Etosha National Park is a fascinating place year-round but it is best to plan your visit according to your own expectations and desires.
Weather plays a major role in game viewing activities as well as comfort levels in the park, and should be taken into account when planning your trip. There are three main seasons in Namibia.
The Cold & Dry Season
Winter in the Southern Hemisphere is from May to August every year, and is the best time to spot wildlife in the game reserves. During this time, the game species congregate around the few remaining water sources, making it easier to pinpoint their location. The vegetation has also died back, which affords less cover to animals and birds aiming to avoid detection.
Conveniently, this time coincides with the summer holidays in Europe, providing a great opportunity for guests from the Northern reaches to visit Namibia. This, as well as the excellent game viewing opportunities, means that accommodation is at a premium during this time. One should book well in advance to visit Etosha during this peak time and be prepared to share the park with the crowds.
Etosha pan is at its driest during the winter and the stark white landscapes shimmering in the sunlight make for amazing photographic opportunities and a chance to truly appreciate the vastness of this natural phenomenon.
You can expect temperatures of between 18C and 25C during the day, but nightfall can cause the mercury to drop below zero at times.
The Hot & Dry Season
From August until the onset of the September rains it is hot and dry in Etosha. The game viewing and photographic opportunities are excellent but daytime temperatures start to escalate, deterring all but the hardiest visitors. If you do not mind the heat, this can be the best time to enjoy Etosha.
The Hot & Wet Season
From September onwards, a large variety of birds from the northern hemisphere make their way to Etosha in anticipation of the rainy season. Although unpredictable, the rains generally start in the Eastern section of the park and progress westward – with the wettest month being February. Daytime temperatures can be in excess of 40C with the average being around 25-35C.
It is during the rainy season that the miracle happens. Etosha shakes off its dusty lunar landscape and becomes a flourishing paradise burgeoning with life. Thousands upon thousands of birds flock to this watery haven in the summertime, as the pan fills up with water from the rains and becomes a lake attracting the flamingos and other wetland birds.
Many of the large game species, such as elephant, make their way to the wetter northern areas of the park and the wild animals become more dispersed as increasing food and water sources become available. A large number of young animals are born during this time and it is a delight to watch them frolicking alongside their mothers.
For the best game-viewing opportunities it is best to enlist the help of park rangers, who will be happy to fill you in regarding the location of game during the rainy season.