It’s easy to see why there are top national parks in Namibia with strange and dramatic landscapes, game-rich wilderness areas and colourful cultures. A land of stark contrasts and striking scenery, Namibia is a very family-friendly and safe travel destination.
From the ancient Namib Desert and rugged Skeleton Coast to stark Khaeb and famous Etosha Park – Namibia is a mesmerizing and unique African travel destination with something to offer everyone. Here we explore a few of the best Namibia attractions for your travels.
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Best Time To Visit Namibia
The best time to visit Namibia is in the Dry season from June to October, although it can be visited throughout the year. Wildlife viewing in all parks, but especially in Etosha, is best in the Dry season. The climate is generally dry and pleasant. Between December and March, some days will be humid and rain may follow, often in localized, afternoon thunderstorms. In the Wet season, animals move away from the waterholes and scatter around the park.
If seeing wildlife is your main objective, the best time to visit all parks, especially Etosha, is in the Dry season from May to October. Namibia is a scenic country and can be visited throughout the year. The colors will be most vibrant during and after the Wet season. October to February can be unpleasantly hot.
Climate In Namibia
Mostly, Namibia has a subtropical desert climate characterized by great differences in day and nighttime temperatures, low rainfall and overall low humidity. Namibia experiences winter and summer at opposite times as Europe and North America and they correspond to the Dry and Wet seasons.
Dry season –May to October – Winter
There is little to no rainfall during the entire winter and humidity is low. Wildlife will gather around waterholes and rivers when other water sources dry up.
- May – It is the end of summer. The rains have stopped, but the scenery is still lovely and green. The nights aren’t cold yet, and daytime temperatures are, on average, around 24-28°C/75-82°F.
- June – The nights are getting cold and can drop below 10°C/50°F. In desert areas, it can be freezing. Daytime temperatures are still pleasant around 20-24°C/68-75°F.
- July & August – The average maximum temperature is 21-25°C/70-77°F. The average minimum temperature is around 7°C/45°F but can fall to below freezing at night in the deserts and higher areas. Be sure to pack warm clothing for morning game drives.
- September & October – September is a lovely month. It isn’t too hot yet, but the chill in the mornings is becoming less. It is dry, and the skies are clear. During October, the green vegetation is fading, and the heat gradually builds up.
Wet season –November to April – Summer
- November – The heat continues to rise, and by November, it is very hot, but the humidity is still low, keeping it quite pleasant. On average, the daytime temperature is above 30°C/86°F but can be a lot higher in the deserts. Clouds are starting to build up in the afternoons.
- December – The first rains usually arrive and with them the temperature drops. The landscape changes after the first rains and everything comes to life.
- January & February – This is midsummer. It tends to be hot and humid with maximum temperatures around 30-35°C/86-95°F with peaks of over 40°C/104°F in the desert. There may be torrential downpours in the afternoon but not every day. Mornings are usually clear.
- March & April – Rainfall will decrease and stops around April. It cools down after the rains and the nights start to get cold again. Average daytime temperatures are around 25-30°C/77-86°F.
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12 Best National Parks In Namibia 2021
1. Etosha National Park
#1 Best National Parks In Namibia
The most popular tourist attraction in the country, Etosha is widely considered to be Namibia’s best national park. With an impressive array of wildlife in the park, lucky visitors can catch a glimpse of the rare and endangered black rhino as well as the more common white rhino.
At night, animals flock to the Okaukuejo waterhole and this makes for mesmerizing and unforgettable viewing; elephants and lions emerge into the illuminated area around the pool to drink in their fill of the freshwater. Meaning ‘Great White Place’ in the local language, Etosha was formerly part of a huge lake that has long since dried up.
Now, the Etosha Pan is a dusty white color due to its saline nature. With herds of elephants and impalas kicking up the swirling dust and lions stalking through the savannah; Etosha will forever be etched in your mind.
2. Namib-Naukluft National Park
#2 Best National Parks In Namibia
The Namib-Naukluft is one of Africa’s largest parks. It is home to the Sossusvlei area – an ocean of enormous red dunes and one of Namibia’s main tourist attractions. The desert habitat doesn’t support many large animals, but if you take time to absorb the spectacular scenery and smaller creatures, any visit here will be more than worthwhile.
The park is not primarily a wildlife destination, but quite a few species are easily encountered. Seeing a herd of oryx walking between the red dunes in the Sossusvlei area is an unforgettable sight. To see more wildlife, you need to go to other areas of the park which are less visited. The Naukluft massive is primarily a hiking destination and Hartmann’s mountain zebra are easily spotted here.
If you want to go searching for wildlife in the Naukluft Mountains, and particularly if you’re tying this in with an Etosha jaunt, visit in the Dry season (May to October). Just be prepared for crazy crowds at Sossusvlei, and early morning chill. The wetter months can get ridiculously hot, though the blooming desert flowers can make the heat worthwhile.
3. Tsau //Khaeb National Park
#3 Best National Parks In Namibia
The Tsau //Khaeb National Park (formerly Sperrgebiet NP) is a former diamond mining site. It is the most biodiverse region in Namibia with a remarkably wealth of flora, especially succulents. Most of the park can only be visited with certain tour operators and special permits are required. The exception is Kolmanskop (ghost town and relic of the diamond era) and Agate Beach.
Tsau //Khaeb isn’t really a wildlife destination, but some desert-adapted animals are present. You might be lucky to see a black-backed jackal trotting along, or a brown hyena skulking around at dawn or dusk. Gemsbok and springbok are the most common antelope. Marine wildlife includes heaviside’s dolphin and southern right whale.
The park consists of desert, grassland with granite mountains and rocky outcrops. The arid area is very stark and some parts resemble a moon landscape. The pristine Succulent Karoo ecosystem has the highest diversity of succulent flora in the world and is listed as one of the world’s top 34 biodiversity hotspots.
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4. Skeleton Coast National Park
#4 Best National Parks In Namibia
Dotted with shipwrecks, Skeleton Coast National Park is located in northwest Namibia. Established in 1971, it covers 16,845 sq km (6,504 sq mi) and is the world’s largest ship cemetery.
The park is divided into two sections: the northern and southern parts. The northern section is the most attractive area, and can only be accessed with a tour operator holding the concession and qualification. The southern part is freely accessible, but a permit needs to be purchased (it can be obtained from the gate).
Skeleton Coast National Park is famous for the beaches littered with shipwrecks, bones, and other debris. Because of the Benguela Current, dense coastal fog and strong sea breezes form, make for perfect conditions for ships to meet their demise. The wildlife in the park includes desert-dwelling elephants, lions, black rhinos, cheetah, springbok, and zebra. There are also over 300 bird species, including flamingos.
5. Mudumu National Park
#5 Best National Parks In Namibia
Mudumu National Park is one of Namibia’s least-known parks, but is richly rewarding for adventurous visitors. The main attraction is the riverine habitat of the Kwando River, while inland the Mudumu Mulapo fossilised river course and the dense mopane woodland shelter woodland species. There is no formal entrance gate or park fence – the park is separated from neighbouring communal farmland by a graded cutline.
Wildlife in Mudumu National Park include Elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, spotted hyaena, cheetah, African wild dog, hippo, crocodile, spotted-necked otter, sitatunga, red lechwe, common impala, Burchell’s zebra, sable antelope, eland, wildebeest and giraffe. Tiger fish and tilapia are common fish species. The 430 bird species recorded in Mudumu include African fish eagle, African skimmer and western-banded snake eagle. Enjoy Walking, bird-watching and game viewing.
6. Nkasa Rupara National Park
#6 Best National Parks In Namibia
The Nkasa Rupara National park which is located on two of the largest islands Of Namibia that is the Nkasa Island and the Rupara Island was formerly referred to as the Mamili National park covers about 320 square kilometers and it was officially opened up in 1990.
The Nkasa and Rupara is where the former Mamili National Park got its name and it is surrounded by two Rivers which in most cases flood especially during the rainy season. The Nkasa Rupara National park is mostly covered in wetland and it is the largest conservation wetland in the whole country and it is also a home to a variety of wild life although it has the largest number of Buffalos in Namibia.
Since it is a wetland, a trip to the National park will reward you with all the wetland animals and birds you can think of, the Linyanti River, vegetation of all types, the Kwando River and many more other tourist attractions. The park has less or no facilities within which means that all tourists should go to the National park when they are self-sufficient otherwise you might not enjoy your safari to the National park.
7. |Ai-|Ais Hot Springs Game Park
#7 Best National Parks In Namibia
The |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park spans two countries: South Africa and Namibia. The Sendelingsdrift pontoon takes cars across the border, crossing the Gariep (Orange) River from the Richtersveld in South Africa to the Fish River Canyon and Ai-Ais hot springs on the Namibia side. It acts as a proper border crossing, so you’ll get your passport stamped.
The |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld is primarily a self-drive destination (especially on the South African side) although organized tours are available. The park is not accessible with an ordinary 2WD car. A 4WD vehicle is preferred, but high clearance pick-ups or 2WD SUVs can also enter the park. Driving in convoy is recommended. On the Namibia side, fly-around-tours with chartered planes are common, and the Fish River Canyon can be part of the itinerary.
8. Bwabwata National Park
#8 Best National Parks In Namibia
Bwabwata is a recently established park merging the former Caprivi Game Park and Mahango Game Reserve. The park preserves an area that has suffered heavy poaching. Wildlife numbers are recovering but a visit here is more about escaping the well-trodden tourist trail. The few tourist facilities tend to be located around the park’s boundary.
There isn’t a huge amount of wildlife in the park, but you’ll have a chance of seeing elephant, buffalo and several antelope species including greater kudu, roan and sable antelope. All big cats are present and there have been a few sightings of wild dog as well. Some of the species that have been re-introduced include red lechwe and the semi-aquatic sitatunga antelope.
Animals tend to crowd around the park’s water sources in the drier months (May to October). This is also when the undergrowth recedes, making wildlife that much easier to spot. Tolerating the stifling heat of the wetter months is only really worthwhile if you’re a dedicated birder, as there’ll be plenty to look at in the sky.
9. Dorob National Park
#9 Best National Parks In Namibia
Dorob National Park is located along the coastline of Namibia, near the central part of the country. The park alone covers an area of 3,011.6 square miles (7,800 sq km). It was the first national park in the country to establish zones for separate purposes that are reflective of the needs of the continent as a whole.
The park neighbors up to Namib-Naukluft National Park and Skeleton Coast National Park, creating a combined 41,520 square miles (107,540 sq km) protected shoreline. Dorob extends 990 miles (1,600 km) along the coastline, creating a protected area from the Kuiseb Delta north to the Ugab River. The coastline of Namibia is at the heart of the national park. It is characterized by sandy beaches, high coastal dunes, dune hummocks, and gravel plains. Ironically, the desert terrain is home to the most extensive network of ephemeral rivers in the country.
Walvis Bay Lagoon is recognized as a Ramsar Site reflecting its wetland value to the birds and wildlife species. The park is renowned for its population and diversity of bird species. The vegetation of the dune hummocks, pencil bush, dollar bush, and shepherd’s tree, along with the lichens, support the wildlife residing in the national park borders.
10. Khaudum National Park
#10 Best National Parks In Namibia
Khaudum is a great wilderness destination with a healthy population of wildlife. This is probably Namibia’s second-most productive wildlife destination, after Etosha, but much less visited. The park is mostly a self-drive destination for experienced 4×4 drivers who travel in convoy. Most big safari animals are present including lions and wild dogs. There are no rhino or buffalo.
The park has ample wildlife and there’s a good chance you’ll have most sightings to yourself. Elephant, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, greater kudu and oryx are present, as well as more unusual antelope such as tsessebe and roan. There is a good population of most predators, including lion. The vegetation is much thicker than in some of the semi-desert parks, which makes animal sightings more hit-and-miss.
Animals typically gather at Khaudum’s water sources in the drier months (May to October), so wildlife watchers will want to visit then. Particularly impressive are the elephant herds that trek in from across the Botswana border. Also, although this period aligns with Namibia’s high season, the park is rarely very busy. The landscape is prettier in the wetter months, but roads might be impassable at this time.
11. Mangetti National Park
#11 Best National Parks In Namibia
Mangetti National Park is located in the Kavango region and it was set up in the year 2008 to protect the wild life and vegetation that can be found in the region. It covers about 420 square kilometers and is a home to a wide number of animals and birds.
The parks also has different types of vegetation that are found within and some of them include the Mangetti trees, savannah vegetation and the Kalahari woodland. The dense vegetation that covers most parts of the Mangetti National Park make it hard to spot the wild life and therefore you will need a good tour guide who knows how to track so that you can get to see some of the animals that habitate within the National Park.
The Mangetti National Park is referred to as one of the many new generation Parks that have been set up in the different parts of the country to help improve on the tourism in Namibia which will in return help in reducing the poverty that is experienced in most parts of the rural Namibia.
12. Waterberg Plateau Park
#12 Best National Parks In Namibia
Like a giant fortress, the sheer cliffs that surround the Waterberg Plateau stand tall and proud above the foothills. As if to accentuate their impregnability, this is the only breeding place in Namibia for the Cape vulture, watched over from on high by Verreaux’s (black) eagles. It’s an impressive sight.
Dating back some 200 million years, the sandstone heart of the plateau is imprinted with equally ancient dinosaur footprints. Open grasslands and lush woodlands are dissected by deep ravines, while springs at the base of the escarpment nourish the surrounding plains.
Antelope – from eland to the diminutive Damara dik-dik – thrive in this isolated sanctuary. White rhino have been re-introduced here, along with roan and sable antelope. And while this is classic leopard country, there is competition for the spoils from both cheetah and brown hyena.