The Kruger National Park is one of Africa’s most beloved destinations by both local and international visitors. The Park is known as being a year-round destination for travellers, as the changing seasons bring different-coloured vegetation, different cycles in animal life, and different visual and experiential treasures to spoil those who step foot into the wild world of the Kruger National Park, no matter what time of the year they choose to visit.
Choose your experience
Every season has its highlights. If you enjoy birdlife and snapping photographs of gorgeous, lush landscapes – as well as some incredibly beautiful sunsets and thunderstorms – then the Kruger’s summer months are the best time to visit. If game viewing is your experience of choice, then winter is the time to go.
Autumn brings cooler temperatures, along with sightings of impala, wildebeest and waterhog; while winter, with its sparse vegetation, makes it much easier to spot game – including the world-renowned migrations from the Park to the warmer climates of Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Spring offers a different way to see the Kruger National Park’s wildlife, with high concentrations of animals around water sources before the rainy summer seasons kicks in again.
Summer season in the Kruger National Park
Great for: birdwatching, photographic safaris, summer babies
The summer season at the Park is known as the Green Season for good reason. Summer is SA’s rainy season for this part of the country, and the months of November through til March see the Park blooming with health and flush with game. “The challenge with game viewing when the Park is dense with growth is that it makes it more difficult to spot the wildlife,” says Anton Gillis, CEO of Kruger Gate Hotel, a luxury lodge-style hotel at the Kruger National Park. “This is when choosing to do a guided safari in a dedicated safari vehicle can really add to your wildlife sightings, because the added height allows you to see more. November and December are also when you’ll be able to see the summer-born babies. The lush landscape is also a big drawcard for birdlife that fly in for the warmer months. The Kruger National Park is home to over 500 species of birds, and in the summer months you may spot a Woodlands Kingfisher, Red-Chested Cuckoo, Wahlberg’s Eagle, or the Amur Falcon.”
December is peak holiday season in SA, so if you want to enjoy a fabulous getaway and you’re keen on a longer escape, consider mixing your safari and beach destinations. “A couple of days along the KZN east coast tuning up that tan can be followed by a relaxing bush weekend, mixing game viewing and some spa R&R to really maximise your daily-grind detox,” suggests Gillis. “Kruger Gate Hotel is the ideal spot to get a balance of adrenaline-pumping game spotting and soul-soothing massage treatments, along with starlit dinners and – what we all need at the end of a busy year – peace and quiet in the nurturing embrace of nature.”
The rainy season peaks in February, making it warm and humid – and the breeding season for Waterbuck – starting to taper off in March. While the flourishing bush can make it tough to spot elusive game, experienced guides are excellent at tracking, which can be a fun and exciting part of your safari. March is also the breeding season for kudu and buffalo.
Note: the rainy season sees more mosquitoes in the area, increasing the potential for malaria. It’s a good idea to get malaria-prevention medication before visiting in this season and to travel with mosquito repellents.
Keep your cool while getting up close and personal
Great for: elephant migration, Big Cat spotting
As May starts to paint the landscape with the golds and auburns of autumn, the elephants start making their way from Zimbabwe and Mozambique to the warmer climes of the northern Kruger National Park. This is one of the most incredible sights to see – herds of these gentle giants swaying their way slowly to their final destination.
“From here we move into the coldest month in the Kruger Park – June,” says Gillis. “But very chilly nights make way for days that are still really warm, despite it being winter. So winter travel to the Park is really quite fantastic! This is when you’ll start to see the Big Cats emerge, including the very shy leopard.”
With winter well set in, and foliage significantly thinned out, catching sight of wildlife becomes much easier. “Water also becomes more scarce, so animals converge at natural water sources and watering holes, which are prime opportunities to get some magnificent sightings and photographs,” says Gillis. “There are also fewer pesky mosquitoes!”
Great for: wildlife viewing at watering holes, fewer people
Spring is a lovely season to visit the Kruger National Park and go on safari. September and early October still see wildlife clustered around watering holes, but the rains starting to fall in late October are a catalyst for growth, with everything in the bush seeming to come to life after sleeping the winter months away.
These months also fall in low season at the Park, so roads will be less busy and camps and lodges less full, increasing the levels of privacy.
Your Kruger Park quick guide
Here is some additional useful information:
- Peak seasons: around South African school holidays – April, June and December
- For wildlife spotting: travel in winter and spring
- For birdwatching: go in the rainy months of November through until February
- For all night safaris (especially in winter): pack something warm as the nights can get very chilly
- Average seasonal temperatures:
- January to March: 21°C – 32°C
- April: 16°C – 29°C
- May to June: 9°C – 27°C
- July to September: 10°C – 27°C
- October: 16°C – 30°C
- November and December: 19°C – 31°C
- Best weather: April to May and September to October – but weather is pleasant all year round