Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Top 10 Sandboarding Countries of 2017

I have finally managed to publish this! If you read the blog from time to time you will know that I publish an annual list roundabout November/December listing (in my opinion) the best 10 countries to Sandboard in this year.

I will come clean and admit that the method of research has changed year by year and I should really list why the countries are in such positions, this years' list was determined by the cost of living, crime rate, Internet speed, visa requirements for American and British citizens, their position in the World Happiness Report, and if they are "Free" according to the website Freedom House, which according to my research all the countries on this list were ranked as 'Free'.*

So let's dive in!


#10 South Africa
(appearances: none, previously)

Title: Flag of South Africa. License: Public Domain
At this years' #10 on this list is South Africa! It's the first time that South Africa has appeared on this list and I'm happy it has, the country has seen a surge in tourism recently and the Sandboarding scene is growing at an alarming rate! You can find sand dunes in Mossel Bay, Atlantis, Aston Bay, and Jeffrey's Bay to name a few.

Courtesy of: Winfried Bruenken Title: Dunes, de Hoop Nature Reserve, Western Cape, Southafrica License: CC BY-SA 2.5
From 2000 to 2004, the South African Sandboarding league was established and competitions were held from 2001 until the sport died down in 2004, it was then revived in 2007 and tourism organisations have accepted Sandboarding as an extreme sport in the country. The South African economy has been emerging and because of this, it is one of the members of the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). In recent years and especially after the 2010 World Cup, the country has experienced high crime rates especially amongst rape, assault, and murder, however as the country still struggles with poverty, crime, and unemployment; it has a steadily declining crime rate, an improving life expectancy, and 23 years after the state induced Apartheid things are looking up.

Here's a video from Freewalker South Africa that promotes the scene down there! Be sure to like their Facebook Page too.



Crime Index: 75.72
Cost of Living Index: 43.12
Internet Speed: 4.1 Mbps
World Happiness Report position: 101st
Visa requirement for US citizens: No visa required
Visa requirement for UK citizens: No visa required
Official Languages: English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tswana, Tsonga and Venda
Currency: South African Rand

#9 Australia
(appearances: 2014, 2015 & 2016)
(last year: 2nd)
(highest place: 1st, 2014)

Title: Flag of Australia License: Public Domain
You're thinking why Australia isn't as high as it used to be... Well the honest answer is the sheer cost of living and strict rules about coming to Australia.

According to the Australian Government: "Arid and semi-arid desert lands make up 70 per cent of mainland Australia." - (Wells, Kathryn. The Australian desert. 2013.) So by this there is plenty of space to find a sand dune suited to your satisfaction; however, if going into the dry wilderness and potentially dying of dehydration; Stockton Beach in New South Wales, Lancelin in Western Australia & Little Sahara on Kangaroo Island, South Australia would be the best places; however as this country is big and the desert making over two thirds, there's no shortage of the dune for you.

Courtesy of: Phanly Title: BigRed.JPG License: CC BY 3.0

According to the International Monetary Fund at the time of writing, the Commonwealth of Australia is the world's 13th largest economy; Australia is known for its strict customs laws, strong accent, nice climate, and stunning beaches (There's actually a rivalry between Bondi Beach and Holywell Bay). Extreme sports are practised very often here so Sandboarding is no exception! Originally belonging to Great Britain (you can probably tell by the Union Jack in the flag and the fact Australians speak English), Australia is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and Australia still recognises Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state, a lot of British tourists would call this place their "home from home" however if it weren't for the expensive costs of living, and strict travel requirements for citizens of some nations then I feel it would have been higher on this list.

Here's a clip of some Sandboarding at Port Stephens in New South Wales from "Go With Me Absolute Toto":



Crime Index: 42.42
Cost of Living Index: 80.66
Internet Speed: 8.2 Mbps
World Happiness Report position: 9th
Visa requirement for US citizens: eVisa Required (Electronic Travel Authorisation)
Visa requirement for UK citizens: No visa required
Official Language: English
Currency: Australian Dollar

 #8 Namibia
(appearances: 2014, 2015 & 2016)
(last year: 3rd)
(highest place: 3rd, 2016)

Title: Flag of Namibia License: Public Domain
Namibia has made an appearance in every year so far, this year was no exception to the Southern African nation!

Personally this is one of my favourite countries and I really would like to visit this place one day; here you'll see the Kalahari desert and dunes in Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, Sossusvlei, and the Skeleton Coast close to the Angolan border. There's lots of arid desert here so if you want a Sandboarding nation, this is definitely a good place to go!

Courtesy of: Pcb21 Title: Dune 7 in the Namib Desert License: CC BY-SA 3.0


Namibia was originally known as "South West Africa" when it was a German colony from 1884 and then invaded by the Allied forces in 1915 during the first world war, then after the war it became a mandate of the League of Nations until 1966 where it became a province of South Africa until Namibian independence on the 21st March 1990, ever since Namibia's independence, there's been a boom in the tourism sector and entrepreneurs have been harnessing the power of the dunes that are in the Kalahari & Namib deserts; as for Namibia's low cost of living, welcoming attitude to tourists, and ease of getting into the country; its drawbacks are its crime rate, slow speed of Internet, and there is a "sanitation crisis" according to the UN and this link by the UK government will give you some Sanitation issues which currently are present in Namibia.

Here's a video from Red Bull which shows some enthusiasts Kayaking sand dunes in Namibia, you read correctly: Kayaking.



Crime Index: 63.09
Cost of Living Index: 46.48
Internet Speed: 2 Mbps
World Happiness Report position: 111th
Visa requirement for US citizens: No visa required
Visa requirement for UK citizens: No visa required
Official Language: English
Currency: Namibian Dollar

 #7 Tunisia
(appearances: 2016)
(last year: 8th)
(highest place: 7th, 2017)

Title: Flag of Tunisia License: Public Domain
Tunisia came on this list for the first time last year and it has climbed up the list this year! For a very small country on the top of the African continent, a small portion of the Sahara desert lives here including the Grand Erg (the field of sand dunes), Dunes de Sable and Djerba Island where dunes are plenty; I'm not a fan of the Star Wars franchise, however Darth Vader's hometown is Mos Espa in the Tataouine Governate; in recent years, it has been under threat by sand dunes taking over the town and according to the UK newspaper The Telegraph, it is an ISIL hotspot.


Courtesy of: Jérôme Prax Title: Ksar Ghilane, Tunisia License: Public Domain

According to this article in the New York Times published in 2009, Tunisia is known for its "golden beaches, sunny weather, and affordable luxuries" and if you travel to Tunisia, you get a blend of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East in one location. From what I remember from school, I believe that The Tempest from William Shakespeare mentioned Tunis (the capital of Tunisia) in the work as well. You know what else is in Tunis? The ancient city of Carthage! Carthage is now a modern day suburb of Tunis city, but Carthage has been continuously inhabited since 814 BC when it was founded by the Phoenicians; so if you want Sandboarding, history, more history, and a desert; I'd say come to Tunisia.

Here's a video of a desert tour in Tunisia uploaded by Ben Ali Youssef.



Crime Index: 40.94
Cost of Living Index: 28.74
Internet Speed: 3.1 Mbps
World Happiness Report position: 102nd
Visa requirement for US citizens: No visa required
Visa requirement for UK citizens: No visa required
Official Language: Arabic
Currency: Tunisian Dinar

#6 Peru
(appearances: none, previously)

Title: Flag of Peru License: Public Domain
In all honesty, I feel bad that Peru has not been mentioned in a Top 10 list before but given that I made a report on some dunes in this fascinating country, this couldn't be missed.

Go to Peru and you don't just get Sandboarding, you also get the Norte Chico civilisation, Machu Picchu, Lima, and the Andes Mountains; you can probably tell there's a lot of stuff in Peru, but in terms of Sand dunes you of course have Huacachina, Nasca, Cerro Blanco, and the Sechura desert. There are sand dunes in odd spots across Peru, however most of the Sandboarding is present in Huacachina as it's the most well known, but the second highest sand dune in the world is at Cerro Blanco.

Courtesy of: Diego Delso Title: Dunas de Ica, Perú License: CC BY-SA 4.0
Spain invaded the Incan Empire in 1532, this event was very important in helping Spain colonising the Americas. Peru proclaimed independence in 1821, it was recognised in 1879 and not much has changed since then. You'll find that Peru has a coastal plain on the West side, Lowland jungles near the Amazon Basin in the east side, and separating the two are the rugged Andes mountains in the middle-western past of the nation. Lake Titicaca (the world's highest lake) is shared between Peru and Bolivia. If you want the ruins of an Incan civilisation, mountains, the jungle of the Amazon (also the source), and sandboarding mixed in with it; Peru is your place. Internet isn't too fast in Peru and to my surprise, the crime rate is high, however on this list it is the cheapest place to live.

The below video is a Sandboarding experience in Ica, from Viator.com

 

Crime Index: 63.28
Cost of Living Index: 39.47 (The cheapest on this list)
Internet Speed: 4.5 Mbps
World Happiness Report position: 63rd
Visa requirement for US citizens: No visa required
Visa requirement for UK citizens: No visa required
Official Language: Spanish
Currency: Peruvian Nuevo Sol

 #5 Chile
(appearances: 2014)
(last year: did not appear)
(highest place: 5th, 2017)

Title: Flag of Chile License: Public Domain
If you can remember far back to the 2014, you'll see it came 10th but I have felt that the country has rightfully earned its place in the Top 10 once again for 2017!

Chile is a very narrow country when you look at it on a map but if you go deeper in the map, you'll find the Atacama Desert (one of the driest deserts in the world) and you know what deserts usually mean... Sand! You can find towns and communes where there are sand dunes near it, including hot spots such as Iquique, San Pedro de Atacama, Copiapo, and Reñaca; these towns have dunes next to them or just outside of the towns boundary but still, if your country has a desert then you're gonna find sand dunes all over.

Courtesy of: ogwen Title: San Pedro De Atacama License: CC BY SA 3.0

According to Insightcrime.org, Chile reported the lowest homicide rate in Latin America***. When a lot of people think of Chile they think of Santiago, the fact that the country is on the Nazca and Antarctic tectonic plates so it gets a lot of earthquakes and volcanic activity, so much that in 1960, the most powerful earthquake ever recorded struck Chile, with Valdivia being the most heavily affected city, the earthquake had reached 9.4 to 9.6 on the Moment Magnitude Scale, a good attraction is also Easter Island which is a territory of Chile. Chile has a moderate crime rate, cost of living isn't too bad either so you'll find that your travel money gets you very far, the Internet speed is also the second fastest in South America, after Uruguay. To summarise, this country is progressive, historic, and contains the Atacama desert so this is a Sandboarders' hot spot if you want to see good culture and experience some wild dunes too!

Below is a video of a 2016 Iquique Sandboarding experience by Sandboarding Chile.



Crime Index: 47.50
Cost of Living Index: 50.09
Internet Speed: 6.1 Mbps
World Happiness Report position: 20th
Visa requirement for US citizens: No visa required
Visa requirement for UK citizens: No visa required
Official Language: Spanish
Currency: Chilean Peso

#4 Israel
(appearances: none, previously)

Title: Flag of Israel License: Public Domain
After I went to India with my friend this year, we decided on our next holiday and we both agreed on Israel!

Israel has never appeared on a Top 10 list so far by the blog, so this post will be very different to say the least... the "Holy Land" or simply: Israel, is a very small country but it does have a surprising amount of Sandboarding to offer, in this country you can find Ori's Dunes near the city of Ashdod, and in the Negev desert close to the city of Beersheba; the Negev is a larger desert region so you'll find plenty there. Israel also has sand dunes in some of its beaches including those at Palmachim, Rishon Lezion, and Dor Caesaria. So, Israel doesn't have a lot of specific desert sand dunes and they're more on the beaches but there's more to see than just sand!

Courtesy of: Joseph Vida Title: sand dune, Nature and Colors License: Public Domain
There has been a main reason why Israel hasn't been included on this list in a while, and you can probably figure it out already. The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine is a potential deterrent for people visiting the region, however Israel's tourism board are doing a fantastic job of promoting all the good bits of Israel including the Dead Sea, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock, Tel Aviv, and Masada. Despite many international developments and Israel now being really protective over its people, the country do a good job in keeping its citizens safe from danger. The country of Israel is the 11th happiest in the world and even to my surprise, it is the safest country on this list from crime. History and religion have been embedded in this region for centuries, however sand dunes slip in too.

Below is a video from a trip to Israel in Winter, along with Camels, Bedouins, Sandboarding, and Jerusalem; video from Сергей Нагорный - ПУТЕШЕСТВИЯ И ЖИЗНЬ



Crime Index: 29.01 (The safest on this List)
Cost of Living Index: 77.74
Internet Speed: 11.6 Mbps**
World Happiness Report position: 11th
Visa requirement for US citizens: No visa required
Visa requirement for UK citizens: No visa required
Official Languages: Hebrew & Arabic
Currency: Israeli New Shekel

#3 Spain
(appearances: 2014, 2015 & 2016)
(last year: 5th)
(highest place: 3rd, 2014, 2015 & 2017)

Title: Flag of Spain License: Public Domain
If you've been informed recently, you'll have heard about Catalonia's independence movement in the North East of Spain; however, politics aside this country has been at third place on this list for the third time!

Spain has appeared in every list so far, and it looks like the country won't go higher than third; Sand dunes can be found in Maspalomas, Duna de Bolonia, Sierra Nevada, and Doñana; with some more coastal locations to follow. Spain itself is a warm country with a Mediterranean coast, with a rich culture, fascinating language, and a history that makes many interested in visiting this country that once also had an Empire. Sandboarding in Spain isn't too well known however the sports' presence in the country has grown significantly due to the boom in tourism to the country, but work is still needed to be done.

Courtesy of: Marc Ryckaert Title: Maspalomas (Gran Canaria): the dunes License: CC BY 3.0
According to a report from travelersdigest.com published in 2014: Spain was ranked the 2nd most visited country in Europe, after France with 56,694,000 foreign visitors each year. Spain is a very popular destination because of its beaches, very friendly approach to the English language as many tourist areas will just speak English by default, Plaza de España, Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, and the cities in Spain have their own attractions but they're all equally as interesting in my opinion; as you have: Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Murcia, Granada, Bilbao, Santander, etc... A political side note: Spain is the only country on this list that's a member of the European Union, this means that EU nation members have a common passport (freedom of movement between European nations), a mostly common currency (used by many but not all European Union members) that can be used across borders, and very strict standards in health care, food, safety, residency, education, and other fields that benefit many European as well as Spanish citizens; if you want more information on the European Union, you should read the article I wrote in 2016 by clicking on the link.

Spain is currently let down by its recent political skirmish in Catalonia (a secessionist region), the recent recession that hardly hit Spain, and the fact that there isn't too much of a Sandboarding presence in the country (however, it is growing!); If you want a rich culture, rich history, and a comfortable place to go Sandboarding with some good food, Spain is your destination!

Below is a video of Sandboarding in Fuerteventura from Abel Rincon:




Crime Index: 31.28
Cost of Living Index: 54.98
Internet Speed: 12.1 Mbps
World Happiness Report position: 34th
Visa requirement for US citizens: No visa required
Visa requirement for UK citizens: No visa required (European Union)
Official Language: Spanish
Currency: Euro

#2 New Zealand
(appearances: 2015 & 2016)
(last year: 1st)
(highest place: 1st, 2015 & 2016)

Title: Flag of New Zealand License: Public Domain
After 2 years of New Zealand being the best country to Sandboard on this blog, this year it has been dethroned!

New Zealand is a very peaceful nation, with tons of sheep, the All Blacks, Lord of the Rings, and scenes that will blow your mind in ways you couldn't possibly imagine. New Zealand also has a very popular Sandboarding scene, this is beneficial as New Zealand already is a hot spot for extreme sport enthusiasts including those who like bungee jumping, BASE jumping, surfing, and a lot more sports! You'll find Sandfly Bay in Dunedin, Smails Beach also in Dunedin, Tangimoana, and Mangawhai just to name a few.

Courtesy of: Oren Rozen Title: Sandboarding on the Te Paki Sand Dunes, 90-mile-beach, New Zealand License: CC BY-SA 3.0
New Zealand is known to be the last place to have been discovered, this YouTube video from RealLifeLore will explain. The country was once ruled by the British and it has been referred to as "Australia's Australia", I've done research into what makes New Zealand so popular with thrill seekers, and I believe it's down to the fact that the country hosts a lot of environments into one place (probably why you can find Snowboarding and Sandboarding in the same country) and in a previous article I wrote on the Non-Deadly Dangers of the Dune back in 2016, you'll see my talk about a lot of plants that have the ability to kill you, especially in New Zealand. To summarise: the plants that could blind you are a threat to people and the fact that it's very remote from a lot of countries, however it is offset by being a worldwide hub for thrill seekers and those who want adventure! Low crime, a decent cost of living, the happiest people on this list, and the fact it has an open visa policy for Brits and the Americans makes New Zealand a very worthy contender for the top Sandboarding Nation of 2017.

Below is a video of Extreme Sandboarding from a YouTube show called "Living a Kiwi Life" by Stoked for Saturday:



Crime Index: 38.78
Cost of Living Index: 80.77
Internet Speed: 9.3 Mbps
World Happiness Report position: 8th (The happiest on this list)
Visa requirement for US citizens: No visa required
Visa requirement for UK citizens: No visa required
Official Languages: English, New Zealand Sign Language & Maori
Currency: New Zealand Dollar

There is one country this year that in my opinion is more appealing for sandboarders this year...

 #1 United States
(appearances: 2015 & 2016)
(last year: 4th)
(highest place: 1st, 2017)

Title: Flag of the United States License: Public Domain
There is a common belief amongst Americans that their nation is number one; Well, this year it's also Sandboarding Nation's number one place to go Sandboarding!

Just like New Zealand, there are a lot of environments you can fit into these United States, the 50 states and the territories host a wide range of landscapes and some are even fit for Sandboarding as well! To name a few places with sand dunes, you have the prestigious Sand Master Park, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Reserve, Imperial Sand Dunes in California, Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park in Idaho (also containing the highest sand dune in North America), and I could list more and more as this country is full of Sandboarding recreation areas and they're not just all dotted upon the coastline, also being the 3rd/4th largest country in the world depending on who you ask it's not a shock when you consider the amount of potential spaces you could go for a session in!

Courtesy: U.S. National Park Service Title: Great Sand Dunes National Park and PreserveHikers are dwarfed by the dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park near Alamosa, Great Sand Dunes National Park. License: Public Domain

The U.S. is visited by many tourists from across the world each year, and originally many people wanted to emigrate to the United States so that they could become part of the "American Dream", "The American Dream is the idea that all people can have happy and successful lives if they work hard." - (http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-the-american-dream.htm 28th November 2017). For many years it has been the centre on the global stage for political issues, militaristic issues, economic peaks, economic falls; it seems that no matter where you can be in the world, you will always hear about something that's happening in the United States of America. Sandboarding has been very popular ever since the sport became widespread in the 1960s & 1970s, and I personally think that Lon Beale is one of the "founding fathers" of Sandboarding in America, as he paved the way for Dune Riders International and what I believe competitive sandboarding as we now know it.

Courtesy of: Ljmajer Title: Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, near Reedsport, Oregon, USA License: Public Domain


"In '95 I founded Dune Riders International realizing the necessity for a governing body for this rapidly growing new sport. After much effort the ground work was laid for what would become the world sanctioning body for sandboarding." - (http://www.sandboard.com/pilot/LonBeale/ 28th November 2017)

Outside of Sandboarding and whether you support and resent the current president, you won't find a shortage of Sandboarding or dunes here; and to complement your sport experience, you'll find fast Internet, a cost of living that's not bad at all, a moderate rate of crime but not too alarming, happy citizens, and a worldwide trusted currency this is a good place not just for Sandboarding, but for an overall holiday to remember!

Below I have a YouTube video from Joey Coleman who was trying a never-before experience: Sandboarding!



Crime Index: 48.76
Cost of Living Index: 75.42
Internet Speed: 14.2 Mbps (The fastest on this list)
World Happiness Report position: 14th
Visa requirement for US citizens: None, because you're American.
Visa requirement for UK citizens: No visa required
Official Langauge: None at a federal level but predominantly English
Currency: United States Dollar


2014: Australia
2015: New Zealand
2016: New Zealand
2017: United States

That was the 2017 list of the Top 10 Sandboarding Countries! Be sure to find out what next years' list has in store and thanks to everyone who reads the blog, the followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram who all made this possible; if you haven't follow those accounts already, please do!
 
*Crime Index and Costs of Living are sourced from numbeo.com, Internet Speeds are from fastmetrics.com, Freedom House statistics are from the website freedomhouse.org; all information from these sites was sourced on the 10th November 2017.

**Data checked for Israel Internet Speed on the 13th November 2017 as original figure was incorrect.

***(InSight Crime’s 2015 Latin America Homicide Round-up 24th November 2017)

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