Winter

M ornings and nights can be very chilly in June and especially in July, Namibia’s coldest month. Be sure to look for a spot in the sun as the day progresses.

Clear skies during winter add to the night-time drop in temperatures, so don’t forget to wrap up warmly after dark.

Winter at the coast is full of surprises. If it isn’t cold and misty, strong easterly winds may be blowing from the interior with warm to hot and sunny days in their wake. Bring some summer clothes and your swimsuit – just in case.

With no chance of rain, winter is a great time of year to travel and it’s particularly good for game viewing in Etosha, our premier game park. In a dry year, animals are forced to visit waterholes earlier than usual. The elephants will have returned to the vicinity of the waterholes by winter and will return to them every day.

In the far south-western corner of Namibia you may experience winter rainfalls as a result of South Atlantic cold fronts moving in across neighboring South Africa. You might even be lucky enough to witness a little snowfall in the south – very rare but amazing to experience.

For the rest of the country you can look forward to perfect traveling weather, with midday temperatures in the northern parts warm enough for a swim!

AVERAGE MAX/MIN TEMPERATURES (CELSIUS)

June: Windhoek 7/20; Swakopmund 9/23; Zambezi 6/27; Etosha 7/25

July: Windhoek 6/20; Swakopmund 8/21; Zambezi 6/27; Etosha 7/25

Aug: Windhoek 9/23; Swakopmund 8/20; Zambezi 9/30; Etosha 9/29

HEALTH PRECAUTIONS

  • After late rains the risk of malaria still exists. If you travel north of Windhoek, add malaria prophylaxis to your medication list and spray yourself with repellent/ cover yourself after dark.
  • Sunscreen: with no clouds and beautiful sunny days, sunburn is a reality in winter as well.
  • Hydration: drink enough fluids throughout the day. It is a very dry time of the year and humidity is extremely low.

WINTER SAFETY

  • Make sure your barbecue or braai fire is thoroughly doused before you go to sleep. The slightest breeze can scatter sparks and possibly cause a veld fire, especially in the dry winter months.
  • Always carry extra water in your vehicle, as you never know how long you may have to wait for assistance if you break down in a remote area. Exposure to sun and wind will dehydrate you quicker than usual at this time of the year.
  • Always travel to remote areas in two vehicles. Hiring a 4×4 can give travelers a dangerously false sense of security and tempt them to leave the main track.
  • On gravel roads, keep a safe distance behind the car in front of you, as the dust can completely obscure your vision.
  • Remember that in Namibia we drive on the LEFT side of the road!

WINTER TIME

Namibia has opted for summer daylight saving, so on the first Sunday in April we set our clocks back by one hour. This simply means more daylight in the morning, but by 17:30 it becomes dark.

  • All of Namibia except the Zambezi Region is on GMT + 1 hour during winter.
  • Zambezi Region remains on GMT + 2 hours throughout the year, dur to its location in central Southern Africa.
Aloe-asperifolia
Aloe asperifolia. Photo ©Annabelle Venter
Combretum-platypetalum,-Caprivi-winter-flowerer
Combretum platypetalum. Photo ©Annabelle Venter

WHAT’S FLOWERING?

Acacias!

If you see small acacia bushes in bloom with their bright yellow balls you’re looking at Acacia nebrownii, unaccountably called the ‘water thorn’! These bushes are often found in such dry areas you would never guess their presence indicates underground water.

Also watch out for:

  • Euphorbia damarana, which starts flowering in May, and is seen in the desert en route to Swakopmund
  • Combretum platypetalum (red-wing combretum), conspicuous in the yellow winter grassland in Caprivi
  • Dombeya rotundifolia (wild pear), seen flowering (covering the tree ) at the restaurant of the Waterberg Plateau Park well into winter.

ALOES

In the south

  • Aloe dichotoma (quiver tree) during June and July
  • Aloe gariepensis, which starts flowering in July to September

In the central region   

  • Aloe littoralis (Windhoek aloe), which flowers in April/May in Windhoek, later in other parts
  • Aloe hereroensis, which flowers from July onwards
  • Aloe asperifolia, seen along the road to Swakopmund, can flower as late as July

In the far north-east

  • Aloe chabaudii, which flowers from May to July

WINTER PACKING

The climate in winter is pretty consistent in Namibia. It really does have a bit of everything except rain. Having said that, if you’re visiting the extreme south, you might well encounter some of South Africa’s winter rainfall spill over.Throughout the rest of the country, nights can be bitingly cold, especially if there’s a slight breeze. Days are generally warm, especially at lunchtime. The coast is often misty and cold, but could have very hot east-wind conditions.

For the most part, however, a typical winter’s day inland would need the following wardrobe:
• Winter pyjamas (warm socks if you’re camping!) • Beanie, scarf and a warm jacket for early-morning walks and drives • Closed shoes and socks for travelling and walking; flip-flops for relaxing • T-shirt, shirt, light jacket and jeans (for layering during the day) • A bathing costume for when you visit the northern regions • Sunglasses for the glare and a sunhat to prevent sunburn • Sunscreen – we have between 10 and 11 hours of sunshine per day in winter with no clouds, so there’s nowhere to hide!

WINTER BIRD-WATCHING

Look out for the small population of blue cranes that live in eastern Etosha. They can often be seen near the Salvadora waterhole or along the pan towards Namutoni. They will be foraging at this time with one or two chicks from the summer breeding season. Their numbers total a scant 35.

After summer a small population of flamingos remain year round at Fischer’s Pan. This year the rains were insufficient to initiate the migration from the coast and subsequent breeding. So this year is a good time to see thousands of flamingos in the Walvis Bay Lagoon!
Winter birding is generally good in Namibia even after the summer visitors have left. When the trees are bare and food is scarce, it generally becomes easier to spot birds.

Look out for some of our endemic species:

  • Monteiro’s hornbills at Waterberg Plateau Park
  • Bare-cheeked babblers, Carp’s tits and White helmet-shrikes in Halali Rest Camp
  • Dune larks at Elim Dune, east of Sesriem Camp, early in the morning
  • Damara terns at the coast around the Walvis Bay Lagoon
  • Hartlaub’s francolins at Dolomite Camp, western Etosha
Yellow-billed Hornbill. Photo ©Annabelle Venter
Southern yellow-billed hornbill, photographed in Halali Rest Camp in Etosha. Photo ©Annabelle Venter
Aardvark. Photo ©Annabelle Venter
Because of the drought this year, towards the end of winter you may see nocturnal creatures such as aardvark foraging well before sunset. Photo ©Annabelle Venter

WINTER GAME VIEWING

After the rains that fall to a lesser or greater extent during summer, the grass by winter has become quite flattened and the bushes thinner, resulting in better visibility for spotting game along the roadsides throughout Namibia. Because of the drought this year, towards the end of winter you may see nocturnal creatures such as bat-eared fox and aardvark foraging well before sunset. Add to this the fact that animals in Etosha must visit waterholes every day to drink, and there’s no better time for game viewing.

Dolomite Camp in the west has a micro-environment all of its own. Shaded by beautiful trees and home to some great birds, you can sit on your deck above the plains and spot the wildlife.

Okaukuejo Waterhole is a great place if you just want to sit in the camp and watch the passing parade – people, birds and animals. The antelope visit in large numbers when it’s mid-morning, and it can become quite busy.

Okondeka Waterhole in the north of Okaukuejo Rest Camp is great for seeing the resident lion pride. The plains animals have to drink at this waterhole, so just sit and wait for the action to come to you. You could see a caracal hunting here mid-afternoon, and in March rare sightings of brown hyaena and honey badger were also recorded.

Halali Camp in the centre of the park offers accessibility to different kinds of waterholes, and you can expect to see cheetah, leopard, elephants, hyaenas and giraffe.

Namutoni is feeling the drought this year, with Fischer’s Pan drying up and becoming somewhat smelly. Only a handful of permanent flamingos are holding out here – the breeding season never took place this year due to poor rains.

The 15 kilometres of sandy track through the forest to Onkoshi Camp is a delightful and secret place. Tracks of lion, elephant and rhino have been seen here. Visitors have also spotted a leopard just outside the camp before sunset. Apart from the big boys, it’s teeming with warthogs, kudu, steenbok, zebra and giraffe, to name a few. Drive slowly to take it all in.

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