Dune 7 – Climbing the highest sand dune in the Namib desert

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I like a challenge, so the more reviews on TripAdvisor said the climb up Dune 7 was not easy, the more I wanted to do it! Three days into our Walvis Bay trip, we decided to brave the climb. I’ve always been intrigued by deserts hence my choice of Namibia as a holiday destination. Dune 7 is the highest sand dune in the Namib desert and one of the highest in the world. 

At the peak of Dune 7

All the reviews said to try and climb early morning or around sunset when the sand is not so hot but we are just not morning people. So by the time we got to Dune 7, the sun was blazing.

From the shadows you can tell the sun has been up for a while

It’s a short drive (~6 km) to Dune 7 from Walvis Bay. You drive on C14 as if going to Windhoek and you’ll see the signs for ‘Dune 7’ along the way. 

Welcome to Dune 7

The road is tarred and you only drive on untarred road for like 200 m to get to the parking bay. Small cars can make it. 

Before the climb

As you get there you don’t need to ask which dune it is! It stands there towering over all the other dunes. We got to the dune around 9 am and there was no one up there but the many footprints on the sand suggested that many had come and gone. Some footsprints stopped midway, so if we couldn’t make it to the top, we wouldn’t be the first. 

At the top. The world looked much smaller below

We parked under one of the many palm trees at the bottom, took off our shoes and went for it. We decided to just climb up vertically instead of going the longer route. We wanted to just suffer once and get it over with. The climb was HARD! It’s not for the faint hearted! The sun suddenly felt too hot, the sand was burning our bare feet and for every 2 steps forward the sand took us 1.5 steps back. We made a couple of stops on the way to photograph our self-inflicted anguish. More than once we decided ‘maybe we should just climb down, the sand is too hot!’

Then about midway, Lovemore decided he had done enough climbing and I should climb to the top alone. He said he would just stay where he was and wait and take pictures. So I climbed on.

Me at the top of Dune 7

I remember asking if the sand wouldn’t scald the skin off my feet and Lovemore saying ‘no, just keep climbing, you’ll be fine’ so I was reassured. Then maybe after another 10 or so minutes, I reached the top! I felt so triumphant! The whole climb took me a whooping 23 minutes (Yes, I timed myself).

The climb up dune 7

Then Lovemore decided he’ll come up as well.

Adventures are much better when shared with someone else

The top was a lot flatter, so walking to the peak of the dune wasn’t so bad. The sand was even cooler up there. 

10 minutes later, Lovemore joined me.

After our well deserved rest, we took in the views. Wow! The world suddenly seemed so minute, on every side you could see endless masses of sand. The people at the bottom, who had arrived after us, as well as the trees, looked so tiny and from a distance we could see cars looking so small on the road. It was just us 2 up there and it was serene and there was this calmness about the atmosphere. Even the sun didn’t feel so hot anymore. We moved to the next dune and felt like we could do ‘dune hopping’ all afternoon, we didn’t want to go back down. We had managed to conquer the largest sand dune in the Namib desert! 

The great desert

There wasn’t much life to see, it’s a desert after all. We spotted a gecko and a lizard and both ran away too quickly before I could photograph them. We also saw a locust/grasshopper. 

One of the few signs of life we saw in the desert

When we finally decided to go down, we thought to take the longer way just so we could see the views from that side and so we could have used both routes. The sand started burning again in no time and we ran all the way down, shouting hurried ‘hellos’ to some people who were climbing up and lying to them that ‘you almost there’. Running down was easy, the soft sand held our feet in place so that we wouldn’t roll over but was smooth enough to allow for an effortless run. In less than a minute we were back at the bottom! It had taken 23 minutes to climb up and just sub 1 minute to get down!

That triumphant jump when you’ve just come down Dune 7

We then sat eating Simba chips at the picnic area, shaded by palm trees, looking up Dune 7 and marvelling at our super climbing powers. 

There’s many picnic spots at Dune 7

There’s bathrooms at the foot of the dunes and besides the sand and dust in them, they are usable. 

One of the bathrooms at Dune 7

TIPS

1. If you really can, go early morning or at sunset. The sand is really hot and coupled with your fatigue you’ll feel defeated. We were told we were lucky it wasn’t windy, it’s hard to climb with sand beating you up and threatening to blind you. So check the weather.

2. Wear shades/sunglasses. The glare is a bit much and they will also protect your eyes from flying sand.

Cap. Check. Shades. Check

3. Climb barefooted. Otherwise the sand will fill up your shoes and I assume that’s uncomfortable.

4. Carry water on your climb up. You will need it.

5. Wear a hat or cap and breathable clothing. For me, a tshirt and running pants work. But I realised that most people wore long pants and long tshirts, to protect themselves from the sun. You may want to put on sunscreen as well.

6. Carry a camera or phone. We need proof you made it up there! ‘Bragging rights.’ 

7. Have a little picnic when you get back down, even if it’s just Simba chips, to admire the dune from the bottom. You look at it differently after you’ve climbed it. 

8. Take your time, pace yourself. You can do it!