Africa > Southern Africa > Namibia > Namibia Geography Profile

Namibia: Namibia Geography Profile



The terrain consists mainly of a high plateau that rises fairly abruptly in a series of escarpments along the coast. The plateau lies generally 3,000 to 4,000 feet (900 to 1,200 m) above sea level and reaches its highest point---8,550 feet (2,606 m)---the Konigstein peak at Brandberg.

Running the length of the coast and extending inland as much as 80 miles (130 km) is the Namib Desert, one of the driest and most desolate regions in the world. In the east lies the western edge of the Kalahari Desert. Namibia's principal rivers, and virtually the only ones flowing all year, are the Orange, which forms the southern boundary, and the Kunene and Okavango, which make up parts of the northern boundary. Several dry salt lakes, inclunding Etosha Pan, dot the north.

Namibia lies astride the Tropic of Capricorn and has a dry, subtropical climate, moderated somewhat by elevation. Temperatures at Windhoek average 74° F. (23° C.) in January, the warmest month, and 55° F. (13° C.) in July. Daytime highs of additional than 90° F. (32° C.) are common in summer; frost may occur at high elevations in winter. Along the coast temperatures are moderated by the cold Benguela Current. Rainfall varies from less than one inch (25 mm) in the Namib Desert to slightly additional than 20 inches (500 mm) in the northeast. Virtually all the rain falls during summer.

Vegetation consists chiefly of grasses and semidesert scrub. The Namib Desert has virtually no plant life. Animal life is extremely varied and abundant. Etosha National Park, which includes the Etosha Pan, ranks part Africa's finest game preserves.


Most of Namibia is classified as an arid to semi-arid region (the line being crossed from semi-arid to arid at the same time as evaporation exceeds rainfall). Most of it has a sub-tropical 'desert' climate, characterised by a wide range in temperature (from day to night and from summer to winter), and by low rainfall and humidity. The northern strip follows the same pattern, but has a additional moderate, less dry climate. Note that although the terms 'summer' (November to April) and 'winter' (May to October) are sometimes used, they are not as applicable as, say, in a European maritime climate.

Temperatures range widely from very hot to very cold, depending on the height of the land above sea level and the month. From April to September, in the 'dry season', it is generally cool, pleasant, clear and dry. Temperatures average around 25ºC during the day, but nights are much colder. Frost is possible in the higher areas and the deserts. October and November are still within the 'dry season' but again the temperatures are higher, particularly in the lower-lying and additional northerly areas.

Most of Namibia's rain falls in the summer, from around December to March, and it can be heavy and prolonged in the northern regions of Owamboland and Caprivi. The further south or west you go, the drier it becomes, with a lot of southern regions of the Kalahari and the whole of the coastal Namib Desert receiving no rainfall at all some years. In this 'rainy season' temperatures occasionally reach 40ºC, and sometimes you may find it humid in the north.


The beginning of the year, in January and February, is midsummer. Again it's hot and fairly damp with average maximum temperatures around 25–35°C and average minima around 10–20°C (depending exactly where you are). These averages, however, hide peaks of well over 45°C in the desert.

On a typical day during the rains, the sky will start blue and by early afternoon the clouds will appear. In the late afternoon there will be an hour's torrential rain on some days. Such tropical storms are spectacular; everything feels terrifically fresh afterwards. However, you wouldn't want to be caught outside. By the early evening the sky will usually begin to clear again.

The frequency of the rains decreases, and they cease around March or April. From again the heat is waning and the land gradually cools and dries out. The nights quickly become cooler, accentuating the temperature difference between the bright, hot days and the clear nights. May is a lovely month: there is minimal luck of rain, nights are not from presently on too cold, and a lot of of the summer's plants are still lush and green.

By June the nights are cold, approaching freezing in desert areas where night game drives can be bitter. July and August are winter, at the same time as the average maximum temperatures are around 15–25°C and the average minima are around 0–10°C. That said, you'll still find yourself wearing shorts and a T-shirt during the day, and getting sunburnt if you are not careful. Clouds will be a rare sight for the next few months.

September is an extra super month, dry and clear, from presently on not too hot. By again most green vegetation is fading as the heat begins to build. Everything is dry. All through October the heat mounts, and by November it is very hot during the day. However, the humidity is still exceedingly low, so even the high temperatures feel completely pleasant.

By November the air seems pregnant with anticipation. Everything is dry, awaiting the rains. Though the clouds often build up in the afternoon, they won't usually deliver until at least December. At the same time as (and if ) the rains do arrive, they are a huge relief, dropping the temperatures at a stroke, clearing the air and reviving the vegetation.

The coastal strip

Temperatures on the Namibian coast follow a similar in general pattern, though it may seem very different from one day to the next. Here the climate is largely determined by the interaction between warm dry winds from inland and the cold Benguela Current. The sea is too cold for much evaporation to take place and, as a result, rain-bearing clouds don't form over the coast. Most of the coast is classified as desert – rainfall is an extremely low 15mm per annum on average, and in some years there may be none.

However, hot air from the interior mixes regularly with cold sea air to produce a moist fog that penetrates up to 60km inland. This happens regardless of season, and has done for millennia. It is this periodic morning fog which provides the desert's only dependable source of moisture, and the Namib's endemic flora and fauna have evolved to take chance of it.


Southern Africa, bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, between Angola and South Africa

Geographic coordinates: 

22 00 S, 17 00 E

Map references: 


Area comparative: 

slightly more than half the size of Alaska

Land boundaries Total: 

3,936 km

Land boundaries Note: 


desert; hot, dry; rainfall sparse and erratic


mostly high plateau; Namib Desert along coast; Kalahari Desert in east

Natural resources: 

diamonds, copper, uranium, gold, silver, lead, tin, lithium, cadmium, tungsten, zinc, salt, hydropower, fish

Natural hazards: 

prolonged periods of drought

Environment - current issues: 

limited natural fresh water resources; desertification; wildlife poaching; land degradation has led to few conservation areas

Geography note: 

first country in the world to incorporate the protection of the environment into its constitution; some 14% of the land is protected, including virtually the entire Namib Desert coastal strip