Viana Desert – Rabil, Cape Verde - Atlas Obscura

Viana Desert

Rabil, Cape Verde

Rolling sand dunes of the Sahara... in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. 


In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean off of Africa’s western coast sits the island of Boa Vista, known for its marine life, traditional music, and something more unusual: a small patch of desert on the northwestern part of the island, formed by the accumulation of wandering sand grains from the Sahara.

Great volumes of sand are continuously carried from the African continent towards the sea by trade winds. Much of this sand is deposited on Boa Vista because of its proximity to the mainland and the particular shape of the terrain. The resulting desert patch makes for an unlikely landscape on the island—rolling dunes of white sands interspersed with black volcanic rocks and very sparse vegetation.

This small extension of the Sahara is protected by the Government of Cape Verde, which forbids the use of motorized vehicles and promotes the construction of stone walls to limit the movement of the sand dunes toward the coast.

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October 17, 2016

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