Seasonal Planning for Namibia Travel
Considerations about the best time to travel revolve around seasonal weather and the associated relative ease (or difficulty) of seeing big game. Namibia has a subtropical desert climate with two main seasons: the six-month hot, rainy summer (October to March) and cool, sunny, bone-dry winter (June to August), with a brief spring (September) and fall (April and May) as transitions. All parts of the country are affected more or less similarly by the seasonal weather patterns, with the exception of the persistently cool and often foggy Skeleton Coast, which has its own microclimate.
Windhoek, the capital, is located at 5,577 feet (1,700 m) on the semi-arid central plateau and has a temperate climate. To the north, the lower elevation game parks of the Etosha Pan and Zambezi region (Caprivi Strip) are hotter and wetter and, for the latter, very humid (hence, mosquitoes can be an annoyance, and malaria present, in the wet summer months). The Namib and Kalahari deserts are hotter and drier to the south and east.
Game-viewing is best in winter and transitional months when animals gather at reliable water sources. Understandably, winter is also peak travel season, and you should make reservations well in advance (as well as bring warm clothes for often bitterly cold early morning game drives). The desert regions' landscapes and wildlife have year-round appeal, although heavy summer rains can disrupt travel.
|Seasons||Pros||Cons||Best for||Where to Visit|
|Spring (Sep)||Delightful, sunny weather; good game viewing||Harsh, barren landscapes||Game viewing; bird watching||Etosha National Park; Ongava Reserve|
|Summer (Oct-Mar)||Wildflowers and lush landscapes; vast amounts of migrant birds; viewing newborns in game parks in late summer||Rainy season; extremely hot in Etosha, Kalahari, and Caprivi Strip; challenging game viewing||Bird watching in Caprivi Strip; flamingos in Swakopmund;||Skeleton Coast; Caprivi Strip; Swakopmund; northern Namibia for Oshituthi Shomagongo festival|
|Fall (Apr-May)||Delightful weather, vibrant color contrasts in the desert||Challenging game-viewing||Photography in the desert||Caprivi Strip; Skeleton Coast|
|Winter (Jun-Aug)||Cool weather; no rain and plenty of sunny days; excellent game viewing||Fogs along Skeleton Coast; busiest time of year in game parks||Game viewing||Etosha National Park; Ongava Reserve; Okahandja for Hereros Day festival|
Spring in Namibia (September)
Namibia's swift transition from winter to summer usually spans the single month of September, although springtime conditions can linger well into October. Spring is considered an ideal time—perhaps the best time of year—to visit Namibia. The weather is at its best, as it is warm but not yet hot by day nor cold at night (although temperatures gradually climb as the month progresses). The skies are sunny and an idyllic clear blue perfect, not least, for photography, while the lack of rainfall means that humidity is low.
The limited water sources suggest that wildlife gathers around the waterholes, making for some of the easiest and most rewarding game viewing of the year. And migrant birds start arriving in Namibia by late September (and usually stay until March or April). Etosha National Park and Ongava Game Reserve can be busy, especially in early September before Europeans return home at the end of the summer school holidays. Hence, late September is the best time to visit.
The land is beginning to stir as wildlife, and tribal people sense with anticipation of the forthcoming onset of summer rains. For now, however, the landscapes in places appear truly harsh.
Events in Spring
Harvest Festival, nationwide. Many communities celebrate the harvest at the end of September.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Summer in Namibia (October to March)
By October, the green vegetation has faded to brown, and the land is parched, but the heat is gradually rising, and rainclouds are beginning to build up in the afternoons. October is the hottest month of the year in Etosha National Park and the Caprivi Strip, with an average high temperature of 99°F (37°C) and 95°F (35°C), respectively. Elsewhere in Namibia, temperatures are considerably cooler but rising daily, nonetheless. The first rains also break in Caprivi Strip in October and elsewhere in the country by November, except Sossusvlei and the perennially bone-dry Skeleton Coast.
By December, the rains arrive in earnest, with January, February, and March by far the rainiest months throughout the non-desert regions. Most precipitation falls as short showers or afternoon thunderstorms (often torrential), but humidity is rarely a problem except along the lush Caprivi Strip. The landscape changes almost immediately after the first rains as everything comes to life. These months are the most challenging time for game viewing—except for birds—as the vegetation is lush and the wildlife is more dispersed. Flamingos gather at Swakopmund, and birding is excellent in the Caprivi Strip.
Other than Caprivi, where temperatures settle into an average high of 88°F (31°C) after the October peak, temperatures rise to a December and January peak. The southern Kalahari is the hottest location, often exceeding 105°F (40°C), while the Skeleton Coast and Sossusvlei remain at an equitable average high in the mid-70s°F (low 20s°C) throughout summer. By comparison, daily high temperatures in Windhoek average around 90°F (32°C) at their peak. However, evenings and early mornings can still be cool even at the hottest time of year.
Events in Summer
Oktoberfest, Windhoek. A legacy of German colonial days, Oktoberfest draws a predominantly German-heritage crowd to the capital to don lederhosen and "dirndls" and to quaff steins of beer, accompanied by foot-stomping music.
Otjomuise Live Arts Festival, Windhoek. Launched in 2021, this week-long festival held in November features live music and dance performances, art installations, and other public presentations at venues around the city.
Christmas. Namibians celebrate the Christmas season, beginning on December 6 with school parties for children and when Christmas lights are turned on, in homes and towns (a thorn tree may substitute for a pine tree). Families gather for a traditional meal on Christmas Day before heading to church for Mass.
New Year. Namibians celebrate New Year and Day of the Kings on January 6, with outdoor celebrations including music and dance, plus fireworks.
Independence Day, nationwide. Banquets and parades are held nationwide each March 21 to celebrate Namibia's independence from South African rule in 1990.
Oshituthi Shomagongo, northern Namibia. Held over three days in late March and early April, this UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage festival unites Ovambo (Aawambo) communities in traditional ceremonies based on the preparation of consuming "omagongo," a beverage made from the marula fruit.
Fall in Namibia (April to May)
By April, the rains gradually end, temperatures begin to fall, and nights start to feel chilly again. Game viewing remains challenging into May, as the grasses are still long and the brush thick and lush after the long summer rains. And even in relatively dry Etosha National Park, water is still available in seasonal waterholes, and the animals are therefore still quite spread out. Nonetheless, many people consider this to be when much of Namibia is at its most beautiful.
By May, the deciduous trees begin to shed their leaves, and the grasses to wither, although the Caprivi Strip, with its lagoons and swampy wetlands, is still lush and green. Elsewhere, tourists are relatively few, as this is shoulder season, with Easter (if it falls in April) being a possible exception.
In general, temperatures are at their most agreeable of the year in fall (as well as spring), with average high temperatures around 73°F-86°F (23°C-30°C), with the Caprivi Strip being the hottest region and, as always, the Skeleton Coast being the coolest.
Events in Fall
Oshituthi Shomagongo, northern Namibia. Held over three days in late March and early April, this UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage festival unites Ovambo (Aawambo) communities in traditional ceremonies based on the preparation of consumption of "omagongo," a beverage made from the marula fruit.
Windhoek Karneval, Windhoek. A colorful street parade and costumed balls highlight this Germanic-inspired carnival, held annually in the capital in late March or early April.
Cassinga Day, Cassinga. This somber national public holiday commemorates the attack on Cassinga on May 4, 1978, by the South African Defence Force, in which 624 Namibians (including 298 children) were killed. The president of Namibia attends.
Africa Day, nationwide. On May 25, Namibians celebrate the foundation of the Organization of African Unity (since 2002, the African Union) in 1963. Local communities come together to promote cooperation and peaceful coexistence.
Winter in Namibia (June to August)
Namibia's relatively short bone-dry winter begins in June and lasts through August. The landscape dries out everywhere, and humidity is low. Hence, these are optimum months for game viewing as the foliage has withered or been eaten, the waterholes dry up, and wildlife starts gathering at the relatively few permanent water sources.
Daytime temperatures remain in the 70s°F (21°C-27°C) through June and July before beginning to rise again in August everywhere but the Skeleton Coast (where August is the coolest month of the year). But nighttime temperatures are significantly cooler, and early mornings can be extremely cold, particularly along the coast where strong cold westerlies blow in from the Atlantic, drawing in heavy fog. It can even fall below freezing at night in desert regions and higher areas, so be sure to pack warm clothing for morning game drives.
Events in Winter
Hereros Day, Okahandja. Members of the Hereros ethnic group commemorate their ancestors during a colorful and boisterous three-day festival around August 26 in the central Namibian settlement of Okahandja. Parades of warriors replicate battles against the Khoekhoen and German colonialists. (Other ethnic groups throughout the country hold small festivals throughout winter to help their traditions and ancestral legacies stay alive through dance, song, and retelling of legends.)
Küska Karneval, Swakopmund. This annual German festival, held every August, includes the symbolic waking of the Karneval clowns, plus parades, and costume balls.