The Namib Sand Sea

UNESCO World Heritage Site #261: the Namib Sand Sea
My 261st UNESCO World Heritage Site: The Namib Sand Sea

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Namib Sand Sea lies along the arid African coast of the South Atlantic lying wholly within Namibia’s Namib-Naukluft Park. It covers an area of 3,077,700 hectares, with an additional 899,500 hectares designated as a buffer zone.

The Namib Sand Sea is a unique coastal fog desert encompassing a diverse array of large, shifting dunes. It is an outstanding example of the scenic, geomorphological, ecological and evolutionary consequences of wind-driven processes interacting with geology and biology. The sand sea includes most known types of dunes together with associated landforms such as inselbergs, pediplains, and playas, formed through aeolian depositional processes. It is a place of outstanding natural beauty where atmospheric conditions provide exceptional visibility of landscape features by day and the dazzling southern hemisphere sky at night.

Life in the fog-bathed coastal dunes of the Namib Sand Sea is characterised by very rare behavioural, morphological and physiological adaptations that have evolved throughout its specialist communities. The large number of endemic plants and animals are globally-important examples of evolution and the resilience of life in extreme environments.

There are some world heritage sites that you can visit in under and hour and see everything there is to see. There are others which take days to explore properly. The Namib Desert is one of the later.

Prior to a conference I was attending in Namibia, I explored the desert for 5 days with a group in 4×4 vehicles. We went up, down, over and across dunes. We camped in the middle of nowhere with nothing but sand and stars. I even drove down a dune that was over 100m (300ft) tall that terminated at coast of the Atlantic!

I’ve been to many deserts around the world, but nothing quite compares with the size and scale of the dunes in Namibia. If and when I get around to creating my own personal list of the wonders of the world, I think the dunes of the Namib desert will be on it.

Visiting the Namib is best done from the cities of Walvis Bay or Swakopmund on the Atlantic coast. From either city there are trips available which will take you into the dunes as well as sightseeing flights which will take you over the desert. I did both and I can highly recommend doing both as each gives you a different view of the desert.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.