west by other reserves that, combined, but one huge mountainous conservation area with snow on its peaks during winter.
Explore the off the beaten track route between Ceres and Citrusdal (R303) and climb to where you’ll find local fruit farms, a valley and a climate so different it will inspire the poet in you. As its name suggests, there is snow up here during winter.
WHY? THE 7 DOUBLEYOUS OF WINTER IN SOUTH AFRICA
Most days during winter are clear. If you’re heading to the Western Cape then there is a greater chance you’ll run into rain, but if you stick to the more temperate provinces – KZN, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo – there’s every chance that South Africa’s winter is better than the average European summer.
Not only are most of the game parks a lot milder at this time of year, but the thick bush of summer is dry and minimal during winter, which means you have far more chance of spotting game.
The southern right whale visits the Cape coastline during July/August, and seeing them is one of the highlights of any winter visit to the country.
Technically the wildflowers bloom in ‘spring’ but they appear in what South Africans consider their winter – July, and August.
Some of the country’s best hikes are easier to do when the weather is cooler.
There are fewer people visiting South Africa during the winter season, and even locals tend to stay home during the colder months.
Winter is regarded as the country’s ‘off season’ and there are more special offers at this time of year than at any other, unless you’re traveling in the school holidays.