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Cape of Storms: What You Need to Know about Cape Town’s Weather

Author: Selene Brophy - 8 April 2024

Last Update: 10 May 2024

Part of the Cape Town Holiday & African Safari Collection

Cape Town’s weather is notoriously fickle, with visitors often told to expect four seasons in one day. If you want to include Cape Town in your next Southern African experience, here’s what you need to know about the city’s seasons. 

Updated 09/04/24: Certain parks closed due to bad weather

A weather warning on Monday detailing disruptive rain and flooding in certain parts of the Western Cape has put much of South Africa’s favourite city on alert. SANParks confirmed that severe weather conditions have forced the temporary closure of certain parks.

Lions Head trails are closed until further notice. Picnic sites at Oudekraal and Newlands, Deer Park, and Rhodes Memorial are also closed.

Visitors should postpone visiting Table Mountain National Park, as wet, slippery surfaces and gusty winds pose a safety risk.

Why the Cape of Storms?

Cape Town was initially dubbed the “Cape of Storms” by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias in 1488. The tip of Africa earned this notorious title due to the maritime challenges encountered by sailors charting new routes to the east.

This treacherous stretch often resulted in numerous shipwrecks found along South Africa’s coast

The “Cape of Storms” was later renamed the “Cape of Good Hope” by King John II of Portugal to reflect the maritime significance of the route as an East Indies gateway. The renaming symbolized the new trading opportunities of the spice trade.

Cape Town Weather Still Gets Quite Stormy – A Storm-Chaser’s Perspective: 

 The disruptive  Cape Town weather didn’t stop dedicated storm-chaser photographer Kyle Goetsch from capturing some of the dramatic scenery.  

Goetsch shared images highlighting the dramatic scenes in Kalk Bay, along Cape Town’s False Bay on the South Peninsula.  

“Having all the elements align for the perfect big waves at Kalk Bay doesn’t happen very often,” said Goetsch, who often shares his work with his 62k-strong Instagram following.  

Goetsch has been chasing the perfect shot since 2016 and said he had last seen waves of this proportion about eight years ago. 

Stormy weather captured in Cape Town’s Kalk Bay. Photo: Kyle Goetsch

“The wind, tide, and swell have to all be perfect to get the waves to push up high over the wall. While there have been waves at Kalk Bay since then, I haven’t seen them this big since 2016. So it’s been a long wait to get these images,” said Goetsch.

He added that the most challenging part of capturing these images is predicting when the waves will be big.

“Normally, you only have a shooting window of 1-3 hours, depending on wind and tide. So if you have to drive from far away it makes planning and guessing quite difficult. Also, the waves usually only occur this big during a storm, which means you’ll be shooting in the rain, which we did, making it tricky to get a clean image without rain on your lens,” said Goetsch.

Stormy weather captured in Cape Town's Kalk Bay.
“It’s extremely difficult to guess where exactly the wave will push up along the wall.” Photo: Kyle Goetsch

“It’s also difficult to guess how big it will be before it hits. This means you generally have to shoot wider and crop in, as you don’t know exactly how much space to leave for the big wave,” said Goetsch.

“The light is also constantly changing so you have to adapt to this as well with your settings,” added Goetsch. “As you can see from my images I like a bit more of an artistic flare to my images and opted to go for slightly longer exposures (about 1/4th of a second). These shows the movement and speed of the wave and differs from the more common static images.”

Goetsch captured his images with a Nikon z6ii and z100-400mm lens.

“I love that I was able to capture some big waves with perfect long exposure technique, resulting in the desired effect I wanted. Also trying to get a great composition and having the waves work with us and hit the wall in the right places, worked well,” said Goetsch.

“I opted for a longer lens for this as the sea was wild with lots of sea spray and surging waves. Due to this shooting with a longer lens and standing further back was optimal. Also a tripod for this type of shooting is essential and ND filters for the longer exposures.”

A Guide to Cape Town’s Weather and Seasonal Things to Do:

Cape Town Summer Weather:

December: Hot and sunny, with strong southeasterly “Cape Doctor” winds, ideal for kite-surfing adventure holidays.

January: Warm and sunny, with occasional strong southeasterly winds, ideal for beach outings. Don’t miss outdoor events like the Cape Town New Year’s Day parade.

February: Hot and dry, this is the peak of summer, with clear skies and balmy evenings. Don’t miss the much-loved open-air summer sunset concerts series. As the peak season draws to a close, beaches are also less crowded.

Cape Town Autumn Weather 

March: Warm days start to cool, signaling the onset of autumn with less wind. The Cape Town Carnival is a seasonal highlight.

April: Mild temperatures with crisp mornings and evenings, and occasional rain showers. It’s the perfect time to tackle any of Cape Towns cool hiking routes.

May: Cooler days see the arrival of regular rainfall. It’s the ideal time to plan a Cape Winelands adventure with Stellenbosch’s annual Oyster & Bubbly Festival or the Franschhoek Literary Festival. 

Cape Town Winter Weather:

June: As winter sets in, it’s cold and wet, with frequent rain and strong northwesterly winds. It’s also the start of the whale-watching season. Spot these gentle giants in False Bay, Gansbaai, or the town of Hermanus, about one hour from Cape Town.

July: Cold, with the highest rainfall of the year, interspersed with clear, sunny days. The Cape Winelands town of Franschhoek also celebrates its French roots with Bastille Day on the 14th of July. 

August: Still cold and rainy, but with increasing sunny spells. The Flower Season begins to hint at the start of Spring. 

Cape Town Spring Weather:

September: Spring arrives, bringing wildflowers, variable weather, and occasional rain. Experience a stunning burst of flowers along the West Coast, an hour outside Cape Town.

October: Warmer weather is perfect for outdoor activities. Whale watching is good during October. Whale watching and the calving season are now in full swing along the waters of False Bay.

November: Warmer temperatures and longer days see Cape Town getting ready for its best beach days, which are spent along the likes of Clifton and Camps Bay.

Whatever the season, Cape Town is ready to be explored. Get in touch with a Discover Africa expert to plan the best way to include this world-class city into your bucket list safari to South Africa. 

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