2006 has been declared the International Year of Deserts and Desertification. We will find out more about desertification and why it is such a global problem later.

For now let's concentrate on deserts. We know what a desert is, or do we? What do you imagine when you think about a desert? A hot place, with lots of sand, camels, palm trees? Not all deserts are like that!

In this activity, you will visit the main deserts of the world and find about the deserts and what makes them unique.

World desert map


1. Follow the placemarks of the main deserts. Click on each desert icon on the Google Earth world map or that are Linked from this page. Zoom in on the Earth near the placemark, move around the area and explore the desert landscape. On a map of the world, indicate the location of the main deserts. For each desert (note some deserts have more than one icon) you need to find out:
a. The name of the desert;
b. The continent (include states or country or countries) in which it is situated;
c. The type of desert;
e. The area covered by the desert in square kilometres
f. Describe the type of landforms found in the desert, including any specific features;
g. Describe the types of plants and animals found in each desert; and
h. Some interesting facts about the desert.
(Here you can download a matrix for the answers)

2. Select one of the deserts that you found interesting and make a virtual tour of that desert. You can find different areas of interest within the desert, find examples of plants and animals, or human activity that takes place within the selected desert.

Download the Placemarker Planning Sheet

3. Present this virtual tour to your teacher and your classmates using Google Earth.

Principal Deserts of the World
Deserts of the World
Biomes and Biogeographical Realms - select region
Australasia - scroll down to Deserts & Xeric Shrublands, select other regions such as Afrotropic
Deserts of the World - alphabetical listing of deserts with links to resources
Desert Habitats
Deserts - details of Australian deserts
What is a Desert?

How to use Google Earth (general overview)
Using places

Download the GoogleEarth file (preferred option)

Access sites through Browser page if access is not available to GoogleEarth


This lesson was developed as educational material using Google Earth. This kind of WebQuest is called an EarthQuest and was devised by John Demmers, Netherlands.

In this EarthQuest the students will explore the main deserts in Google Earth. They will also explore characteristics of these deserts and they make their own Google Earth tour to one selected desert.

Exploring these places the students learn to use the program Google Earth and they are able to add placemarks and a total tour along their own points of interests.

To complete this activity, students should be supplied with a matrix for the answers, a planning sheet and a blank map of the world.


This EarthQuest is made by:
Kaye Placing


Based on the EarthQuest World Wonders developed by:
John Demmers