The best time to visit Etosha National Park

written by
Dre Roelandt

updated 21.02.2024

Nestled within the arid landscapes of northern Namibia, Etosha National Park emerges as a sanctuary of life amidst the stark wilderness. Encompassing over 22,000 square kilometers of pristine terrain, this iconic park stands as one of Africa's most revered conservation areas, offering visitors a glimpse into the untamed beauty and diverse ecosystems of the region. Named after the vast Etosha salt pan that dominates its heart, the park boasts a unique blend of desert, savanna, and woodland habitats, each teeming with a remarkable array of wildlife. Here is our guide to the best time to visit Etosha National Park.

When's the best time to visit Etosha National Park?

The best time to visit Etosha National Park depends mostly on what you’d like to experience during your trip. This area of Namibia is known for its semi-arid climate with distinct wet and dry seasons. 

Most choose to visit during the dry season, spanning from May to October, the park experiences clear skies and minimal rainfall. Daytime temperatures soar, often reaching between 25°C to 35°C (77°F to 95°F), while nights cool down to 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F). Vegetation becomes sparse, and wildlife congregates around waterholes, providing exceptional game-viewing opportunities. 

Dusty conditions persist throughout the year, especially during the dry season, when winds can stir up dust, reducing visibility. The park's expansive salt pans, notably the Etosha Pan, can create mirages, adding to the surreal ambiance of the environment. 

However, this is also the peak tourist season, so the park can be more crowded, and accommodations may be booked quickly.

Conversely, the wet season, occurring from November to April, brings higher temperatures and sporadic heavy rainfall. Days remain warm, ranging from 30°C to 40°C (86°F to 104°F), with nights becoming milder, typically above 15°C (59°F). 

The landscape transforms into lush greenery, and wildlife disperses across the park as seasonal pans and waterholes fill up. This period is less crowded, and accommodations may offer lower rates.

No matter what time of year you end up visiting, a trip to Etosha National Park is for many a once in a lifetime opportunity, and one of the best things to do in Namibia

Sunset in Etosha, Namibia © Lottie Gross

Sunset in Etosha, Namibia © Lottie Gross

Weather month by month

Here’s a month-by-month breakdown of the best time to visit Etosha National Park:

January

January is the middle of the rainy season in Namibia, so you can expect lush greenery and vibrant landscapes. Wildlife viewing is still good, although animals disperse more widely due to the availability of water sources throughout the park.

Birdwatching is excellent during this time, with many migratory bird species present. Temperatures range from 35°C (95°F) - 20°C (68°F).

February

Similar to January, February experiences lush vegetation and occasional rainfall. Temperatures typically range from 34°C (93°F) - 20°C (68°F).  Wildlife sightings can be challenging as animals have more options for water sources, but predators are still active around waterholes. Birdwatching remains a highlight.

March

March marks the end of the rainy season, with decreasing rainfall and drying landscapes.

Wildlife viewing improves as animals start to congregate around fewer water sources, making them easier to spot. Birdwatching remains excellent, especially as migratory birds prepare to depart. You can expect temperatures from 32°C (89°F) - 18°C (64°F).

Lion cubs in Etosha National Park, Namibia

The best time to visit Etosha National Park depends on your preferences

April

April is the transition period between the rainy and dry season, with temperatures typically ranging from 30°C (86°F) - 15°C (59°F). Vegetation starts to thin out, making wildlife sightings easier. Waterholes become key gathering points for animals, offering excellent opportunities for viewing a variety of species.

May

May is the beginning of the dry season, with cooler temperatures (typically 28°C (82°F) -   11°C (52°F)) and clear skies. Wildlife congregates around waterholes in large numbers, providing fantastic game viewing. Vegetation continues to dry out, making animal sightings more frequent.

June

June marks the start of the peak tourist season in Etosha. The weather is dry and cool, perfect for game drives. Temperatures range from 25°C (77°F) - 8°C (46°F).

Wildlife viewing is excellent, with large herds of elephants, zebras, giraffes, and antelopes gathering around waterholes.

Floodlit watering holes, Etosha, Namibia

Floodlit watering holes, Etosha, Namibia

July

July is the heart of the dry season, with very little rainfall and clear skies.

Wildlife congregates around permanent water sources, providing outstanding game-viewing opportunities. It's the peak tourist season, so the park can be busy, especially around popular waterholes.

Temperatures are usually ranging from 25°C (77°F) - 7°C (45°F).

August

August offers similar conditions to July, with dry and cool weather - typically 28°C (82°F) -  9°C (48°F). Wildlife viewing remains excellent, with predators like lions and cheetahs often seen hunting around waterholes.

It's still the peak tourist season, so book accommodation and activities well in advance.

September

September marks the end of the dry season, with temperatures starting to rise with temperatrures typically ranging from 32°C (89°F) - 14°C (57°F). Wildlife sightings are still excellent, but animals may start to disperse as water becomes more scarce.

Birdwatching is particularly good as resident bird species become more active.

Etosha-Namibia-shutterstock_1209234511

The best time to visit Etosha National Park is when wildlife flocks to watering holes  © Shutterstock

October

October is the hottest month in Etosha as temperatures continue to rise with a range of 35°C (95°F) - 17°C (63°F) on average. Wildlife viewing can be challenging as water sources dry up, and animals disperse further into the bush. Birdwatching remains good, especially around remaining waterholes.

November

November is the start of the rainy season, with occasional afternoon thunderstorms. Vegetation starts to regrow, and water sources replenish, attracting wildlife back to the plains. It's a quieter time for tourists, offering a more tranquil safari experience. Temperatures remain warm with a range of 35°C (95°F) - 19°C (66°F).

December

December sees increasing rainfall, leading to lush greenery and blooming flowers.

Wildlife viewing is good as animals congregate around newly filled water sources. Birdwatching is excellent with the return of migratory bird species. Temperatures are warm, with a range of 35°C (95°F) - 19°C (66°F).

Planning your trip? See our guide to the weather in Namibia.

Animals at wateringhole, Etosha © Lottie Gross

Animals at watering hole, Etosha © Lottie Gross

Best time for a safari in Etosha National Park

Planning your safari adventure? Here's the lowdown on the best time to visit this iconic wilderness:

Dry season (May to October)

This is considered the best time for wildlife viewing as animals tend to congregate around water sources, making them easier to spot. Dusty plains and leafless trees mean clearer sightlines, making it easier to spot elusive predators and other fascinating creatures. 

The cooler months of June to August are particularly good for wildlife viewing as animals are more active during the cooler parts of the day.

Wet season (November to April)

While wildlife viewing is still possible during the wet season, it can be more challenging as animals disperse across the park due to the availability of water in various areas. However, this time of year can be great for birdwatching as migratory birds flock to the park.

The landscape transforms with lush greenery, and vibrant flowers paint the scenery, offering a different kind of beauty.

Giraffe in Etosha, Namibia © Lottie Gross

Giraffe in Etosha, Namibia © Lottie Gross

Planning your trip to Namibia

If you're eager to explore Namibia, why not entrust the planning to professionals? Our tailor-made trip service offers you the opportunity to bypass the extensive hours typically required for holiday planning. Crafted by local travel experts, our trips are fully tailored to suit your preferences, ensuring a memorable experience.

  • Wilderness Safaris by Flight (8 days): Explore Namibia's remote deserts, luxury lodges, safari camps, and iconic sights—from Sossusvlei's vast dunes to Damaraland's rugged landscapes and Kaokoveld's remote beauty.
  • Epic Gondwana Adventure: Deserts, Ocean and Wilderness (14 days):  Discover Namibia's diverse landscapes, from the Kalahari to the Namib, coastal regions to Damaraland, ending with an unforgettable stay in Etosha National Park.
  • Ultimate Self Drive in Namibia (10 days): A 10-day self-guided journey through Namibia exploring highlights like the Namib desert, Himba people, and Etosha National Park.
Dre Roelandt

written by
Dre Roelandt

updated 21.02.2024

Dre Roelandt is originally from the United States but lives and works in Berlin, Germany. Dre is a freelance writer and artist with a passion for travelling. They are an in-house Content Editor at Rough Guides.

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