Namib Desert, Namibia

Quad bikes in the vast Namib Desert near Swakopmund, Namibia.

Part of the vast Namib Desert near Swakopmund in August, mid winter.

The Namib Desert runs the whole length of Namibia’s coastline from Angola to South Africa like a vast beach, encompassing the Skeleton Coast en route. But it’s not quite sand all the way, with Swakopmund, Luderitz, Walvis Bay and a couple of smaller towns breaking up the monotony.

Swakopmund is the favoured base for Namibian activities, including quad biking, horse riding, dune boarding, parachuting, seal kayaking and more, while the main free options are surfing (in the cold, cold Atlantic) and dune climbing.

Here’s a tip for quad biking in the Namib Desert: Go with a company that is based more-or-less in the desert and will shuttle you there, rather than one on the edge of town that means you spend half your bike time driving to and from the dunes, not in the dunes.

Best time to travel in the Namib Desert
Winter, June-September, when the temperatures are bearable.

Sand boarding in the Namib Desert, Namibia

Sand boarding in the Namib.

People from inland locations such as Windhoek head for this region during the summer as the cool Atlantic waters moderate temperatures to something approaching bearable, though a thick sea mist – especially in the mornings – is a frequent result of cold water.

Dune 7 is another popular climb and sandboard target. About 20 miles (30kms) from Swakopmund it’s a bit of a climb but local authorities have set up picnic tables so the family can watch Dad have a heart attack while showing off. There is – or probably was, as these businesses come and go at the rate of a downhill boarder – a company that will take you up, and up, and up Dune 7 on a quad bike to save boarders the uphill struggle.

Some other activities available in the Swakopmund/Namib Desert area

• scrambling the dunes around Walvis Bay, not necessarily as high as Dune 7! Free.
• surfing Swakopmund – a bit north or a bit south for the best waves.
• Hot Air Balloon or Microlight flights. Pricey but sensational.
• take a camel or horse safari.
• sky diving.
• do a tour to see the Welwitschia plants, Cape Fur Seals at Cape Cross, the Swakop River and the Namib dunes and desert.