There’s one thing South Africans will never get used to and that is seeing snow in South Africa in winter.
Year after year, flake after flake, a shivering excitement hits South Africa with the winter’s cold front promises of the possibility of snow. We keep our eyes on Snow Report SA, release our inner-climatologist, dream about building a snowman, making a snow angel and then without a minute of hesitation – when the temperature drops and the chance of witnessing a winter wonderland sky rockets – we jump into our cars and hit the road to see the snow.
It happens; call us snow tourists, snow spotters or eager snow-chasing beavers, it happens.
Don’t judge us Canadians and used-to-snow-Europeans. Just let it go. We are not used to it. We still have a child-like fascination with water that turn to ice that will eventually turn to slush puppy and then back to water again.
Grab your gloves, beanies, scarves and explore the wonder in these areas in Southern Africa. Remember that if you are going on a mission to see snow in South Africa to be safe and responsible, the roads and weather conditions during this type of weather can be extremely dangerous and caution should be your number one goal. Keep on reading to find a few safety tips for driving in snow or icy condition.
Where to see snow in South Africa this winter
Sutherland is no stranger to the conversation when you talk about the coldest places in South Africa, and it is also no stranger to snow. In fact if you thought snow only happens during the winter months of South Africa residents of this small Northern Cape town will share that while you were enjoying the heat in other parts of South Africa, they woke up to the town covered in snow. And with an area altitude of just over 1700 metres it is no wonder that the snow takes it time before it melts.
Don’t miss out on: Go visit South Africa’s largest telescope at SALT, head to the Planetarium and the Rogge Cloof reserve for history, wine and wild life.
Closest city: 350 km from Cape Town.
Tucked away from Graaff-Reinet, the small village of Nieu-Bethesda, is known for more than just The Owl House, they also get a bit of snow during winter which turns it into quite the romantic Karoo-dorpie and you can understand why the mountains that the dorpie is looking out on is called the Sneeuberg Mountains.
Take care if you are coming via Lootsberg Pass during these conditions as the pass often has to close.
Don’t miss out on: Don’t forget to explore the Owl House and Helen Martins museum, pop into an art gallery, and find a forgotten oldie but a goodie at Dustcovers bookshop as the perfect fireplace companion.
Closest city: 313 km from Port Elizabeth.
Also read: Beyond Nieu Bethesda’s Owl House.
The interesting rock formations and beautiful natural scenery of the Cederberg draw many hikers, mountain bikers, mountain climbers as well as camping and 4×4 enthusiasts every year, so just imagine the landscape covered in layers of white against the contrast of clear blue skies! The area’s temperatures during winter is definitely not for sissies; while the days might be sunny, the nights will get you (hats off to you if you go camping there in the middle of winter).
Don’t miss out on: Stay warm and go wine tasting at Cederberg Private Cellar.
Closest city: 250 km from Cape Town
Also read: Rock and Roll around Cederberg Mountains.
When it snows in Hogsback the high altitude area turn into a (for a lack of a better expressions) magical winter wonderland; even without snow it already holds heaps of magic within its mountains and valleys, but snow just turn it up a notch or ten. And of course there is the annual winter celebration as well in Hogsback (previously called Christmas in July).
Don’t miss out on: This is the place where it is okay to do nothing but sit in front of a fireplace the whole day.
Closest city: 265 km from Port Elizabeth.
Also read: Hogsback, magic in the Eastern Cape.
The Klein Karoo town of Oudtshoorn is home to the Swartberg Mountains which often turns into snow-capped peaks during winter – a real picturesque landscape – and as a result leads to the closure of the Swartberg Mountain Pass, the dirt road connecting Oudtshoorn with Prins Albert, as well as Gamkaskloof.
Don’t miss out on: Go olive tasting at Surval, explore the nearby town of De Rust, visit the Cango Caves and if you dare, do the Meerkat Adventure Tour (pssst, it will be very cold to do this in winter).
Closest city: 65 km from George.
Also read: Snowy Swartberg Pass.
If you’re looking to explore a whole lot of snow you can bet your achy breaky white snow flaky heart on Matroosberg! Matroosberg Private Nature Reserve is situated outside of Ceres and you can also do a bit of snowboarding here (if you have your own board).
Don’t miss out on: If you are going during the snowy season it is all about the snow. There are also other activities on offer such as 4×4 trails and farm tours.
Closest city: 175 km from Cape Town.
The small town of Barkly East, situated between Lady Grey and Elliot in the Southern Drakensberg, is well-known among fly fishers and 4×4 enthusiasts as most as South Africa’s highest (and toughest) passes can be found in this area. And for a place that is elevated almost 1800 metres above sea level, and so close to Tiffindell Ski Resort (an Alpine retreat that is accessible throughout the year), snow during winter is a given in this region.
Don’t miss out on: Take a hike, go 4x4ing and of course, head to Tiffindell Ski Resort for a snowy adventure.
Closest city: 365 km to Bloemfontein.
Other snowy regions to explore:
- Lesotho: Technically not South Africa, but still in South Africa-ish. The passes in Lesotho can get extremely dangerous, especially with black ice that turns the road into an ice skating rink (something you don’t want to attempt going downhill). There is also Afriski in Lesotho for some snow skiing fun.
- The Free State’s Golden Gate National Park.
- Kwazulu Natal’s Underberg and Sani Pass.
- Kwazulu Natal’s Cathedral Peak.
- For some real action in the snow, head to Tiffindell Ski Resort.
Some safety tips for driving on ice or snow in South Africa
- Do not just go. Plan.
- Always check the weather and the weather warnings beforehand. Snow Report SA gives up to date and accurate information.
- Keep your lights on.
- Use lower gears to keep traction.
- Brake gently, always make sure you have ample space to stop.
- Keep in mind that roads that are not frequently used are often the ones that freeze first, and when it comes to passes especially, there are sections that do not get exposed to a lot of sun and this is where you will encounter ice on the road.
- Stay warm, stay hydrated. Are you prepared to spend a night in the car if you find yourself stuck? Prepare for the worst case scenario.
- Don’t go head-first for a snowy adventure if you are not familiar with driving in these conditions and/or know your vehicle really well (like really really well).
Say hello to the new Isuzu Arctic AT 35
Isuzu Motors South Africa added one more bakkie to its range, the Arctic AT 35 and judging from its name, you know this bakkie means serious business when it comes to off-roading and travelling to inaccessible places.
Dominic Rimmer, Executive for Technical Services at Isuzu Motors South Africa said, “Arctic Trucks are engineered for people who need to do tough jobs in tough environments, combining this attribute with Isuzu heritage of engineering tough, reliable bakkies is guaranteed to surprise and delight our customers.”
The Isuzu Arctic AT 35 forms part of the production line at the Struandale plant in Port Elizabeth and is made alongside the popular D-MAX models before it moves into the Arctic Trucks conversion area where Isuzu artisans and technicians transform the D-MAX into the Arctic AT 35, i.e bigger wheel wells to accommodate the larger 35″ tyres and a beefed up suspension.
Here are few things that will make eyes stretch from a WOW to a double WOW:
- The vehicle’s height increased from the D-MAX’s 1860 mm to 1980 mm.
- The ground clearance increased from the D-MAX’s 220 mm to 268 mm, while the breakover angle went from 22.4 degrees to 31.4 degrees. The approach angle is 36 degrees and the departure angle is 28 degrees.
- Under the bonnet you will find the same 3.0 litre intercooled turbodiesel engine (fuel consumption of 8.6l/100km) and it comes out as double cab 4×4 with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
- The Isuzu Arctic AT35 models are covered by the same 5 year/ Unlimited km Anti-Corrosion Warranty as all D-MAX models.
The model is now available through Isuzu dealers on an exclusive order only basis with a projected 50 units to be built annually in Port Elizabeth. Click here for more information on the new model.