South Africa in May: Weather, Tips & Surfing

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Whether you love a holiday by the ocean, enjoy hiking or prefer taking in the wonders of nature in a relaxed atmosphere, a trip to South Africa in May has something for everyone. It is an ideal month to dive into an ocean full of sharks, take to the waves and surf, enjoy many vibrant winter festivals and benefit from the bustling crowds that really bring the South African party vibes! It is this balmy temperature that gives visitors the opportunity to really go out and discover everything South Africa has to offer, free from the overly oppressive heat of summer.

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South Africa Weather in May

Sunset reflected in a waterhole on the plains of South Africa.
The safaris in the east of South Africa are wonderful during your trip in May.

With the beginning of winter, temperatures across South Africa start to drop in May. That is not to say it is cold by any means, with Johannesburg and Cape Town witnessing the highs of 20°C. You will experience 12 hours of sunshine a day, with highs in national parks reaching 29°C and most of the country hitting the highs of 20°C and lows of 10°C.

As the first month of winter, there is only a small chance of rain during this time of year. This means that you are likely to get away with a couple of showers if you visit subtropical areas such as the Garden Route. Otherwise, you can expect dry conditions, pleasant sunshine and a nice Atlantic or Indian Ocean breeze if you stay near the coast.

Have a look at our seasonal overview and learn more about the best time to visit South Africa.

Weather in South Africa in May - Rainfall and Temperatures

Apr May Jun
Avg Daily (°C) 22 20 18
Avg Nightly (°C) 12 10 7
Avg Daily (°F) 72 68 65
Avg Nightly (°F) 54 50 45
Avg Rainfall (mm) 50 70 90

Why Visit South Africa in May

A baby cheetah sitting on a log in Kruger National Park.
There are 147 species of mammals in Kruger National Park.
A great white shark in Gansbaai in the Western Cape.
You can view great white sharks in the coastal town of Gansbaai.

There are plenty of excellent times to visit South Africa, but May is high on the list. With the change in season from autumn to winter, the country offers pleasant weather conditions and world-class wildlife-spotting opportunities. It is because of all this that May is one of the best months to visit South Africa.

  • A lively period: Thanks to it being a peak season in South Africa, there are loads of people around and tons of things to do, all of which give a vibrant, vacation-like feel to any traveler. More tourists mean more events, so there is plenty to enjoy!
  • Peak season for wildlife-spotting: If your main reason for visiting South Africa is safaris, then May is possibly the best month to do so. Thinner vegetation and lower temperatures offer more chances of spotting wild animals.
  • Learn to surf: May falls close to the start of the peak surfing season in South Africa and the water off the coast is great for both beginners and pros alike during this month. If you are based near the coast, you are likely to see surfers ripping all around the country.

Where to go and what to do

Promenade of Durban with traditional rickshaw driving on it.
The city of Durban is known for its beaches and active surf spots.

If you are looking forward to visiting South Africa in May, then safaris should be at the top of your list. It is the first month of the safari season, so crowds are still pretty low, giving you a great chance to spot South Africa’s impressive wildlife during your visit to nature reserves like a trip to Kruger.

Got a penchant for olives? Then head to ​​the Prince Albert Olive Festival in the valleys of the beautiful Swartberg Mountain range. One of the most beloved culinary festivals in the country, it takes place in April and May and is always a hit with locals and visitors alike. Taste the delicious fruits, discover how they are grown and how their byproducts are made, and grab some souvenirs for yourself!

If you are feeling adventurous, South Africa is one of the best places in the world to swim with sharks. May is a great time to witness these majestic creatures, as the colder water means they hunt closer to the shore. Depending on whether you are based closer to Durban or Cape Town, you may see great whites, whale sharks, tiger sharks and more.

Despite being the start of South Africa’s winter, May really is a spectacular time to visit this wonderful and diverse country. If you are traveling for the wildlife, you arguably cannot pick a better time! Whether you want to witness gentle giants, the Big 5, or get up close and personal with our toothy shark friends, there is a wildlife adventure to suit everyone.

With pleasant temperatures and less footfall around key tourist areas, it is well worth making your trip to South Africa in May. Looking for a South Africa itinerary that has everything you could ever wish for? Why not reach out to our local travel experts for customized trips

For more ideas and inspiration, browse through our list of tours to South Africa in May.

Other articles:
South Africa in April
South Africa in June

Published by Tim Green, updated on December 19, 2022

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