Geographical info and climate – Recipes from South Africa
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Geographical info and climate

South Africa is situated just south of the tropic of Capricorn. This causes that the country is mostly dry and sunny, but the climate is moderated by its topography and surrounding oceans.

South Africa has a great variety of climates from the extreme desert of the Kalahari bordering Namibia to the subtropical climate along the border with Mozambique. There is a considerable variation in the climate. Take the North-West of the country, the Karoo along the Kalahari desert which is very dry and sparsely populated. It gets very warm in the summer while it is icy in the winter.

The South West is very similar to the Mediterranean with wet winters and hot, dry summers. Much of South Africa’s wine is produced in this area. This region is also known for its wind that blows throughout the year, either from the south-east or the north-west.

The severity of this wind passes around the Cape of Good Hope, causing many problems for sailors and has caused many shipwrecks. Further east on the southern coast, rainfall is distributed more evenly throughout the year, producing green landscapes. This area is the garden route, a great attraction for many tourists.

The Highveld (Gauteng) does not experience subtropical extremes of heat. Johannesburg is at 1 740 m and has very cold winters. Snow in this area is very rare. To the north and east of Johannesburg the altitude drops and turns into the Lowveld. Particularly high temperatures are experienced here.

The Drakensberg mountains does have snow in the winter, but the coldest place in South Africa is Sutherland in the western Roggeveld mountains where midwinter temperatures can reach -15 degrees Celsius. The deep interior has the hottest temperatures. In 1948 a temperature of 51.7 degrees Celsius was recorded in the Northern Cape, Kalahari near Upington.

South Africa has more than 20 000 different plants. This is about 10% of all the known plant species on earth. Fynbos, one of the six floral kingdoms, is located in a small region of the Western Cape and contains more than 9 000 of those species, making it among the greenest places on earth.

A total of 1% of South Africa is forest and almost exclusively located in the humid coastal plain in KwaZulu-Natal (along the Indian Ocean). This part of South Africa is a stranger to frost.

The only two major rivers in South Africa is the Limpopo (which is shared with Zimbabwe) and the Orange river which runs across the central landscape from east to west, emptying into the Atlantic ocean. Because this is such a dry country, dams are extremely important. The largest dam is the Gariep on the Orange River.

Let’s have a look at the climate and expected temperatures of each province individually:

Western Cape:

This lovely province enjoys hot summers and mild, green winters. It also has its rainfall in the winter months, the opposite to the rest of the country. This weather is ideal for the production of fruit, wine as well as grains. Average temperatures are around 26 degrees Celsius, but it can get cold in the winter, specially in the mornings.

Northern Cape:

The Northern cape is a semi-arid region with only a little rainfall in the summer. The weather is very extreme, cold and frosty in winter, while it has extremely high temperatures in the summer. Temperatures ranges between -6 degrees Celsius in the winter and anything from 30 degrees Celsius in the summer.

Eastern Cape:

This area enjoys hot summers and moderate winters with a summer rainfall. Maximum summer temperatures on average are around 27 degrees Celsius while the minimum temperature in winter can be as low as 7 degrees Celsius or less.

North West:

Here you can enjoy hot summers with sunny days. Average temperatures varies between around 25 – 34 degrees Celsius. The winter days can be relatively warm, but during the evenings and early morning, it can be chilly. Rainfall is also during the summer.

Free State:

This is a summer rainfall area and is warm in the summer but cold in the winter months. Temperatures drop to around 9 degrees Celsius or less. The areas to the west and south are semi-desert.


This province experiences eternal summer. It has a tropical climate with a very generous rainfall during the summer. During these summer months, it can get extremely hot and humid along the coastline. Average temperatures during the winter can be as high as 22 degrees Celsius.


This province has a hot summer with a summer rainfall and mild winters. It can become very cold in the highveld areas.


Gauteng province offers one of the world’s best climates. During the summer months, days are very warm, but mostly wind-free. In the winter, the days are crisp and clear. It has a summer-rainfall with hot summers and winters with frost. Hail is very common during the summer thunderstorms. Gauteng is also known for its electric storms where the lightning lights up the skies and the thunder is overwhelming, but no rain falls, leaving an amazing smell in the air. Snowfall rarely occurs during the winter, but is possible.


Limpopo has very hot, but yet pleasant summers and dry winters. It has almost year-round sunshine with a summer rainfall. Average summer temperatures are around 27 – 30 degrees Celsius (it can be higher).



About the Author Lizel Salter

I was born in Vanderbijlpark, South Africa and grew up in Vereeniging. The first time I left home was in 2002 to go to England on a working holiday. Met my husband halfway around the world, got married in South Africa and now have 2 beautiful children. One boy and one girl... Started writing down recipes I grew up with when I was living in England and love sharing them with others. Buy my downloadable book and keep all the recipes together!