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Top 5: African deserts

Africa’s deserts are as varied as they are vast, with options to sandboard down dunes and gawp at lunar landscapes of towering rock formations

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Kalahari Desert. Image: Getty

Kalahari Desert. Image: Getty

01 Kalahari Desert, Botswana/Namibia/South Africa
With its majestic reserves, fields and gushing waterfalls, this stretch of crimson sand is one of the world’s last unspoiled ecosystems. Tick off wildlife spotting at the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park — host to more than 1,100 predators — and pump the adrenalin as you sandboard down dunes.

Namib Desert. Image: Getty

Namib Desert. Image: Getty

02 Namib Desert, Namibia/Angola/South Africa
Stretching 1,200 miles along Africa’s Atlantic coast, the rugged Namib is remote, barren and home to more endemic species than any other desert. Dating back 55 million years, this arid hotspot is one of the oldest deserts in the world.

Karoo Desert, South Africa. Image: Getty

Karoo Desert, South Africa. Image: Getty

03 Karoo Desert, South Africa
Covering more than 100,000sq miles of South Africa’s Cape region, this semi-desert has two sub-regions: the northern Great Karoo and the southern Little Karoo, featuring mountains, savannah and grassland — even a botanic garden.

Sahara Desert, North Africa. Image: Getty

Sahara Desert, North Africa. Image: Getty

04 Sahara Desert, North Africa
Also known as the Great Desert, the Sahara covers most of North Africa. Comprising 8% of the world’s land, it stretches across 11 countries and comprises lush oases, over 1,000 species of flora, shifting dunes, mountains and salt flats.

White Desert, Egypt. Image: Getty

White Desert, Egypt. Image: Getty

05 White Desert, Egypt
Bizarre rock formations make up this sandy desert in Egypt’s Farafra Oasis. White chalk yardangs (pinnacles), created by frequent sandstorms, are the overriding feature of the lunar landscape. Pair your visit with a dip in the Bir Sitta hot springs.


Published in the May 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)