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Namib Dune Sea

The Namibian Stamps and Stories Collection pay homage to the country’s history, culture, wildlife, and geography. The Sand Dunes of the Namib honors the vast sand sea, an indelible thread in her tapestry, that runs along the coast. 

stamp Dune - 2_Star Dunes web namib dune seaThe Namib is a coastal desert, or dune sea, in southern Africa, possibly the oldest desert in the world. It stretches along the Atlantic coast for more than 2,000 kilometers, from Angola, through Namibia and into South Africa’s Western Cape. From the west, it extends inland for up to 200 kilometres, ascending as it does.

Dunes actually comprise only 35 percent of the Namib dune sea. Most of it is gravel plains with rocky outcrops, salt pans, and transient rivers. All it takes for the genesis of a dune is a small obstruction such as a stone or weed. Add wind-born sand that gets caught, and a dune is born.

The Namib dune sea is a magical place where the landscape is constantly in motion in a never-ending dance with the wind. Shapes evolve as stars, crescents, or linear formations. Dunes are also known to sing or roar.

Coloured by minerals, hues shift from pale gray to burnt orange and brick red. Dune sands are 90 to 95 percent quartz grains. The balance is a combination of mica, feldspar, and heavy minerals such as ilmenite, garnet, and magnetite. Iron-bearing materials oxidize over time and turn a rich, red colour.

Although the vast expanse of dunes appears desolate and barren, a dune’s slip face, or leeward side, gives refuge to a wide array of life from fish moths to beetles and lizards.

Dunes meet the sea at the aptly named Skeleton Coast. Strong southerly winds meet the dry desert air and create immense fogs and strong currents. They’ve caused many sailors to lose their way and crash. Shipwrecks have been found as far as 50 metres inland, a testament to the constant westward movement of dunes into the sea.

Five main types of dunes evolve, depending on the availability of sand and the direction of the winds.

Barchan Dunes

Sand particles from the back slope are blown over the front, forming a crescent shape and slowly moving the dune downwind. Most move two to three metres per year although a 15-metre shift has been recorded. Whey they’re on the move, anything in the way gets covered. These types of dunes are found near the coast where there are strong southerly winds.

Transverse Dunes

Low ridges positioned at 90 degrees to the wind direction. They’re also found nearer the coast.

Linear or Parallel Dunes

Formed by winds from two directions. They usually lie in parallel rows with valleys of sand and gravel between them.

Star Dunes

These formations have arms radiating out elegantly in various directions. They grow vertically, often forming the highest dunes in an area, like those at Sossusvlei.

Hummock Dunes

Common in riverbeds, these form around small plants, creating little islands.


Experience the magic on Renedian Adventures’ Waterfalls and Wildlife or Victoria Falls to Cape Town tour.


Stamps and Stories, Vol. 2, 50 Stories on Namibia’s Postal Stamps, Gondwana Collection Namibia, & NamPost, 2012.