Why visit Namibia
Namibia is a magnificent country with contrasting landscapes – ranging from the world’s oldest desert, mountains, woodlands and waterways – offering a very unique plant and animal habitat. The land is crisscrossed by rivers that are often dry due to unpredictable rainfall. After heavy rains the rivers turn into cascading torrents recharging the underground water providing much needed moisture for fauna and flora during the dry seasons. Namibia’s coastline is also impressive even though there are only three major bays – Lüderitz, Sandwich and Walvis Bay. The cold Benguela Current washes through the shoreline contributing to the arid conditions causing fog and low clouds for up to 120 days per year. As a result, the coastal area is uninhabited, except for Oranjemund and Lüderitz in the south, and Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Henties Bay in the north. The comfortable temperature on the coast attracts many holiday visitors from the inland wanting to escape the midsummer heat. The dramatic changes in climate from coast to the northeast results in a rich variety of plant life – ranging from hardy desert plants, papyrus reeds and lush tropical trees. Namibia has a number of parks and reserves making it’s abundant wildlife one of its greatest treasures; the most known is the Etosha National Park. There are 8 mammal species endemic to Namibia, including the Black faced Impala, several mice, gerbils and bats. The Namibian desert is known for its large colony of endemic dune dwellers, especially lizards, of which 30 are endemic species. Namibia also has a flourishing bird life.
Where to go in Namibia
Namib Naukluft Park
The Namib Desert has astonishing landscape types. The section between Lüderitz and the Kuiseb River is distinguished by large sand dunes; while the Namib section between Kuiseb and Swakop river is made up by large quartzite gravel plains. The park consists of four sections: Sossusvlei and Sessriem, Naukluft, Namib section and Sandwich Harbour. The vegetation is has been categorized as semi-desert savanna and is home to some of the rarest and weirdest plant and animal species in the world. The wildlife and scenery make for a superb desert safari.
Fish River Canyon
The Fish River Canon is the second largest canyon in the world, only being surpassed by the Grand Canyon. Due to Fish River being dammed in Hardap near Mariental, the river only contains a small amount of running water. During the dry season in winter, the river bed is often completely dry with water puddles here and there. The river becomes a raging torrent after the rainfalls in summer. The canyon is part of a national nature conservation park. The Fish River Canyon has become a popular hiking destination. Hikes do require good physical health and can only be undertaken during the cooler winter months between May and September. Less stringent scenic hikes are offered in the bordering private Canyon Nature Park.
Etosha National Park
Etosha means ‘great white area‘ – referring to the massive dried salt pan in the middle of the Etosha Park, which is so vast it can be seen from space. The renowned Etosha National Park is one of the world’s greatest conservation areas offering a sanctuary to large herds of animals typical of the African plains. The park is home to four of the ‘big five’ – lion, elephants, leopard and rhino – after the summer rains thousands of waterbirds flock the pans and vleis. Etosha park is a photographer’s dream.
Damaraland is one of the most scenic areas in Namibia rich in prehistoric water courses with open plains, grasslands, massive granite hills and deep gorges. Together, Damaraland and Kaokoland are known as the Kaokoveld. The geography changes dramatically to the west with endless sandy wastes that sustain a small population of desert adapted elephant, black rhino, giraffe, ostrich and springbok. These animals have adapted to survive the harshness of the almost waterless desert spaces.
Highlights of the area include:
- The Brandberg. The ‘fire mountain’, is so called because of the effect created by the setting sun; and home to the famous ‘White Lady’ Bushman Painting.
- Twyfelfontein. The site contains around 2,000 rock carvings and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2007.
- Spitzkoppe. Due to its distinctive form, which can be spotted from a great distance, the Spitzkoppe is often called the “Matterhorn” of Namibia.
- The Petrified Forest. The name is a bit misleading as it is not a forest, but rather an accumulation of enormous fossilized tree trunks about 280 million years old.
- The Vingerklip (finger rock). High pillar of sedimentary rock and one of the most dramatic rock formations in Nambia.
When to visit Namibia
Namibia is an all year destination. The weather in Namibia follows a two-season pattern – the dry season or winter (May to October) and the wet Season or Summer (November to April). Travelling in Namibia is very pleasant with low rainfall and low humidity.
The wet season or summer rains fall mainly between January and March with brief afternoon thundershowers. The rain transforms the landscape from brown to beautiful green. In the height of summer maximum temperatures are on average between 30-35°C/86-95°F and 40°C/104°F or more in the desert areas. Summer is low season which means that parks are more quiet with visitors. Migratory birds are attracted by the rains and it is the best time for birding. Newborn animals can be seen alongside their mothers. Antelope can put on quite a show as they compete for females. Predator sightings can become more frequent with the increase in young animals.
During the dry season or winter, there is little rain and the days are dry with clear blue skies. Average daytime temperatures vary from 20-28°C/68-82°F. Game viewing is phenomenal during this time and many visitors choose May to October to visit Namibia, with September being the most popular. Wildlife is easier to spot as the vegetation is less dense. Game viewing improves as wildlife concentrate around remaining waterholes. The parks tend to be a lot busier during this time, especially Etosha, so plan your safari well in advance.
For updated weather forecasts across Africa, please visit www.africanweather.net .