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Alexandria Coastal Dunefields

Date of Submission: 08/07/2009
Criteria: (vii)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
South African National Parks
State, Province or Region:
Eastern Cape Province, Alexandria District.
Ref.: 5453
Word File

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Alexandria Coastal Dunefield is the largest, most impressive and least degraded dunefield in South Africa and arguably one of the most spectacular in the world. It comprises an area of approximately 14 000 ha of unvegetated and 1 800 dunes. It stretched for 50 km from Sundays River Mouth to beyond Woody Cape and is 22 km wide on average. It ranges from 140 km high dunes right down to the beach and is comprised of bare and vegetated dunes, bush pockets and dune slacks.

The dunefield is Holocene (0-10 000 years) in age and thus was initiated during the latter stages of the Postglacial Transgression when sea-level rise from 150m, 18 000 years Before Present. The main transgressive dune field is dominated by a complex array of aklé type reversing transverse dunes. These dunes rise up to a maximum height of 150m above m.s.l. with individual dunes being up to 50 - 60m (crest to base) high. The dunes display both barchanoidal and transverse slipfaces with linking, dominant wind-parallel, across-swale ridges.

Portions of the dunefield are well vegetated and indicate periods of relative stability and widespread vegetation within the dunes during the last 10 000 or so years.

Land ownership : The property is owned by multiple owners. 80% of the land is owned by the South African National Parks which is an organ of the South African government. The remaining 20% is under private ownership.

Management structure: The property is managed by South African National Parks as part of the Addo Elephant National Park.

Budgetary matters: The costs of management and staff are provided for in the annual budgets of the South African National Parks.

Site readiness: The site is in a relatively advanced state of readiness. Tourism to the site is well managed. A Park Management Plan for the Addo Elephant National Park has been developed and it provides for the management of the Coastal Dunefields. The Management Plan will be updated to meet the requirements of the World Heritage Committee.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Alexandria Coastal Dunefield was formed over the past 6 500 years when the sea level returned to its present level after the last Ice Age. Dunes can rise up to 140 metres, with the average dune height being 30 metres above sea level. The Alexandria Coastal Dunefield is the largest and one of the most pristine coastal dunefields in South Africa and one of the largest and most impressive in the world. The dunefield has formed as a result of the interaction between the local wind climate, ready sand supply on the 40 km long beach, and the configuration of the bay shoreline. Only in desert areas, are bigger and more extensive dunes found.

Criterion (vii):  The Alexandria Coastal Dunefields display a wonderful natural phenomenon through the accumulation of sand blown off the beach and moving inland at 0.25 metres and growing vertically by 1 millimetre per year and in the process creating a landscape of outstanding beauty.

Criterion (x)

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The Alexandria Coastal Dunefield which has been formed over the past 6 500 years have largely remained in a pristine natural condition. Human activity has been limited and largely not destructive. South Africa has a banned the use of Off-Road vehicles in beach areas and this has helped in protecting the integrity of the site.

Comparison with other similar properties

The Alexandria Coastal Dunefields is as big as the huge coastal dunefield along the Oregon coast of north-western USA and comparable in size to the largest Australian coastal dunefields. Bigger, more extensive dunes are found only in desert areas