Dune 45: Exploring Namibia’s Iconic Sand Formation

Dune 45 is a fascinating natural phenomenon that you may have heard of but might not know much about. Located in the Namib Naukluft Park in Namibia, this star-shaped dune has become a popular tourist attraction and a favourite spot for photographers.

The striking beauty and seemingly endless expanse of sand provide a unique experience for visitors, allowing them to appreciate the power of nature and its ability to shape the landscape.

As you approach Dune 45, you can’t help but be captivated by its striking beauty. This iconic sand dune, situated in the Namib Desert, stands tall at 170 metres (560 feet) and has become a popular destination for travellers seeking a unique adventure. Although not as tall as the Big Mama or Big Daddy dune, it is very popular with visitors as it is closer to the main entrance gate to Sossusvlei so an excellent first stop for sunrise if you’re not staying inside the park.

Its name comes from its location, which is 45 kilometres from Sesriem Canyon, another remarkable geological feature in the area.

Dune 45 is composed of 5-million-year-old sand and is part of the larger dune fields and sand seas found throughout the arid regions of Africa, such as the ones discussed in this book on desert geomorphology.

Upon arrival, you’ll notice the distinct reddish hue of the sand, which makes the dune stand out amidst the surrounding landscape. The unique colour is due to the high concentration of iron oxide in the sand, adding to the dune’s visual appeal.

As the sun rises and sets, the dune appears to change colour, casting mesmerising shadows and offering countless opportunities for beautiful photographs. In addition to the visual spectacle, there is also plenty to learn about the unique ecology of the region and how the dunes have evolved over millions of years.

As you begin to climb Dune 45, you’ll be amazed at the pristine condition of the sand, and the soft, warm texture beneath your feet. You might even catch sight of tracks left by small desert animals that inhabit the area.

One of the most rewarding aspects of reaching the summit of Dune 45 is the panoramic view that awaits you. From the top, you can gaze out at the vast sea of sand and marvel at the seemingly endless expanse of the Namib Naukluft National Park. It’s a sight that will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression.

Unique Shape

What makes Dune 45’s shape distinct is its relatively symmetrical, steep slopes, which have formed over thousands of years due to wind patterns and sediment deposition in the area. As you climb the dune, you’ll notice that its slopes are not perfectly smooth; rather, they exhibit undulating patterns, a testament to the natural forces that have shaped this awe-inspiring landscape.

One reason behind the unique shape of Dune 45 is the specific wind regime in the Namib Desert. The complex interplay of prevailing winds and local topography results in unique sand deposition patterns, which over time, cause the dune to adopt its characteristic profile.

Another contributing factor to Dune 45’s shape is the type of sand that makes up the dune. Namib Desert sand is composed primarily of quartz, which is a relatively hard mineral. This enduring material allows the dune to withstand the forces of erosion and maintain its distinctive outline.

Dune 45 is also notable for its vibrant red-orange colour, which is a result of the oxidation of iron present in the sand. As you gaze upon the stunning panorama of your surroundings from the summit of the dune, you’ll undoubtedly be struck by the sheer beauty of this natural wonder, sculpted by the forces of nature over countless millennia.


Visiting Dune 45 on your trip to Namibia is quite straightforward, thanks to its location and available facilities. Dune 45 is easily accessible from Sesriem, a small settlement that serves as the gateway to the famous sand dunes. You will need to obtain an entrance permit for the the Naukluft Park, which is available from this gate. The 45 km drive from Sesriem to Dune 45 takes you along a paved road, making it convenient for most vehicles.

You’ll find a designated parking area at the foot of the dune, where basic toilet facilities are also provided for your convenience. From the parking area, you have the opportunity to embark on a short hike to reach the top of Dune 45. The hike typically takes between 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your fitness level.

Keep in mind that while Dune 45’s accessibility makes it a popular destination, you’ll likely encounter groups of tourists, particularly during peak travel seasons. Arriving early or visiting during the shoulder season can help you avoid the busiest times and ensure a more serene experience atop Dune 45.

Tips For Climbing The Dune

Before you embark on your climb up Dune 45 in Namibia, it’s essential to be prepared and informed about the best practices to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. The following recommendations will help you make the most of your adventure:

  • Start early: Aim to begin your climb in the early morning, around sunrise. This allows you to enjoy cooler temperatures and beat the heat of the Namibian sun. Moreover, the morning light provides stunning views and excellent photo opportunities.
  • Wear appropriate footwear: While some visitors opt to climb Dune 45 barefoot, it is advisable to wear closed-toe hiking shoes or trainers with a good grip, or at least socks to help prevent burning your feet on the hot sand and avoiding injuries.
  • Bring plenty of water: Climbing a sand dune can be quite physically demanding, so make sure you start getting hydrated as soon as you wake up in the morning and keep yourself well-hydrated through the day. Also, remember to take sufficient water with you on the climb – a minimum of one litre per person is recommended.
  • Apply sun protection: The sun can be very strong in the Namib Desert, even during the early hours of the day. Ensure you apply a high SPF sunscreen and consider wearing a hat and sunglasses for added protection.
  • Follow the ridge: As you climb Dune 45, try to follow the ridge as it offers a more secure foothold and may reduce slipping on the sand. Take small, steady steps and pace yourself throughout the ascent.
  • Take breaks: Don’t hesitate to take breaks when needed. Allow your body to rest and catch your breath. This will also give you an opportunity to take in the stunning scenery that surrounds you.

By following these simple recommendations, your Dune 45 climbing experience will surely be a memorable and rewarding one. Remember to exercise caution, listen to your body, and above all, enjoy the spectacular views from the summit.

Capturing Stunning Views

Make good use of your camera during this once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you find a particular view that appeals to you, consider going back there again at a different time of day, as the colours vary enormously.

Get the Perfect Shot

To truly capture the essence of Dune 45, consider these photography tips:

  • Use a wide-angle lens: This allows you to capture the vast expanse of the dune and the surrounding landscape.
  • Utilise a tripod: A stable platform ensures crisp images, especially when using slower shutter speeds during sunrise or sunset.
  • Experiment with various perspectives: Try capturing photos from different angles and elevations to showcase the dune’s unique undulating shape and to catch any ripples in the surface.

Respect the Environment

While visiting Dune 45, it’s essential to be environmentally conscious and respectful.
Be sure to follow these guidelines:

  • Stick to marked paths: Doing so helps to prevent erosion of the fragile dune structure.
  • Don’t leave any rubbish: Carry a small bag to collect your waste and dispose of it properly later.
  • Avoid disturbing the fauna and flora: The area is precious and delicate, so be mindful not to harm any of the native species inhabiting the dune.

Following these recommendations will ensure that you capture stunning views of Dune 45 while preserving its beauty for future generations of visitors to enjoy.


Do I need a permit to visit Dune 45?

Yes, a permit is required to enter the Namib Naukluft park and is available at the Sesriem gate.

What is the best time of year to visit Dune 45?

While Dune 45 can be visited year-round, the best time to visit depends on your preferences for weather and crowd sizes. The cooler months from May to October are generally more comfortable for climbing, but also more popular with tourists.

Are there any safety precautions to consider when climbing Dune 45?

Yes, visitors should be prepared for the physical exertion of climbing a large sand dune and the intense sun in the Namib Desert. It’s recommended to hydrate ahead of time as well as taking plenty of water with you, wear sun protection, and take regular breaks. It’s also important to stay on designated paths to avoid getting lost and potentially missing the time curfew.

What wildlife might I see around Dune 45?

The Namib Desert is home to a variety of unique wildlife adapted to the harsh desert conditions. While sightings are not guaranteed, you might see creatures such as: oryx, springbok, ostrich and various other bird species. Smaller creatures like geckos, beetles, and spiders are also common in the desert. Always remember to observe wildlife from a distance and avoid disturbing them.

Key Takeaways

Dune 45, located in Namib Naukluft Park, Namibia, is a popular tourist attraction known for its unique star shape and striking beauty. Standing at 170 metres, it is composed of 5-million-year-old sands, with a distinct reddish hue due to the high concentration of iron oxide. The dune’s shape is a result of wind patterns and sediment deposition over thousands of years, with the sand primarily composed of quartz.

Visiting Dune 45 is straightforward due to its accessibility from Sesriem, a small settlement serving as the gateway to the famous sand dunes. A short hike from the parking area at the foot of the dune leads to the summit, offering a panoramic view of the vast sea of sand and the Namib Naukluft National Park extending beyond.

Visitors are advised to start their climb early, wear appropriate footwear, bring plenty of water, apply sun protection, and follow the ridge for a more secure foothold. Respect for the environment is emphasized, with guidelines to stick to marked paths, avoid leaving rubbish, and not disturb the fauna and flora.