Winter in the Northern Hemisphere quickly loses its appeal after the excitement of Christmas and New Year have passed – and for many, spending the whole festive season on a remote beach is highly preferable to countless family visits and cold weather. If you find that winter drags on for far too long, there’s an easy fix: simply head on down to the southern Hemisphere where you’ll find plenty of sun-drenched shores and balmy, warmer climes. Here are some of our recommendations for winter sun holidays in Africa.
Western Cape, South Africa
The South African summer means beach days, braais, hikes, trail runs, surfing, camping trips…it’s all about being outside and enjoying the country’s beautiful scenery. Cape Town is at its most vibrant during the summer. Aim for late January to early March, which avoids the busy Christmas holiday season. Explore the beaches along the Western Cape coast by driving along the Whale Coast and Garden Route or heading west, up to the pretty seaside getaway town of Paternoster. And there’s nothing like driving around the Winelands on a beautiful summer’s day and enjoying long, lazy lunches overlooking the vines.
Between September and February is the best time to swim with whale sharks in Mozambique, the best place being Tofo in the south. For winter sun, November is the best month to go, as December is the start of the rainy season; however, it usually only rains in the afternoon and is sunny and hot for the rest of the time. The summer (outside the holiday season) also sees less tourists than the dry winter months of May to November, so you’ll have more space and lower rates.
Head to this Indian Ocean island in November or December for a dose of vitamin D before the rainy season begins in January. You can hike in the rainforests, go snorkelling or diving, or simply laze around on the beach. Mauritius is also a great destination for water sports.
Travel to Madagascar in November and early December to combine a beach break with wildlife spotting. As with everywhere else in this region, the rains come in late December. Meet the famous lemurs in Andasibe National Park and find chameleons in Ranomafana National Park. For beach time, head north to Tsarabanjina, which is a great spot for snorkelling.
Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Green season in Hwange reveals a completely different park to the dry winter months. The rains bring lots of lush vegetation, making the landscape look fresh and bright. It’s a brilliant time for birders and photographers. And although lots of people think it’s harder to see big cats, it’s actually not as difficult as you think: lions for example hate walking through wet grass, so they will use the roads, often making them easier to spot and easier to track. Throughout the green season, animals such as impalas are giving birth, so there will be lots of little ones around. Green season safaris aren’t classic winter sun destinations, but they do certainly provide an uplifting break from the dark greyness of winter.
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
South Africa’s tropical, Indian Ocean coastline is a popular choice for internationals seeking winter sunshine and for South Africans on their summer holidays. The weather is hot all year round, but especially in the summer, when the ocean is also bathwater-warm. Once you’ve had your sun and sand fix either in Durban or on the beaches of northern KwaZulu-Natal, you can cool off by heading inland to a Zululand safari reserve such as Thanda, or to hike in the beautiful Drakensberg Mountains.
Masai Mara, Kenya
January and February are perfect months to visit Kenya’s famous Masai Mara, with dry and warm conditions. There’s lots of wildlife around the Mara, including predators such as lions and cheetahs, with many animals gathering around waterholes making for easier sightings. December is when you’ll see lots of new-born animals. After your safari, head for a beach break along the Kenyan coast; the months between October and March are the best times to go diving with good visibility and warm temperatures.