Covered by vast swathes of the Namib and Kalahari Deserts, Namibia is a true year-round travel destination, with an incredible array of experiences to enjoy no matter what time of year you choose to travel.
The large disparities between the winter and summer weather can dictate when to visit if you have specific interests and activities you wish to enjoy, but if you are simply looking to enjoy this remarkable destination then there are no poor times to travel. In general visitors to Namibia will drive themselves in a 4×4 rental vehicle and the road network remains in good condition throughout the year, but guided safaris, as well as fly-in options are also worth considering when visiting some of the more remote and unusual areas.
Unlike many other sub-Saharan African countries the focus isn’t purely on wildlife viewing here, with incredible landscapes and adventure activities part of the allure of a visit as well.
Regarded as the peak of the Namibian summer time, January sees the country at both its warmest with temperatures peaking towards 40 degrees celsius (105 degrees fahrenheit) and wettest with spectacular storms seen every few days. If you can cope with the heat then it can be a hugely rewarding time to visit as the rains turn the normally dry and barren deserts into a carpet of lush green grasses and wildflowers.
Game viewing can be challenging at this time of year with surface water more readily available, but the iconic Etosha National Park remains an ever-reliable place to see wildlife, especially rhino and lion which love the many waterholes that can be found around the park.
Owing to the heat, activities are often restricted to being on vehicles rather than walking based activities, but short walks early or late in the day are offered from most properties.
Once the New Year rush is over prices drop to their lowest levels where they remain until the end of the summer months.
As with January, the hot and often stormy days persist into February, with the moody grey skies and carpet of green on the desert floor offering an especially appealing backdrop for photographers.
It is also an outstanding time for birders, with the areas around Spitzkoppe in the southern part of Damaraland and the coastline around Swakopmund and Walvis Bay especially popular, as is the Etosha National Park. The plains game in Etosha are starting to give birth to their young which does mean some incredible predator interactions can be enjoyed – a raw but fascinating insight to life in the bush.
Summer cruises along the coastline from Swakopmund are great fun at this time of year and the huge temperature difference between the cold Atlantic Ocean and roasting hot desert can make for spectacular fog banks coming in later in the day – best enjoyed from the deck of your hotel with a cold drink in hand.
Whilst the days remain hot as we roll into March the rains are starting to break, with storms becoming more infrequent and the surface water starts to dry up quickly, meaning the start of the season for seeing desert elephant and rhino in the Damaraland area.
The game viewing experience in Etosha is also rapidly approaching its best as the young plains game find their feet and the larger wildlife continues to be attracted to the many waterholes which are easily seen from the roads and viewing areas. Heading further south the Western Kalahari is still in full bloom from the summer rains with grasses and vibrant plants thriving on the red dunes. Visits to the abandoned diamond mining town of Kolmanskop become more pleasant as the heat starts to subside and the coast is an ever-popular place to spend a few days to enjoy the cooler temperatures that the sea breezes afford.
It is the last month of lower season pricing prior to the busier season starting in April.
Change is in the air as summer morphs rapidly into autumn, day time temperatures are noticeably cooler and rainfall drops significantly, which opens up more walking activities.
It is a great time of year to head into the concessions of the Damaraland desert to track rhino in the company of their guardians – a fascinating experience and one not to be missed. Game viewing in Etosha continues to improve rapidly, with more and more wildlife starting to congregate around the waterholes which are becoming one of the few sources of water in the park.
More adventurous visitors who are looking to get off the beaten track can start considering a trip to the Caprivi Strip which spurs off from the eastern side of the country. Offering more lush, riverine terrain akin to Botswana, as opposed to the deserts of the rest of the country, more traditional safari encounters can be enjoyed here. The Okavango River runs through part of the Caprivi Strip and acts as the conduit for waters from the highlands of Angola to reach Botswana’s fabled Okavango Delta, drawing wildlife to the banks of the river to drink.
The cooler winter months have arrived in earnest now, with daytime temperatures peaking in the mid-20s celsius (late 70s Fahrenheit) and this is the ideal time for walkers to start visiting the country.
Chief amongst the areas to visit for those keen to explore on foot is the Fish River Canyon in the far south of the country, with a number of full and multi-day walking trails now on offer in the cooler period that lasts until September. Equally, it is a great time for searching the deserts of Damaraland for elephant which dig in the dry beds of the ephemeral rivers for water stored deep beneath the sand.
Exploring from Swakopmund and Walvis Bay are in full swing, with quad bike trips, horseriding trails, living desert tours and 4×4 trips to Sandwich Harbour very popular during the cooler winter months. The game viewing in Etosha is approaching its very best thanks to the cooler daytime temperatures and lack of surface water – cheetah sightings become increasingly common and it is a great time of year to see larger herds of elephant.
As with May, days get cooler (if a little shorter) and the rains have subsided almost entirely, making way for cool but bright and clear days which persist through until October and sometimes even November.
The game viewing in the Caprivi Strip is approaching its very best come June and the chance to see large herds of buffalo, as well as wild dog, is high and it remains the only part of Namibia where these animals can be seen.
Equally, Etosha offers excellent wildlife viewing opportunities and the landscapes are at their most spectacular during these clear, dry days. It also remains an amazing time to explore the dramatic plains of Damaraland, either searching for desert-adapted wildlife or exploring the breathtaking Etendeka Plateau on foot and even enjoying overnight walking trails and camping in the desert.
Swakopmund remains a great spot to be, with locals and tourists enjoying the huge range of activities on offer.
To the south visitors can continue to enjoy the fascinating story behind the diamond mining town of Kolmanskop, the feral desert horses found at the tiny outpost of Aus as well as walking and biking trails in and around the Fish River Canyon.
The peak of Namibia’s winter sees temperatures remain in the mid-20s (or late 70s Fahrenheit) and there is no rainfall at this time of year. This means it is the ultimate time for being out and about exploring, whether on foot or in a vehicle with some incredible experiences assured.
Seasoned visitors will look to get off the beaten track and explore more remote areas such as the Skeleton Coast and even that area around the Kunene River in the far north of the country. Offering access to some remarkable landscapes, encounters with a variety of wildlife as well as remote tribes, these off the beaten track destinations are at their very best during the winter months.
Equally, the game viewing in Etosha and the Caprivi Strip are at their very best, especially in the more private areas where off-road driving and even on foot approaches are possible. Walking in the Fish River Canyon area remains excellent. This is the most popular time of year to visit Namibia (along with August and September) so booking well in advance – often a year or more – is advised.
Winter continues with cool days, little wind and clear skies, making Namibia the perfect destination for intrepid explorers and wildlife enthusiasts alike.
The game viewing continues to thrill visitors to the northern parts of the country, especially in Damaraland where the chances of seeing desert elephant and rhino are at their highest.
Visitors looking to really escape the crowds can consider adventures through the remote deserts of the Kaokoveld in the north-west of the country, with the cool days and crisp nights perfect for camping out and admiring the night skies. On stargazing, the clear skies are perfect for keen astronomers, with many lodges boasting their own telescopes and even in-house astronomers to help you pick out the constellations of the southern hemisphere night sky.
Enjoy exploring the Kalahari and Fish River Canyon areas as the season for serious walking starts to draw to a close.
Demand remains high for many properties at the peak of the European school summer holidays.
The last of the winter months across Namibia, September sees daytime temperatures starting to rise and generally this is the last month that lodges will offer significant walking activities and overnight camping/trekking experiences.
The game viewing remains incredible as the long and dry winter draws to a close and water sources become increasingly scarce. Big cat sightings are especially good at this time of year, taking advantage of the lack of cover for plains game to maximise their hunting opportunities. Equally, the desert elephant of Damaraland are common sightings digging in the sandy river beds that criss-cross the region in their eternal source for water.
Hikers and bikers should take advantage of the last of the cooler months for more in depth exploration of the Fish River Canyon as well as the western part of the Kalahari Desert. Longer trips through the Caprivi Strip offer the opportunity for some outstanding game viewing and even a few days at Victoria Falls to round off the experience.
The onset of summer sees a sharp rise in daytime temperatures and the risk of rain returns to much of the country, although it remains limited until the end of the year.
Game viewing is very good at this time of year, especially in Etosha, although this tends to be better in the early mornings and late evenings when the temperature is cooler.
Swakopmund and Walvis Bay remain as popular as ever and stay cool even when the temperatures in the desert start to rise, making them perfect for exploring as well as having a few days to relax and enjoy the quaint and relaxed ambience for which they are known.
Continue south to enjoy the clear night skies around Sossusvlei, climb the towering dunes and explore Dead Vlei before the temperatures rise too much and enjoy sundowner drinks out in the desert.
October is a spectacular time of year to be here and the last of the very busy months before some quieter times to travel over the summer.
Summer has very much arrived now, with daytime rains becoming more common, temperatures approaching their peak and the winds starting to pick up as well.
Visitors love heading up to the Skeleton Coast at this time of year, with the rains occasionally filling the usually dry river systems and attracting more wildlife, including lion and elusive brown hyena to the areas around the camps. Likewise, the coastal areas around Swakopmund are great for keen birders as well as those looking to explore the desert.
As always, game viewing is a very attractive part of visiting Namibia at this time of year and although the larger elephant herds to disperse with the rain these majestic pachyderms can still be seen in strong numbers, as can rhino in the concessions of Damaraland.
Although longer walkers are no longer on offer it is still a spectacular time of year to be at the Fish River Canyon with the views at sunset needing to be seen to be believed.
December follows a very similar pattern to November, albeit with days rapidly getting warmer and rain storms becoming more common. That said, it remains an excellent time of year to visit, with the deserts turned a lush shade of green in the aftermath of the rains with plenty of wildlife to be spotted.
As with most destinations across the globe, the Christmas and New Year period sees a spike in visitors so it’s worth planning a trip well in advance if you are looking to travel at this time and ensure you are in the right place for the festivities. Whilst a Christmas tree may seem out of place in the stark deserts, there is something innately magical about being in Namibia at this time of year and lodges really go the extra mile to ensure the festive period is full of tradition but with an African twist.
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