Kwazulu-Natal is located on the east coast of South Africa. It is the country’s wettest, most typically tropical province, and experiences a standard southern Africa bimodal climate, with the wet season being October – April, the dry season June – August, the transition months late April-May (autumn) and September (spring). At the moment (2011), Journeys by Design designs itineraries that include Durban and the coast, Thanda and Phinda game reserves and Fugitives Drift.
Uncomfortable during the summer, when temperatures reach into the early thirties and the afternoons are blasted by thunderstorms, Durban and the coastline are extremely hot and humid between October and April. Things cool down in the winter. Temperatures fall to an average of 20°C and the water clears, making May – September the best time to swim, snorkel, dive and surf. The fishing season begins in Easter and peaks June-July time with the annual sardine run. The Durban area receives an average of 1054mm per year.
Inland, Phinda Private Game Reserve is situated on a largely flat coastal plain, with an elevation of 4m to 350m, and home to 7 microhabitats and to a range of introduced carnivores and herbivores. Here, the level of rainfall falls off markedly, averaging out at 500mm (though ranging from 405mm to 865mm, depending on the year), and the two main rivers, the Mzinene and the Munyawana, are seasonal. It rains all year round, though only nominally during the main winter months. Maximum temperatures during the summer are 33°C and 25°C in the winter.
Given Phinda’s mixed habitat, game viewing depends a great deal on where one is, and on the type of animal likely to habituate a given ecological zone; however, it is true to say that, as with the Kruger and the Waterberg, the dry season is much the better part of the year, when the cover is greatly reduced, and the animals are forced to utilise fewer water sources.
Slightly further north, but on the same line of longitude, Thanda Private Game Reserve has a similar climatic profile to that of Phinda, and is best visited during the dry season, when the rains are minimal, when it is cooler and when the game is similarly massed about permanent water sources.
Finally, Fugitives Drift, which is further inland and much cooler, is best visited between April and September, when it is relatively dry and warm.