The more temperate conditions of a Southern African winter makes it the ideal time to enjoy a hunting safari.
When the African continent comes to mind, many hunters may imagine a sun-drenched landscape, blistering red sands and sweltering heat. This is certainly the case if you are visiting in summer. December often sees the mercury pushing past 40°C (104°F), with a wet, humid haze settling over the Lowveld in the northeast, smouldering days with spectacular late afternoon thundershowers characterizing the bushveld and the grasslands of the Free State and oven-like conditions in the Kalahari.
In addition to the heat, the rains render the bush lush and thick. Though it may be pleasing to the eye, these are less than ideal conditions to enjoy a hunting safari. The general consensus is, therefore, that the best time to hunt in South Africa is in the winter months from May to August. Generally speaking, South African winters mean mild days with frosty nights and mornings. The vegetation dries out, which makes it easier to track and navigate, and water sources decline, which forces wildlife to converge around what resources remain.
The bushveld that straddles the borders of the North West, Gauteng and Limpopo provinces is a popular area to hunt, as it is conveniently accessible from Johannesburg and Pretoria. The winter months’ temperatures average at highs of around 19°C (66°F) and lows of 4°C (39°F), occasionally dropping to freezing point and frosting over low-lying areas in the early hours of the morning. Most hunters from the northern hemisphere find these climes very moderate and agreeable, and scoff at locals who complain about the chill.
The eastern plains of the Free State are a lot more winter-esque in the traditional sense, often receiving light snowfall in the peak of winter due to the high altitude of the region. With a minimum of average temperature of 1°C (33°F) and maximum of 17°C (62°F), the area is considerably cooler. Remember to pack a warm jacket, gloves and a beanie.
The Lowveld region to the north of the country, which also encompasses the world-famous Kruger National Park, is markedly warmer – even in winter. In July – considered the coldest month of the year – the average maximum is 25°C (77°F), while the minimums stick around 7°C (44°F). Essentially if you are hunting in the Lowveld, you will have to pack for two seasons to ensure comfort throughout your safari.