Port Edward - Home to the world's smallest desert

Port Edward - Home to the world's smallest desert

South Africa is known for many things, but having the smallest desert in the world is not on top of the list...

The Red Desert in Port Edward
The Red Desert Nature Reserve in KZN. Image credit: Tamlyn Canham

KwaZulu-Natal is a province rich in natural beauty and picturesque landscapes. 

Scores of holidaymakers flock to the province throughout the year to take advantage of its warm beaches and majestic mountains. 

However, many people are unaware that KZN is home to the smallest desert in the world. The Red Desert Nature Reserve, which is just 200m in diameter, is located in Port Edward. 

It is a total of 11 hectares, which is 0.11 square kilometres. The Sahara - which spans across several African countries and is the world's largest hot desert - is a massive 9.2-million square kilometres in comparison. 

Don't let its small size fool you, the Red Desert is a hidden gem worth adding to your travel bucket list - if only to say you have been to the world's smallest desert! 

The desert's website describes it as a miniature version of the Arizona Desert. However, unlike the one in Arizona, you can see the ocean from the Red Desert! 

The red sand desert also has a small maze that gives you a relaxing feeling or dizzying experience - depending on who you talk to. 

ALSO READ: Dino Park: The most REX-ELLENT family adventure on the South Coast

@travelwithafrika 📍#TheRedDesert is just 200m in diameter and is the smallest desert in the world! It’s located in the town of #PortEdward in #KwaZuluNatal!!! #mzansitiktok #travelsouthafrica #southafricantourism #satiktok #travelwisemzansi #southafricantraveller #reddesert ♬ The Last Goodbye (feat. Bettye LaVette) - ODESZA

You'll also spot a gorgeous protea or two (Not David Miller and Kagiso Rabada, but the flower) - depending on the time of year - and other plants in the desert. 

Important things to note 

No dogs: Strictly no dogs are allowed in the red desert area. 

Pricing: The reserve operates on an "honest policy" payment system. There is a QR code at the entrance that you can use to scan and pay. You can also pay in advance on the website. According to the website, tickets are R35 for adults and R20 for children under 18. 

Wear closed shoes: This goes without saying, but you will be surprised by how many people show up in their flops! Red sand and ants, anyone? 

ALSO READ: Splashy Fen 2024: What SA's friendliest festival entails


Entrance into the Red Desert is via a small gate. Some visitors are often confused and think they have arrived at the wrong place. 

The smallest desert in the world just has a small gate as its entrance. No stress! 

ALSO READ: Five things to do in KZN over Easter weekend

The Red Desert has received many favourable reviews from happy visitors.

"We were dying to visit the Red Desert and it did not disappoint. What an interesting but somehow a bit strange experience. A desert in a tropical area," one wrote on Tripadvisor

Another added: "What a hidden gem in Port Edward. Never knew it existed. Beautiful red sand dessert, smallest desert in the world. Walk and discover the maze."

Find East Coast Radio on the following social media platforms: 

Main image credit: Tamlyn Canham 

Show's Stories