Up in the northern hemisphere winter is a sad affair, as your bike goes into hibernation and the cold, the rain and the snow keep you from doing what you love best. In our part of the world (Southern Hemisphere), we get some of the best riding in the winter months (June / July) and between seasons (Autumn: April / May and Spring: August September). Skies are clear, temperatures are pleasant, the roads you travel, and the places you visit are less crowded than during summer high season. So how about considering our winter for your summer holiday!?
Bearing in mind that South Africa is more than three times the size of Germany, or five times the size of the UK, or twice as big as France respectively, it is hardly surprising that the weather varies greatly across the country - in any season. Generally, the best conditions for some lovely “winter riding” can be found in the north-east of the country, the Northern Drakensburg Lowveld and along the coast of the Indian Ocean.
The East and North: Refreshing nights, warm days and rarely a drop of rain
In Limpopo and Mpumalanga, the two provinces to the north and east of Johannesburg, winter is warm and dry. For the animals in the Lowveld region around Kruger this means: limited water supply. For the visitor, this means an even better chance to spot the Big 5 or some of their equally amazing animal relations. As both, predators and prey need to drink, they sometimes gather around the watering holes in large and even mixed groups in what can only be called a fragile peace. Conditions for game viewing are excellent, as trees are sparse, improving visibility.
Game drives are conducted in early mornings and in the evening. The average temperature in the morning is about 10 degC, and it can get cold in the open vehicles, bring some warm gear to keep you nice and snug. During the day, the thermometer rises to 26 degC or slightly higher and the sky is often cloudless. To most locals and guests, this is a lot more pleasant than the humid heat of the summer, where 40 degC are not unheard of, and especially in December and January when downpours frequently occur in the afternoons.
The Indian Ocean Coast Line: Outride the heat and relax in the scenery
The province of KwaZulu Natal stretches along the Indian Ocean. 600 kilometres of coastline offer a variety of beaches: from wild and remote to buzzing and family friendly. A year round destination for holiday makers from South Africa as well as other countries. In winter, average temperatures are in the mid-twenty-range, equalling a lovely summer day on many shores of northern Europe.
Exploring the area on a motorcycle and visiting for example Addo Elephant Park or the iSimangaliso / Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park is a relaxing experience, as you are spared the scorching hot spells of summer. Throughout the winter months, KwaZulu-Natal and surroundings get only five to nine days of rain.
The Inland: Stay cool in the semi-desert
If, like us, you are a fan of the rugged beauty of the arid and semi-arid Karoo in the inland of the country, you might also enjoy visiting in winter time. If you do, bring some warm clothes, as it does get cold at night, and as the temperature average of 3 degC indicates, the mercury might even drop below zero. However, these frosty nights are somewhat special: Just imagine, a chilly night in the semi-desert, wrapped in a blanket and looking up at the clear African night sky with its sparkling abundance of stars...
Days never really get hot, especially the afternoons are mild and sunny. So winter really is ideal to explore the area, both on and off the motorbike. For example, you may want to stop along the road to marvel at the ancient rock paintings left by the nomadic Khoisan some hundreds of years ago. And if you really do get rain while you are in the Karoo, you might consider yourself very lucky to be one of few people to ever have experienced a winter rainfall in this notoriously dry part of the country.
The Cape: Four seasons in one day
Considerably less dry but equally notorious, albeit for its changeable weather, is the Cape with the Mother City, Cape Town. The good thing about the undependable meteorological conditions is that if you do not like what you got, there is a good chance that within the next hour it will be different.
The climate here is Mediterranean. In wintertime, you have to expect wind and rain. The latter is a very welcome event in the city, as the winter rainfalls fill the dams and irrigate the vegetation, which is never as fresh and green as in the rainy season. The Protea, South Africa’s national flower, as well as many other flowers and bushes, bloom during the winter. If you think winter in Cape Town, you may think spring in a European or North American coastal city. The same goes for the famous Garden Route. So you can get beautiful sunshine days, but there is also a good chance that you will get wet.
The Southern Coast: Watch out for Whales
Interestingly enough, the waters along the western and southern coast of South Africa are warmer in winter than they are in summer. The warm sea attracts whales to come close to the shore, making June to September the perfect months for Whale Watching. From False Bay just off the coast of Cape Town to Hermanus and beyond you will be able to see Southern Right Whales, Humpback Whales, Bryde’s Whales and occasionally Orcas – but only in winter, when these gentle giants pass by the shores of South Africa as they migrate up north from their feeding grounds around Antarctica.
Winter in South Africa: Forget skiing. Come riding.
Warm. Dry. Sunny. Isn’t that what you would hope for in your summer motorcycle holiday? Of course you would also want good roads, plenty to see and do, and a relaxed and memorable time. Our Lowveld Legend and our Southern Spear Tour are designed to offer you a great experience – also and especially in (our) winter time.
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