Wedged between the Atlantic coast and the Kalahri Desert, Namibia is one of Africa’s hidden gems that is slowly emerging as a popular tourist destination, with safaris in Namibia high on the to do list. A sense of freedom is generated by an epic, empty landscape with wide horizons, unpolluted skies and one of the world’s lowest population densities. These facts, combined with a plethora of large game animals and a frontier feel make Namibia the ultimate photography or self-drive safari destination, and too bad either if you’re looking for an indulgent luxury safari experience.
The Namib Desert is the world’s oldest desert, and a predominant feature of the country, extending all the way up the Atlantic coast on the western side of the country. The desert is scored by a number of rivers coming down from the Central Plateau – most of which are now permanently dry, or only flow during the rainy summer months. The north of Namibia is dominated by the huge, permanently flowing rivers of the Kuene, Kavango land Zambezi, which make up the borders with Angola, Botswana and Zambia respectivley. This part of the country is lush and green with dense woodlands most of the year, and home to several small national parks that teem with wildlife and birdlife. The rest of the country is made up of scrubby bush land of the higher Central Plateau, trailing off into the Kalahri desert in the east.
Wildlife in Namibia is varied, and taking a safari in Namibia will allow you the opportunity to see all of Southern Africa’s mammals. As well as the big five, the Namib Desert is home to the exceptional and endemic desert-adapted elephant and rhino. In the Namib Desert and elsewhere in Namibia a truly extraordinary fact is that the country has one of the densest congregations of animals in the world, combined with one of the sparsest human populations, making for fantastic wildlife viewing. Unlike much of the rest of Africa habitat destruction is not generally an issue in Namibia, and you can expect to see large mammals roaming the wilderness as you drive between Namibian national parks or towns. This means you need to be ready for a safari experience in Namibia at any time you’re not in a town!
Namibia Safari Highlights
- Discover the sand dunes of Sossusvlei with a pre-dawn game drive and hike to top of a dune to watch the sun rise over the Namib desert.
- Take a self-drive safari tour around accessible but wild Etosha National Park – widely regarded as one of the world’s premier national parks.
- Visit the jaw-dropping 100km long, 26km wide Fish River Canyon in the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park – the world’s second largest canyon after the Grand Canyon in the US.
Best Time To Go On Safari In Namibia
As with the rest of Southern Africa, Namibia experiences summer between November and March and winter from May to August. From August temperatures keep rising until October when the first rains start to arrive in the northern areas, followed by large amounts of rain and occasional flash-flooding.
The best time to go on safari in Namibia depends on where you’re going, and what you’d like to see. October to March is the best time to visit Namibia’s coast around Walvis Bay and Sossusvleias as the climate provides a pleasant respite from the heated interior. If you’re travelling through the Skeleton Coast region the climate is similar year round, with regular mist and winds.
For the inland areas of Namibia – including the Namib desert, Etosha and Kavango regions, the cooler months from April September provide temperatures far more bearable than summer months. Between May and September thirsty animals gather at diminishing waterholes, making it the best time to go to Etosha for game viewing.
National Parks In Namibia
Namibia is an enormous country, and one with large tracts given over to national parks. Click on a Namibian national park in the below list to read more about that specific park:
- Babwata National Park
- Cape Cross Seal Reserve
- Etosha National Park
- Fish River Canyon National Park
- Khaudum National Park
- Mamili National Park
- Mudumu National Park
- Namib Naukluft National Park
- Skeleton Coast National Park
- Sperrgebiet National Park
- Waterberg National Park
Safari Lodges In Namibia
Much like it’s neighbor Botswana, Namibia doesn’t see huge tourist numbers and has a focus on either low-impact, high-end safaris, or self-drive safaris. Safari accommodation on offer in Namibia reflects this, with a broad range of high-end safari lodges around the national parks, and excellent camping facilities for self-drivers attached to most safari lodges. If you want accommodation in a national park, this must be booked in person or by phone with Namibia Wildlife Resorts, who take care of all of Namibia’s national parks.
Search here for Namibia safari accommodation:
Namibia Safari Tours
With a fairly well developed regional and international inbound tourist market, Namibia has lots of wildlife activities and safaris on offer. These are supported and promoted by a broad range of safari tour targeting budgets of all sizes and trips of all lengths – from half days trips from the capital Windhoek to two or four week driving expeditions. Check out our reviews of safari tour companies in Namibia.
Namibia Safari Resources
Have you been on safari in Namibia? We’d love to hear your thoughts or suggestions! Please get in touch.
Namibia is an enormous country, and one with large tracts given over to national parks. This gives Namibia the impressive status of being the country with the highest ratio of animals to humans in the world: In short, Namibia’s national parks are fantastic places to visit for safaris and wildlife watching. A word of warning – the distances between national parks can be huge, and very few roads are tarmacked. A 2WD will serve most of the year in most parts of the country, but rainy season will see even 4WDs struggling in some areas on a driving safari in Namibia. All national parks in Namibia are administered by the extremely efficient Namibia Wildlife Resorts.
Use the above map to locate national parks in Namibia. Click the safari icons to see more info about each national park and zoom and scroll the map for more details. Read overviews of each Namibia national park below.
Top National Parks in Namibia
Babwata National Park
Small national park in Caprivi Strip, unique in that it houses both a large animal population and a large human population.
Cape Cross Seal Reserve
More seals breed at Cape Cross that anywhere else in the world, so if you like seals you’re in for a treat.
Etosha National Park
A classic African national park – with excellent visitor facilities – housing the “big five” and much more in plains surrounding the huge central pan.
Fish River Canyon National Park
A rugged desert wilderness home to the awe-inspiring Fish River Canyon – the world’s second largest canyon.
Khaudum National Park
Remote and wild national park hidden away in the Kavango Region is home to large elephant herds and packs of the endangered wild dogs. A visit here is not to be taken lightly.
Mamili National Park
Little visited .national park in Namibia’s northern Caprivi Strip, offering plenty of classic African wildlife a true wilderness experience.
Mudumu National Park
A riverine national park with undisturbed mopane forest, flood plains and swamps. Unsurprisingly, water-living creatures feature large – crocodiles, hippos, elephants, otters, turtles.
Namib Naukluft National Park
Namibia’s largest park, and one of the world’s oldest and most intensely studied deserts.
Skeleton Coast National Park
Take a drive through one of the world’s most inhospitable spots, with alien landscapes and ancient shipwrecks adding atmosphere.
Sperrgebiet National Park
Recently established desert national park on Namibia’s “forbidden coast”, home to ghost towns, Atlantic coast and hyenas.
Waterberg National Park
Rising 200m above the dry African savannah, the lush green Waterberg Plateau unique in terms of vegetation and geological makeup.
Whilst self drive safaris are a definite option in Namibia – given most national parks in the country allow this – there are still a number of quality safari tour companies in Namibia that you may want to speak to before arrival in the country.
Have you been to a national park in Namibia, or got some useful information you’d like to share on the topic? Please feel free to get involved in the comments section below.