Thursday, 20 December 2018

Top 10 Sandboarding Countries of 2018

It's that time again where I come out of blogging hibernation and give you an insight into my Top 10 countries for Sandboarding: 2018 edition. Just to recap on last year, New Zealand came second and for the first time, the USA came out on top which certainly pleased our comrades in Oregon (you know who you are).

For this years list; I have determined the order via the Crime and Cost of Living Indexes courtesy of numbeo.com, their Internet speeds, position in the "World Happiness Report" from the UNSDSN, and their respective visa requirements. I also included their languages, currency, driving directionality, and plug socket types so if you are planning to visit, you'll know how things roll.

I decided not to use the "Freedom in the World" list by Freedom House as I felt this left out a few countries whose reputation could be damaged where in most cases people whom travel to those respective countries have excursions hassle-free; having said that all the countries in this list came up as "Free" apart from the U.A.E., China, and Qatar who all came up as "Not Free", however the UK Foreign Office have both stated that most visits to these 3 nations are trouble-free.

And also before I start, I'd like to note that some nations on this list may be currently visa-free for UK citizens, it's worth mentioning that this may be the last list those nations will be listed as visa-free for British nationals because of Britain's departure from the European Union and depending on what deal the UK gets, we may still have visa-free access to EU member states or we may have to obtain visa's altogether (If you haven't got a clue what I'm talking about, I recommend watching a television programme called "The News").

Let's jump in!


#10 United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

(appearances: 2014 & 2015)
(last year: did not appear)
(highest place: 7th, 2014)




Crime Index: 41.20
Cost of Living Index: 75.85
Internet Speed: 13 Mbps (the fastest on this list)
World Happiness Report position: 19th
Visa requirement for US citizens: No visa required
Visa requirement for UK citizens: None, because you're British.
Visa requirement for AU citizens: No visa required
Official Language(s): English
Currency: Pound Sterling
Plug Socket(s): Type G
Driving Side: Left

Some of you may or may not be aware that the UK has sand dunes, predominantly on the coastline; I'm currently in the process of writing a book that will hope to encourage more Brits to embrace sandboarding and if the book doesn't work then I'll have to stick to this blog. The UK mainly has a coastal sand dune system, no deserts, and no inland dunes for adrenaline junkies to enjoy.

The best dunes in the UK are located at Holywell Bay & Braunton Burrows in the South West of England, Merthyr Mawr, Ynyslas, and Shell Island (that's not an Island) in Wales, Balmedie in Scotland, the Sefton Coast in North West England, Camber Sands in the South East of England; not to mention more minor dune systems on the British coastline. It is true that the UK doesn't have a lot of dunes and they may all be minuscule compared to those in Africa & South America however the advantage of coastal dunes systems and being in a country with the 48th highest population density¹, you tend to get a lot of nearby villages so if you need a break or a place to rest for the night you'll find that there are nearby bed & breakfasts, shops, and restaurants so you can feel like at home even when you're away; a lot of the nearby places will have some interesting local attractions too!

Take a look at this clip from the Student Vloggers University of South Wales where Caitlin takes us to the Merthyr Mawr dunes as well as the nearby Candleston Castle.



¹ https://www.indexmundi.com/g/r.aspx?v=21000 (obtained 3rd September 2018)



#9 New Zealand

(appearances: 2015, 2016 & 2017)
(last year: 2nd)
(highest place: 1st, 2015 & 2016)





Crime Index: 39.15
Cost of Living Index: 83.41
Internet Speed: 9.3 Mbps
World Happiness Report position: 8th (the happiest nation on this list)
Visa requirement for US citizens: No visa required
Visa requirement for UK citizens: No visa required
Visa requirement for AU citizens: Freedom of Movement (Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement)
Official Language(s): English, Maori, and New Zealand Sign Language
Currency: New Zealand Dollar
Plug Socket(s): Type I
Driving Side: Left

New Zealand has had a reputation on this blog for being a sandboard-y country and rightly so, when people think of New Zealand, you think of thrill-seekers, Lord of the Rings, sheep, the rugby team (The All Blacks), etc... You would be forgiven for thinking that New Zealand isn't a hot country as the mean annual temperature is only between 10 and 16 degrees centigrade and the nation sits between 34 and 46 degrees South, so it's not exactly a perfect environment for a desert... Except, the Rangipo Desert which is a desert like environment lives on North Island however this desert experiences a very cold climate as opposed to a conventional hot climate. Anyway...

The best dunes in New Zealand are at Te Paki, which are also known as the "Giant Sand Dunes" and "Cape Reinga" despite sounding completely different; on the South Island there is Sandfly Bay which is nowhere near as breathtaking but it still looks on the surface to be an amazing place with an array of sand dunes for your personal use; There are the Hokianga Sand dunes which are again, Beautiful. However, according to the website 'stuff.co.nz' sand dunes are disappearing, it has been quoted by the website that "In the 1950s, there were well over 150,000 hectares of sand dunes in New Zealand, but this has dropped to about 25,000 hectares in 2008." (https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/100025735/are-sand-dunes-getting-bigger-or-smaller-in-new-zealand 4th October 2018)

To take your mind off the impending demise of sandboarding in New Zealand, have a look at this video by devinsupertramp which gives you a glimpse of how immense these dunes are.






#8 People's Republic of China

(appearances: none, previously)









Crime Index: 39.44
Cost of Living Index: 44.56 (the cheapest nation on this list)
Internet Speed: 4.1 Mbps
World Happiness Report position: 79th
Visa requirement for US citizens: Visa required prior to arrival
Visa requirement for UK citizens: Visa required prior to arrival
Visa requirement for AU citizens: Visa required prior to arrival
Official Language(s): Mandarin Chinese
Currency: Yuan
Plug Socket(s): Type A, Type C & Type I
Driving Side: Right


So after all this time, the world's 3rd largest country by land area and the most populated country has made it onto the best places list; when people think of China, a lot of people give China a bad rap for the Communist government, no freedom of the press, no democracy, bad air quality, and the fact that China sentences more people to death than any other country, the real figure remains secret but it is believed to be "thousands" (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/04/12/countries-executed-people-last-year/ 11th October 2018)

China, alongside it's history that is both fascinating and one of the oldest known civilisations in the world; also has a lot of sand dunes, particularly in the Badain Jaran Desert which spans 3 Chinese provinces and also has people baffled due to the fact that "over a hundred lakes have formed amongst the tallest sand dunes on Earth." (https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/mystery-lakes-of-the-badain-jaran-desert 11th October 2018), you will find these in the town of Dunhuang. The sand dunes and sandboarding is more centered around Dunhuang given the vast volume of dunes in the area and it's prime location near the Gobi Desert, however there is also the lesser-known Taklamakan Desert in the Xinjiang Uyghur region in Northwestern China; this location was more known as one of the many regions where the ancient Silk Road would pass through.


Not quite the same sport as this blog's agenda, however I discovered Sand-skiiers in the Taklamakan Desert from Conservation on the Edge and I'd recommend to watch the video if you want to see how vast these dunes are, not bad for the world's 3rd largest country.





 
#7 State of Israel

(appearances: 2017)
(last year: 4th)
(highest place: 4th, 2017)









Crime Index: 36.90
Cost of Living Index: 86.53
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
Visa requirement for AU citizens: No visa required
Official Language(s): Hebrew
Currency: Israeli New Shekel
Plug Socket(s): Type C & Type H
Driving Side: Right

THE FOLLOWING COUNTRIES DO NOT ACCEPT ISRAELI STAMPED PASSPORTS: IRAN, IRAQ, KUWAIT, LEBANON, LIBYA, PAKISTAN, SAUDI ARABIA, SUDAN, SYRIA, AND YEMEN. (https://igoogledisrael.com/can-i-visit-arab-countries-with-an-israeli-visa-stamp-in-my-passport/ 2nd October 2018)

I knew it was critical to include this clause before I even talk about Israel, as for one; Israel is the least recognised UN member in the world, and it is seemingly in a melting pot of controversial news headlines' however for Sandboarding, this place is the heaven it truly claims to be. 

With a rich history and a very religious background, Israel has 50% of its land area covered by the Negev desert which is rich in sand dune quantity so you'll have no issues finding a good spot in this area the size of the country of Vanuatu (or for our American friends, that's roughly the size of Connecticut). Outside of the Negev, the best dunes are found in Ashdod, the coastal beach resorts of Rishon Lezion, and Haifa. Dohan in the South is also a very interesting place also with some dunes not far from the city; but if you're looking for the best dunes that just go on for miles... You're much better off going to the Negev.

Within the Negev, the best dunes according to the website 'touristisrael.com', are between Beer Sheva and Mitzpe Ramon and the sand dunes are described as "soft and not sticky" which for keen sandboarders like myself, is a necessity! (https://www.touristisrael.com/tours/sandboarding-negev-desert/ 25th October 2018)  
There aren't too many long videos on Sandboarding in Israel specifically, so if you upload one please let me know and I might give you a Sandboarding Nation T-shirt *hint hint*. So here is a Vlog from an Israeli road trip with a feature on Sandboarding from Jerusalem U.









#6 United Arab Emirates

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





Crime Index: 18.75
Cost of Living Index: 67.21
Internet Speed: 6.9 Mbps
World Happiness Report position: 20th
Visa requirement for US citizens: Visa on arrival
Visa requirement for UK citizens: Visa on arrival
Visa requirement for AU citizens: Visa on arrival
Official Language(s): Arabic
Currency: United Arab Emirates Dirham
Plug Socket(s): Type G
Driving Side: Right

It's been a good few years since the Emirates have been on this annual list, when people tend to think of the U.A.E., Dubai and the Burj Khalifa spring to mind, along with the World and Palm Islands! But if you look outside of the cities, you can find dunes here as well.

You can find dunes in Al Shwaib which is in the Abu Dhabi emirate (the capital), you also have Liwa which is a collection of small towns in a large oasis area, a lot like Huacachina in Ica, Peru. It's not an Oasis town that thrives of Sandboarding tourists, it's also very historic and has highways connecting the settlements in the area. However, if you go about 25km south of the Liwa Oasis, you'll reach the Moreeb Dune (Tal Mor'eb) which is claimed to be the tallest sand dune in the United Arab Emirates, it has a reported slipface of 50 degrees and a height of 300 metres, however this dune is primarily used for organised drag races.

A good thing about the UAE is that directly below it is the 'Rub Al-Khali' or Empty Quarter, this has barely any people and untouched lands, so you'll probably find good dunes here in this vast space the size of France. I found a good video from TheAdventurousVlogger who faceplants into some sand dunes, some very nice ones I dare say.






#5 Federal Republic of Germany

(appearances: 2014, 2015 & 2016)
(last year: did not appear)
(highest place: 4th, 2015)







Crime Index: 36.65
Cost of Living Index: 74.35
Internet Speed: 12.9 Mbps
World Happiness Report position: 15th
Visa requirement for US citizens: No visa required
Visa requirement for UK citizens: Freedom of Movement (EU)
Visa requirement for AU citizens: No visa required
Official Language(s): German
Currency: Euro
Plug Socket(s): Type C & Type F
Driving Side: Right

I actually had the pleasure of driving to Germany in July as well as driving through the countries to get there too (France, Belgium and Netherlands); I didn't go to Sandboard as quite frankly there are limited locations in Germany and also I was seeing family in the North West so I didn't want the inconvenience to drive to Monte Kaolino in Bavaria; when someone asks me for the best sand dune in Germany, I straight away blurt out "Monte Kaolino" because the World Sandboarding Championship did some legs here in the 2000s and events still take place here today, also there are camping pitches available for short holidays and the only place I've managed to find where a ski-lift has been erected onto a sand dune, that's German efficiency for you!

There are sadly not many more sandboarding locations here as the country is dominated by snowboarding as opposed to sandboarding; it's worth noting that in the Mecklenburg Elbe Valley Nature Park in the North East of Germany, there is a small sand dune system that is in the open, but I don't know if it's open to the public as I couldn't find any sources that said if it was or not; but Monte Kaolino is the definition of this place.

I understand there are also dunes in Osenberge and Mainz as listed on the Wikipedia page, however I haven't included these because I can't find any photos to double up as evidence for a "good sand dune". To illustrate how good Monte Kaolino is, I've included a video from FilmBros on the 35 million ton sand dune that it is (The video is in German).






#4 State of Qatar

(appearances: 2015 & 2016)
(last year: did not appear)
(highest place: 4th, 2018)



Crime Index: 15.70 (the safest nation on this list)
Cost of Living Index: 65.37
Internet Speed: 6.7 Mbps
World Happiness Report position: 32nd
Visa requirement for US citizens: Visa on arrival
Visa requirement for UK citizens: Visa on arrival
Visa requirement for AU citizens: Visa on arrival
Official Language(s): Arabic
Currency: Qatari Riyal
Plug Socket(s): Type G
Driving Side: Right

I've seen Qatar in the news a bit recently, whether it's to do with the 2022 FIFA World Cup or the fact that Saudi Arabia may turn Qatar into an island. There are also an abundance of sand dunes in the small country, but despite its small size there is a lot to offer here in terms of landscape, tourist attractions, and also the fact that per person, Qatar is the richest country in the world.

Some dune spots include the Singing Sand Dunes on the border of the Al-Rayyan and Al-Wakrah Municipalities, and there is the Sealine Sand Dunes south of Mesaieed in Al-Wakrah municipality; fun fact about the first dunes, they produce a really strange sound when you go on them (hence the name, singing sand). The country isn't that large but the majority of the country is in a desert climate so I would suspect there are dunes that aren't even found yet.

I have included a video on the top tourist locations in Qatar, one of which is the singing sand dunes; this specific video is from BJ.





#3 Republic of Croatia

(appearances: none, previously)







Crime Index: 27.00
Cost of Living Index: 55.06
Internet Speed: 6.4 Mbps
World Happiness Report position: 82nd
Visa requirement for US citizens: No visa required
Visa requirement for UK citizens: Freedom of Movement (EU)
Visa requirement for AU citizens: No visa required
Official Language(s): Croatian
Currency: Croatian Kuna
Plug Socket(s): Type C & Type F
Driving Side: Right

Let it be said that Croatia did extremely well in the FIFA World Cup this year (I feel this article will keep on referring to world cups). However, Croatia isn't really too well known for its sand dunes, but let it be said they have really good ones I can promise that. One thing that needs to be established is that since Croatia is a member of the European Union, it is not part of the Schengen Area.

Some spots include the stabilised sand dunes in Đurđevac, this spot is known as the "Croatian Sahara"; another very well known spot is Rogotin. Both of the Croatian towns host some nice sand dunes, while they might not be that fun for experienced riders, they're good for beginners and if you want a taste of Croatian life, you should come to this area! I have put Croatia this high in the list because of the quality of life of its people and ratings involving low costs of living, low crime rate, and the fact that Croatia is still an EU state which provides ease of travel for other EU citizens; however despite Croatia not being in Schengen, I have been informed that this could change soon so... watch this blog.

Sadly I couldn't find any videos or photos of sandboarding in Croatia, I had a very long browse to see if I could find anything but to no avail. If you have any photos or videos of you or someone you know shredding the dunes in Croatia, please come and speak with me *free t-shirt hint hint*. I also couldn't find any copyright free images so I guess you'll have to take my word for it. I didn't mean to let you down like this but when I have no resources, there's not much I can do.


#2 Kingdom of Spain

(appearances: 2014, 2015, 2016 & 2017)
(last year: 3rd)
(highest place: 2nd, 2018)

















Crime Index: 36.74
Cost of Living Index: 61.75
Internet Speed: 12.1 Mbps
World Happiness Report position: 36th
Visa requirement for US citizens: No visa required
Visa requirement for UK citizens: Freedom of Movement (EU)
Visa requirement for AU citizens: No visa required
Official Language(s): Spanish
Currency: Euro
Plug Socket(s): Type C & Type F
Driving Side: Right



Spain has been on this list every year since its inception and why shouldn't it be? I've been here on holiday a few times both on the mainland and on outlying islands, it's a beautiful country and the perfect setting for dune shredding; despite all the hassle with Catalonia, a region of Spain that wants independence, everything else is paradise; low cost of living, low crime rate, an EU state, friendly towards the English tourists in the coastal areas, and despite the fact they're Spanish.

On mainland Spain, you can find sand dunes in the town of 'Tarifa' in Southern Spain which are the largest on the mainland, Doñana national park not far from Seville; in the north in Galicia, you have the Corrubedo dunes which are a natural park not too far from Portugal. On the islands, you've got some small coastal dunes as usual on the Balearic Islands and on the Canary Islands, you've got Corralejo on the island of Fuerteventura and you also get my personal favourite (I've wrote an article on this one), Maspalomas on Gran Canaria.

Unlike Croatia, I have many videos and copyright free images of Sandboarding in Spain; I would have used one video but I used that same video for last years' post, so here's a new one from Dorian Nöel.






#1 Republic of Chile

(appearances: 2014 & 2017)
(last year: 5th)
(highest place: 1st, 2018)

 






Crime Index: 46.48
Cost of Living Index: 55.24
Internet Speed: 6.1 Mbps
World Happiness Report position: 25th
Visa requirement for US citizens: No visa required
Visa requirement for UK citizens: No visa required
Visa requirement for AU citizens: No visa required (Reciprocity Fee Payable*) 
Official Language(s): Spanish
Currency: Chilean Peso
Plug Socket(s): Type C & Type L
Driving Side: Right

I've seen so many news articles and Instagram posts from sports fans in the Sandboarding world that concern Chile, whether its riders shredding dunes in Iquique or just touring Santiago, there was a good reason I put this country at the top of the list for this year, and I think it deserves the title!

With a population of 18 million and a country area that's slimmer than my waistline, Chile is a surprising gem when it comes to Sandboarding; it holds a generous portion of the Atacama desert which is a haven for riders and if you add in the low costs of living, a decent low crime rate, and the fact it's in the Top 16% for happiest countries; it's a decision in which I had no hesitation on choosing Chile as a candidate to be on this list, albeit at the top.

*If you're a national of Albania, Australia, or Canada, you will have to pay what is known as a 'Reciprocity Fee', you don't need a visa if you're from these countries but you still need to pay a fee to enter Chile (a minor inconvenience but the way I see it; if you can afford to visit Chile, I'm sure you can afford to include a visiting fee). (https://wikitravel.org/en/Reciprocity_Fee 17th December 2018)

The most notable spots in Chile for riders include the previously mentioned and what I may call the capital of Chilean sandboarding: Iquique. The Atacama desert is also a large expanse that contains some of the world's untouched sand dunes, the settlement of San Pedro de Atacama also hosts some good spots, there are the tall dunes of Concón, and the beach towns of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar.

There are lots of videos to choose from if you want to have a taste of Chilean sandboarding, I have included a video from Wolfgang Teves and their trip to San Pedro de Atacama.


Conclusion


That concludes the annual list that is the best places to Sandboard according to Sandboarding Nation in 2018, I would like to say that I calculate the best countries from a long list of countries with a sandboarding background and I then keep making comparisons and making average judgments to what countries may give the best experience for tourists, positive news from the relevant countries may make a country more appealing to sandboard in, and the fact that social media has heavily influenced the way I look at my research.

I was very amazed that Chile came out on top and that for the first time in 5 published annual reports: Australia and Namibia have been wiped out entirely and last year you saw the United States win and now they haven't made it to the Top 10; there are many countries in the world so I try to be inclusive with every one and if I extended this list to a Top 20, I'm confident that Namibia, Australia, and the United States (along with some other countries) would have made it on the list but the content would have dropped harder than a sack of potatoes.

I believe that next year given the global outlook on politics (Brexit, Trump, Israel-Palestine, etc...) I think that Israel could still make the list if they maintain the current state of peace right now, New Zealand and the United States could see itself back into the top if they can maintain a healthy tourism sector, Qatar might drop down the list more controversy arises regarding the FIFA World Cup in 2022, and I predict next year it's going to be a close battle between a few countries but I know one of the top nations will be Spain; in the 5 annual lists they're positions have been strong (3rd, 3rd, 5th, 3rd, 2nd) and they could potentially top the list for 2019; my money's on Spain but who knows?

2014: Australia🇦🇺
2015: New Zealand🇳🇿
2016: New Zealand🇳🇿
2017: United States of America🇺🇸
2018: Chile🇨🇱

Links for statistics all obtained on 7th August 2018.

Crime Rate: https://www.numbeo.com/crime/rankings_by_country.jsp?title=2018
Cost of Living: https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/rankings_by_country.jsp?title=2018
Internet Speed: https://www.fastmetrics.com/internet-connection-speed-by-country.php
World Happiness Report: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Happiness_Report#2018_report

1 comment:

  1. Hello Jack !
    here is a link to Sandboarding in Israel YouTube channel .
    Dror Bamidbar Sandboarding
    https://www.youtube.com/user/drorbamidbar

    ReplyDelete