Sand dunes come in many different guises and provide for a unique range of unusual activities ...
Sand dunes can be incredible photogenic, especially in the early light of dawn. By far the best known location for this is the Sossusvlei
area of Namibia Southwest, but you can also take great dune photos in locations throughout the western deserts.
Undoubtedly the most exciting desert experience is driving through a dune sea in a safari vehicle. This is a real adrenaline rush, since you need to gather a great deal of speed on the down slopes in order to reach the top of the next up slope. The difficulty is often compounded by a complete loss of perspective, where you literally cannot tell whether the next dune is 3 metres or 30 metres high until you start to climb it.
Naturally dune driving is a great skill and can only be undertaken in the company of a very experienced and capable guide. Often for longer desert traverses you will also need multiple vehicles, winches and satellite phones to call for helicopter recovery.
The best locations for this are in the remote parts of Namibia, notably on the Skeleton Coast Expedition
and Namib Desert Expeditions
Even in the most inhospitable sand deserts there is life, tracking it down and observing it can be extremely rewarding. This is particularly interesting in the Namibrand
area of southwest Namibia.
At Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp
in northwest Namibia it is possible to visit some remarkable oases in the middle of the coastal dune sea, where elephants can occasionally be seen surfing down the dunes and plunging into the waters.
The sand dunes of the Kalahari Desert, which covers much of eastern Namibia and most of Botswana, are fossilised and vegetated with mopane scrub. But they remain distinctly dune shaped and are home to some considerable wildlife, which can congregate in vast numbers during the occasional Dec/Feb rain showers, notably in the Central Kalahari area.
This activity is most commonly undertaken out of the town of Swakopmund
on the coast of Namibia, where there are some very large and accessible dune with steep scarp faces.
On a much smaller scale, but more remote and arguably more fun, is the modest sand-boarding offered on the coastal sand dunes at Morukuru Ocean House
in the De Hoop area of the Cape in South Africa.
We have also enjoyed improvised sand-boarding out of a number of desert camps in Namibia, fashioning our own boards out of cardboard boxes and string, sometimes in the most outrageously remote places where it seems almost flippant to be having so much fun when we should probably be worrying about survival.