You have braved the Namibian desert. You’ve seen sunrise over Fish River Canyon. You’ve hiked to the top of the five million year old sands of Dune 45 in Sossusvlei. Now, you’ve found yourself in Swakopmund. You’re at the southern tip of the Skeleton Coast wondering where your Namibian adventure will take you next.
Wonder NO MORE!!! Post up in the oasis that is Swakopmund. Enjoy first rate restaurants, smooth sealed roads and DO NOT miss the adrenaline pumping activity at the heart of this post: ATV & Sandboarding Namibia style, on the sand dunes just east of town.
ATV & Sandboarding Namibia
This may not sound like the amazing wilderness experience you’ve been seeking in Africa, but I can guarantee this will get your adrenaline pumping and put a huge smile on your face.
There are a few options for tour companies that will take you out on the dunes. We hooked up with Desert Explorers for our excursion. We did the 3 hour combo tour that couples 2 hours on quad bikes with 1 hour of sandboarding. The cost was around $30 USD per person which makes for a great deal on the half day tour that included pick up and drop off.
Once at the Desert Explorers base camp. We were promptly fitted with helmets, given the choice of automatic or manual transmission (the manual is more powerful), then hit with a quick safety briefing. You’ll also be faced with the choice of riding a snowboard or a 2 foot by 5 foot piece of particle board. The sexy choice is obviously the snowboard. After some discussion with our guide however, we loaded up the particle board. More on this later. ON WITH THE TOUR!!! Formalities now out of the way, we’re off and running, kicking up the sand of the Namib Desert!
No matter what your level of experience on a quad, you’ll be fine. Just follow the leader and pay attention to his signals. Paying attention to your guide is of the utmost importance because once you’re out on the sand, it’s hard to tell if you’ve got endless room in front of you or a steep drop off.
Speeding over the dunes makes you feel like Luke Skywalker taking his landspeeder to Toshi Station for power converters. If that’s too nerdy of an analogy for you, it feels like you’re on another planet. Sand for miles in all directions. The sand rises and falls beneath your wheels and feels like you’re aboard your own private roller coaster speeding through the vast Namibian sand-sea. All you can see is sand in all directions…until you reach the top of the highest dunes. You can see the sand give way to the blue waters of the Atlantic. With the ocean in one direction and a sea of sand in the other, you’re ensured other worldly views throughout the tour.
After about an hour swerving and speeding through the sand. You’ll pull over for a water break. It’s time to sandboard. Now, the common idea of sandboarding is snowboarding on sand. Riding on the sand while standing up must be just like riding a snowy mountain in the winter. Sure the principal is the same…except instead of a mile long ski run, imagine your ski run is only 100 yards long. Womp Womp!
HOWEVER, sweeping in to save the day is the 2 by 5 foot piece of waxed particle board. Instead of thinking of sandboarding, think about sand-sledding – this is sandboarding Namibia style . Riding on that waxed piece of wood with your face just inches from the sand is a rush as good as any I’ve had while sledding in the snow. Sand-sledding is the way to go and takes a lot less effort and skill to operate. You’re going to need that energy you saved by choosing a sand sled because unlike the Alps, there are no chair lifts to take you back to the top of the run in the Namib.
Wildlife Encounter, Too!
After sand-sledding, you hop back on your four-wheeled steed and head for camp. If you’re lucky, your guide will find a special treat for you. We got up close and personal with a desert shapeshifter – the chameleon. I have no idea how our guide spotted one 30 yards away while moving at 40 miles per hour, but I’m glad he did. Seeing this little creature crawl ever so slowly and methodically across the sand, made me wonder how it survives. Then, when you see him turn on the camouflage, you know how this guy makes his way. Nature is constantly blowing my mind with its capabilities. But, this was especially amazing to see this take place in real time and in the chameleon’s natural habitat.
The amazing encounter with the chameleon, the thrill of sand -sledding & bombing across the dunes, coupled with the chance to be amongst this awesome landscape where desert meets ocean makes this tour an absolute MUST! The cost is low and the rewards are high.
If you find yourself in Swakopmund, take a break from your African wilderness adventure and hop aboard a four-wheeled chariot. You’ll have stunning views, an adrenaline rush, and hopefully a super cool wildlife encounter! The dunes of Swakopmund are an absolute must do!
What’s your greatest ATV adventure? Have you ever sandboarded? What do you think of our experience sandboarding Namibia style?