Namib Sand Sea declared World Heritage Site

People and parks uniting in harmony
June 20, 2013
Tourism and Wildlife Concessions
June 21, 2013
People and parks uniting in harmony
June 20, 2013
Tourism and Wildlife Concessions
June 21, 2013

It’s official. Bated breath turned to utter relief in the early morning hours of Friday, 21 June, when it was announced that the Namib Sand Sea has been declared as a natural World Heritage Site. This is the second UNESCO World Heritage site for Namibia.

Namibia’s delegation to the 37th Session of the World Heritage Committee meeting held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, cheered at the announcement and eagerly began spreading the happy news this morning. 

The Namib Sand Sea (as the Southern Namib Erg) was identified as a potential World Heritage site in 2002. Preparation for the nomination of the Namib Sand Sea started in 2009. The dossier listing the criteria needed for World Heritage inscription was compiled during 2011 under the leadership of Dr Mary Seely of the Gobabeb Research and Training Centre. The dossier was presented to the World Heritage committee in 2012. 

The 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage makes provision for sites to be inscribed as cultural, natural or mixed (having both natural and cultural values). 

Namibia’s first world heritage site, Twyfelfontein, was inscribed in 2007 as a cultural site. The Namib Sand Sea is Namibia’s first natural World Heritage site. 

©Christie Keulder Namib dunes

©Christie Keulder Namib dunes

The Namib Sand Sea area, now an official World Heritage site, comprises a large part of the Namib Naukluft Park. It includes favourite tourist destinations such as Sossusvlei and Sandwich Harbour. 

The inscribed area stretches from the Kuiseb River southwards to include approximately 66% of the Central Namib dune sea. The inscribed Sand Sea covers an area of 30,777 square kilometres with an additional 899,500 hectares designated as a buffer zone. 

The document handed over to the World Heritage committee during the current session held in Cambodia noted that “The Namib Sand is a unique coastal fog desert encompassing a diverse array of large, shifting dunes. It is an outstanding example of the scenic, geomorphological, ecological and evolutionary consequences of wind-driven processes interacting with geology and biology”.

The document further notes that “life in the fog-bathed coastal dunes of the Namib Sand Sea is characterised by very rare behavioural, morphological and physiological adaptations that have evolved throughout its specialist communities. The large number of endemic plants and animals are globally important examples of evolution and the resilience of life in extreme environments”. 

Namibia won’t rest on it’s laurels however. It is envisaged that that Namib Sand Sea World Heritage site will be further extended in future to include other extensive sand seas in the Sperrgebiet Park and the Skeleton Coast Park. 


  • There are currently 962 World Heritage sites in the world
  • There are 90 World Heritage sites in Africa
  • 42 of the African sites are natural sites
  • Many African sites face the possibility of being stripped of the inscription due to management problems
  • 84% of the Namib Sand Sea is covered by shifting sand dunes
  • There are 16 types of dunes in the Namib Sand Sea
  • The total number of species in the sand sea, fauna and flora, is approximately 2356
  • 16 endemic species reside in the Namib Sand Sea.

1 Comment

  1. Adelie says:

    Congratulations Dr Seely and thank you!

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