Did you know?
Legend has it the dunes only roar in the months spelled with an 'R'.
Against the rust-red sands of the Kalahari, the 'roaring' white sand dunes of Witsand Nature Reserve are a mysterious natural phenomenon.
These pale dunes are believed to have emerged from an isolated range of hillocks buried beneath the sand, from which springs a natural reservoir that, over millions of years, has gradually leached the red-oxide from the dunes, turning them white.
Known as Witsands' Roaring Sands or Brulsand, their countless millions of grains of sand rub together to emit a deep reverberating hum. For this natural phenomenon to occur, very hot and dry conditions are necessary, so although Witsand, in the Kalahari is warm all year round, summer is the best time to experience this extraordinary sand chorus. More of a rumble than a roar, one must be within close proximity of the dunes to hear their unique sound.
Another natural phenomenon here are the summer thunderstorms where lightning frequently strikes the white sand dunes – due to the high water table and elevation of the dunes – creating fulgurites, which are glass-like tubes of sand.
A self-drive or guided trip to the Roaring Sands is just one of the tours offered at Witsand Nature Reserve. The park supports a wealth of small mammals, including meerkats, pangolins and aardvarks. There are also large antelope like red hartebeest, springbok, kudu and gemsbok. During a night game drive, guests may chance upon the porcupine, aardwolf, bat-eared fox, Cape fox, genet, springhare and owl. Guided star gazing tours among the dunes are another highlight, courtesy of the Northern Cape’s vast, unpolluted skies.
Though Witsand in the Kalahari appears sparsely vegetated, 3 major arid region and bushveld vegetation types converge here, attracting over 170 species of birds. The reserve offers a botanical meander where guests can learn more about Witsand’s endemic and indigenous flora.
An ideal destination to unwind and appreciate unspoiled nature at a relaxed pace, Witsand Nature Reserve will also satisfy adventure enthusiasts. There are challenging 4x4 routes, hiking trails, cycle trails and dune boards for rent.
Whether visiting for the photographic opportunities, or in the hope of experiencing Witsand's famed Roaring Sands, guests are assured of an unusual and unforgettable stay.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Witsand Nature Reserve:
Tel/Fax: +27 (0)53 313 1061/2
Mobile: +27 (0)83 234 7573
How to get here
From Johannesburg the drive to Witsand Nature Reserve will take about eight hours. Travel to Kuruman via Vryburg on the N14. Travel 45km to Kathu. From Kathu drive 27km to Olifantshoek. Take the turnoff to your right. Four km outside of Olifantshoek en-route to Upington (N14), turn left towards Witsand, and follow the gravel road for 75km to Witsand.
Alternatively, fly to Upington or Kimberley airport, and hire a car to drive to Witsand. Estimated driving time from both airports is around 3 hours. There is no fuel station at Witsand.
Best time to visit
Between September and April is the best time to experience the Roaring Sands. But be warned: it can be extremely hot at this time.
Around the area
At Kathu visit the Camel-thorn tree forest, at Kuruman visit ‘The Eye’ – a permanent oasis, the golf club, or the Moffat missionary church.
You'd need your own vehicle, preferably a 4x4, low-range vehicle or sedan car with good ground clearance.
What will it cost
Accommodation ranges from approx. R100 p/person to camp, to approx R160 through to R440 for self-catering chalets and R1 500 for an all-inclusive experience package (excludes transport).
Length of stay
At least two nights.
What to pack
Temperatures in desert environs can be extreme. Pack accordingly. Severe sunburn is a risk from the reflective white sands. Bring sun protection and high-factor sun creams. Winter nights can be icy.
What to eat
Guests on the inclusive package are fully-catered. Self-catering guests should bring their own food, in particular fresh produce.