About the WWF Desert Challenge

The 2017 WWF Desert Challenge was a resounding success, literally a life changing experience for the daring group that undertook this amazing adventure with a purpose. Due to this success, WWF will be running another Desert Challenge in October 2019.

The WWF Desert Challenge is a once in a life time adventure in one of the World’s most remote and beautiful deserts, the /Ai/Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park that spans Namibia and South Africa. The seven day challenge sees a daring and very exclusive group of people challenge themselves against the elements to cycle, hike, paddle and abseil through the spectacular desert landscapes of this World Heritage Site.

This exclusive WWF trip provides access to remote unexplored wilderness regions and the group will be joined by WWF staff and other experts who will uncover the wonders of the desert from its unique ecology, archaeology and astronomy to learning the culture of the local nama people.

This exclusive WWF trip is open to a maximum of 15 participants that aims to reconnect people to the wilderness and raise funds in support of WWF’s conservation work in South Africa.

Prepare yourself for a physical challenge, spectacular scenery, nights spent under a bright milky way of stars, meeting great people, and an experience that will reconnect you with nature and the universe.

Entries for the WWF Desert Challenge 2019 open in October 2018.
To sign up please contact Justin Smith on jsmith@wwf.org.za or +27 21 657 6600.

The Area

The /Ai /Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park is a peace park straddling the border of South Africa and Namibia. This World Heritage Site boasts some of the most spectacular desert scenery on Earth with high mountains and dramatic desert landscapes giving way to the deep Fish River Canyon and the spectacular Orange River. The river, together with the regions plentiful hot springs (/Ai/Ais means “burning water”) and its remote wildness make the Richtersveld the ideal venue for the WWF Desert Challenge.

This desert environment is a surprising species treasure-chest containing the world’s richest succulent flora and a myriad of wild animals. A range of unique and strange plants abound, such as the “halfmens” tree that from a distance looks like a human head.

The local Nama people revere these human-like trees as the embodiment of their ancestors, half human, half plant. The Nama people are an ancient people who are a living example of a way of life that has survived thousands of years in the isolation of this remote place.

Leopard, caracal, brown hyena and black-backed jackal are some of the predators that are found in the Park and one is also likely to come across klipspringer, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, grey rhebok, kudu, gemsbok, steenbok and duiker, as well as baboons and smaller mammals such as the rock hyrax and mountain ground squirrel. If lucky, one may also see wild horses that are the decedents of those deserted by World War 2 soldiers.


What to Expect

While the challenge will be physically demanding, comfortable nights are assured. After a challenging day in the desert, the group will arrive at a wilderness camp to enjoy a delicious fireside meal, good company and a good night’s rest under the desert skies. Accommodation will be in well-appointed individual tents except for the second night which will require roughing it in the deep wilderness. October is spring in the Richtersveld desert, which means hot days and cold nights, but temperatures are not extreme and the Orange River brings life to the area and opportunities to swim to cool off. Rain is very unlikely. The Richtersveld is malaria-free and medical risks are those generally associated with outdoor activities. A strong support team will accompany the Challenge including a medical doctor and massage therapist, bike mechanic and guides.

Participants need to be physically fit and in good health to complete the Desert Challenge as cleared by a medical professional. The Challenge is not a race and each participant can complete each leg at their own pace, but there are sections where one cannot turn back. As a fitness guide, participants should be able to run a half marathon in under 2.5 hours, be comfortable on a mountain bike at the level of gravel roads, be able to paddle a kayak and be willing to abseil a 100m drop with assistance from professionals.

Sign Up Now

This exclusive WWF Challenge is limited to 15 people so if you are interested don’t delay in signing up.

The 2019 WWF Desert Challenge will take place in the Richtersveld Transfrontier Park in South Africa from the 12th- 19th October 2019.

The all-inclusive price of the Challenge (departing from Cape Town) is $9,000 for overseas participants and R120,000 for South Africans. This includes a contribution to WWF’s conservation work in South Africa.

To sign up please contact Justin Smith on jsmith@wwf.org.za or +27 21 657 6600.

Download Terms and Conditions here



WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organisations, with almost 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

WWF South Africa is a national office that is part of the WWF network. We are a local NGO that for more than 40 years has worked towards the aim of inspiring all South Africans to live in harmony with nature, for the benefit of our country and the well-being of all our people.