Known in colonial times as German South West Africa, the name Namibia derives from a word meaning “vast place”. This aptly describes a country more than three times the size of the UK, yet with fewer than 2.5 million inhabitants.
Much of Namibia is either desert or semi-desert, with very low rainfall. The capital (and largest city), Windhoek, gets about 360mm (roughly 14 inches) of rain a year, almost all between spring and autumn, from October through to April. Temperatures here also vary from season to season, from an average daily maximum of 30C (86F), peaking at 36C, at the height of summer, to a more comfortable 20C in winter, helped by the capital’s altitude of 1,730 metres (5,670ft) above sea level.
Along the coast conditions are very different. Here, temperatures remain lower than we might expect all year round, because of the influence of the cold Benguela current, which flows northwards from the chilly southern Atlantic Ocean and brings low cloud and frequent fogs.
As a result, temperatures are mostly in the low 20s, while there is virtually no rain: a matter of fractions of a millimetre, making this one of the driest spots in Africa. With its sand dunes and unique wildlife, the Namib desert, which runs along the coast, is one of the most spectacular places on the planet.