Compiled Annabelle Venter | Photographs Paul van Schalkwyk
W elcome to the cool, dry season! It takes just about six weeks after the final rains in April for the grass in the veld to fade through grey to yellow, creating great waving swathes of golden meadows stretching as far as the eye can see – stark, beautiful and matched with clear, brilliant-blue skies overhead. Add to this a gradual lowering of temperatures, and as May progresses we become geared for our famous Namibian winter to take off in earnest! We’ve said goodbye to the clouds, and in the central highlands we may not see any substantial cloud formations again until October. Namibia’s climate varies greatly from north to south and winter holds several surprises for the traveller.
Early morning in the central and southern regions can be most invigorating – as long as you’re warmly wrapped up against the biting cold. At the beginning of winter it’s still a refreshing novelty, but as the winter progresses you’ll long for the midday sun to thaw you out. Nights are clear and crisp and – be warned – just after sunset temperatures often drop to zero or lower. Frost is a likely possibility and if you’re camping, any liquids left outside might freeze. Days are sunny and the skies clear, so don’t forget your hat and sunscreen, as the cool air makes you forget about becoming sunburnt!
Winter is a wonderful time to visit Namibia. It is especially popular among our northern hemisphere visitors, who come here to soak up the sun. It’s also a great time for walking and outdoor pursuits, due to the moderate daytime temperatures. July is the coldest month and in July and August you might encounter some rather chilly winds in the central highlands. Winds from the east move across the subcontinent and down the escarpment, causing sandstorms in the desert that sometimes reach the coast. It’s a very dry time of year, with humidity at its lowest in the interior.
Typical winter features
The far south-western desert region of Namibia is known as a winter-rainfall area. In fact, a small amount of rain can be expected in that region any month of the year. This results from the cold fronts moving north-eastwards from south-western parts of South Africa. After good rains, like in Namaqualand across the border, you might be lucky enough to find a spring-flower show.
At the coast winters can be grey and cool due to mist and cloud cover, but not as cold as in the central highlands. But then the infamous East Wind makes its appearance, with – before the sandstorms arrive – several really hot days at the beach, and temperatures reaching 30˚C and more. The strongest coastal winds can be experienced during winter due to the South Atlantic Anticyclone moving northwards – good news for windsurfers. After a sandstorm, the afternoons can be still, hot and beautiful – time to picnic on the beach!
Up in the northern regions the temperatures are not so severe unless you’re camping on a riverbank! Etosha has very pleasant winter temperatures. Because of the dryness, animals visit the waterholes to drink, and game viewing is particularly good from here on. Kavango, Zambezi and Bushmanland all enjoy warm daytime temperatures, but a jacket is still needed against the nighttime chill. In fact, it feels like summer in the winter. At midday at the lodges you might even want to swim!
Floodwaters that overflowed the Okavango and Kwando riverbanks in autumn, have now, for the most part, receded and it’s time to explore Namibia’s north-eastern extremity. Remote destinations such as the Nkasa Rupara National Park in East Zambezi might still be flooded after the summer rains, so take care not to travel alone if you don’t know the area. When travelling in the northern regions you should take malaria prophylaxis even in winter, as there’s a risk of contracting malaria all year round, especially in the vicinity of the rivers.
Averages FOR WINTER
Hours of sunshine per day: 10,3
Max/min temp °C inland: 20/7
Max/min temp °C coast: 23/9
Max/min temp °C Etosha: 25/7
Max/min temp °C Zambezi: 27/6
Hours of sunshine per day: 10,5
Max/min temp °C inland: 20/6
Max/min temp °C coast: 21/8
Max/min temp °C Etosha: 25/7
Max/min temp °C Zambezi: 27/6
Hours of sunshine per day: 11
Max/min temp °C inland: 23/9
Max/min temp °C coast: 20/8
Max/min temp °C Etosha: 29/9
Max/min temp °C Zambezi: 30/9
PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST MALARIA
Wintertime stills holds a risk for contracting malaria, particularly if you’re visiting the northern areas of our country and especially the river areas of Kavango and Zambezi. Malaria is the No 1 killer disease in Africa.
Research now shows that 95% of mosquito bites occur on the ankles and lower legs. So rub or spray mosquito deterrent here and wear long sleeves, long pants and socks if sitting outside at night, and sleep under a mosquito net where feasible. Don’t forget to consult your family doctor before leaving home, as some prophylactic regimes need to be started before you leave on your trip.
The most common signs of malaria are headache, fever and rigours (violent shivering), and typically start one week to a month (sometimes longer) after you’ve been bitten. The symptoms can be many and varied though, so should you become ill on your return home, remember to mention to your doctor that you recently visited a malarial area.
Did you know? It can SNOW in Namibia!
Very occasionally when a cold front from South Africa creeps over the southern parts of Namibia and the conditions are right, a light dusting of snow will appear – perhaps even in the desert. It’s an amazing and rare sight, one you’ll get to see only if you’re in the right place at the right time!
This article was first published in the Travel News Namibia Winter 2012 issue.