Given that over a quarter of Africa is technically desert, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding one to explore. Most of them are inhospitable, true, but as Bear Grylls has taught us: life finds a way. And just because they’re usually sandy, it doesn’t follow that all deserts are the same. The wind-sculpted waves of the Namib sand are a world away from the golden haze of the Sahara. Just remember to ignore those shimmering ‘FREE ice-cold lemonade’ stands you might see among the dunes (we speak from experience).
With shifting sands, lost cities and nomadic tribes, the Sahara is the big daddy of all deserts. Blanketing northern Africa, the world’s second-largest desert (after Antarctica – good trivia, that) is a formidable natural force, capable of some of the harshest conditions known to humans. Clear skies and no cloud cover also equal some truly world-class stargazing, especially in the rocky valleys of southern Morocco. Water bottle? Check. Telescope? Check. Adventure? Check.
The Namib is what happens when deserts decide to show off. The famous sand dunes of Sossusvlei are sculpted by the winds into stunning yin-yang waves of light and shade. From the crest of Dune 45 (okay so the names could use some work) you can see 30 million years worth of scorched red sands, a quilt of shadow and heat stretching over the world’s oldest desert.