World Heritage #1430 – Namib Sand Sea

Last modified 30.10.2022 | Published 21.07.2018Middle East and Africa, Namibia, World Heritage Sites

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The Namib Sand Sea is huge and contains some of the world’s tallest sand dunes. It beckons us into hidden valleys. For these and more reasons it is rapidly becoming a very popular destination.

The UNESCO World Heritage List consists of more than a thousand properties of outstanding universal value. They are all part of the world’s cultural and natural heritage.

Official facts

  • Country: Namibia
  • Date of Inscription: 2013
  • Category: Natural site

UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre’s short description of site no. 1430:

Namib Sand Sea is the only coastal desert in the world that includes extensive dune fields influenced by fog. Covering an area of over three million hectares and a buffer zone of 899,500 hectares, the site is composed of two dune systems, an ancient semi-consolidated one overlain by a younger active one. The desert dunes are formed by the transportation of materials thousands of kilometres from the hinterland, that are carried by river, ocean current and wind.

It features gravel plains, coastal flats, rocky hills, inselbergs within the sand sea, a coastal lagoon and ephemeral rivers, resulting in a landscape of exceptional beauty. Fog is the primary source of water in the site, accounting for a unique environment in which endemic invertebrates, reptiles and mammals adapt to an ever-changing variety of microhabitats and ecological niches.

My visit

I have been to a number of deserts around the world. This was my first real sand desert. I arrived in the eastern part of the Namibian desert in 2018.

Here I spent an afternoon and the next day climbing sand dunes and walking across dried out river and lake basins. It was an adventure out of this world. Even the roads in and out offered spectacular views. Surrounding it a stone desert stretches out in almost all directions of Namibia. In the west the sand meets the Atlantic Ocean. This is tough territory. Only the most adapt animals and organic life forms are able to survive. 

I never suspected that sand dunes would be this tall. One may consider climbing heights of 300 metres an accomplishment on solid ground. In sand, every step is an accomplishment. Enjoy the images from the Sesriem area of the desert, including some from the wonderful Dead Vlei. 

Read my introduction to the safari in southern Africa.

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