May is fall in Namibia, a quick two-month transition between the hot, wet summer and the drier, cooler winter. Many people consider this an ideal time to visit as the temperatures are generally warm but not hot, there is little rain, and the landscape is lush and green after the wet summer (except in desert areas). By late May, trees shed their leaves, and the grasses dry up in many places, except for the wetter Caprivi Strip, with its wetlands and lagoons.
Average May temperatures across Namibia range between 73°F and 86°F (23°C and 30°C). The northeastern Caprivi Strip is at the higher end, while the Skeleton Coast is at the lower. Nighttime temperatures will be cooler in many places, including the desert areas and inland, high-altitude Windhoek, the capital. There's almost no rain in Namibia in May.
Crowds & Costs
While the weather is generally good for travel during the May shoulder season, the conditions aren't ideal for game viewing, one of the major draws to Namibia. The country is still reasonably off the beaten path as far as African safari destinations go, so even in the peak season, the crowds aren't usually oppressive. Unless you want to see wildlife in the national parks, May is a great time to come to avoid many other travelers and find deals on accommodation and flights.
Where to Go
With cooler temperatures year-round, including the autumn months, the Skeleton Coast is a great place to visit in May. Along the northwestern coast of Namibia, the Skeleton Coast National Park is a long stretch of remote beaches dotted with the "skeletons" of shipwrecks: a photographer's delight. The southern regions of the park are more accessible and can be reached on 4WD tours. Meanwhile, you must fly into the northern parts as there's no road access.
If you don't have time for a full-blown safari on the Skeleton Coast, Henties Bay is a great destination. It's the only actual town on the coast and not far north of Swakopmund (an hour's drive). As well as being a jumping-off point for trips up the coast, it's a popular fishing destination. Silver kabeljou (kob), west coast steenbras (mussel-cracker), and galjoen can be caught from the beaches. Farther up the coast from Henties Bay, the Cape Cross Seal Reserve is a protected area home to a large colony of fur seals.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
Photographers—whether amateur or professional—will love Namibia in May. Bird enthusiasts will enjoy the northeastern Caprivi Strip and the wetlands near Swakopmund. Although wildlife in the national parks will mostly be hiding behind longer vegetation, the landscapes will be lush, green, and attractive after the wet summer. The shipwrecks of the Skeleton Coast and the red dunes and dead trees of Sossusvlei and Deadvlei are photogenic subjects. If architecture is your thing, then pretty Swakopmund city is full of German colonial-era buildings and a red-and-white striped lighthouse.
Whether or not photography is your passion, the petroglyphs of Twyfelfontein, an arid valley in the northwestern Kunene Region, will fascinate travelers interested in ancient culture and natural history. This ancient rock art site is one of Africa's largest concentrations of rock petroglyphs. The petroglyphs are up to 6,000 years old and depict animals and daily life. The closest town to the rock art sites is Khorixas.
Events in May
Cassinga Day, Cassinga and nationwide. This public holiday commemorates the attack on Cassinga on May 4, 1978, by the South African Defence Force, in which 624 Namibians were killed.
Africa Day, nationwide. Namibians celebrate the foundation of the Organization of African Unity in 1963 on May 25. It's a public holiday so expect closures.
Traveling to Namibia in May? Check out these great itineraries
Explore South Africa & Namibia: Cape Town, Fish River Canyon, Sossusvlei Dunes & More - 7 Days. The packed weeklong Southern Africa adventure covers the top highlights. You'll paddle the Orange River, climb the famous Dune 45, and visit one of the largest canyons in the world—Fish River Canyon.
Namibia Photography Tour: Windhoek, Sossusvlei Dunes, Etosha Game Reserve - 10 Days. Flexible for all budgets and skill levels, start with an urban exploration of Windhoek before capturing sunrises and sunsets in front of quiver trees deep in canyons. Explore eerie ghost towns, enjoy several safaris, photograph rhinos, and discover your inner child as you roll down the tallest dunes in Sossusvlei.