OK I have to be honest – I didn’t climb Dune 45, but Chris did and told me all about it, so I figure I know enough to describe it here! Basically it’s a huge pile of sand and you climb up it – and if you think that sounds easy you’ve obviously never walked on even a small seaside dune. For every step you take forwards you slip almost the same amount backwards, which means it takes a very long time and a lot of effort to get to the top. And this is no ordinary dune – it’s one of the largest in the Namib Desert, at over 150 metres high. From the top (apparently) you get a great view of red sand in waves of dunes on all sides.
If you blow up my photo and peer at it carefully, Chris is the small figure just to the right of the dark shaded area at the top of the dune!
Dead Vlei is the place that you must visit when going to Namibia. Its one of the unique spots on earth with almost no rainfall but lots of life and interesting scenery. It was also the only spot on our Namibian road trip that 4WD was a must to get to the spot as driving on the sand dunes was necessary.
I will always jump at the chance to go ballooning and here in the desert is no exception.
It does mean getting up before dawn but its worth it.
It does mean you will feel rather chilly in the cold desert air but its worth it.
It does mean paying a lot of money but its worth it
It does mean going without breakfast until after the flight, but they do give you a champagne breakfast and loads to eat afterwards so its worth it.
If you have never done it try it. It is so peaceful and calm, there is no turbulence, no sudden movements , no wind, you just gently drift along enjoying the view.... and what a view!!
Not exactly the Grand Canyon but an interesting insight into the geology of the area.
Explorers, transport riders and early travellers used to lower a bucket down to collect the water and it normally took 6 lengths of thong tied together, hence the Afrikaans name “Ses” meaning six, and “Riem” meaning thong.
The canyon is largely formed from conglomerate (rounded stones in a sandy bed). This was carried down by currents of the Tsauchab River. This rises in the Naukluft and Zaris Mountains to the east, and flows through to Sossusvlei.
The size of the stones corresponds to the force of the water. Its easy to see from the canyon walls the changes in sizes of the stones indicating a change is speed and force of the river.
If you couldn't care a hogs hoot about the geology its still a nice place to go for an hours walk regardless!
A photographers dream!
I have seen so many gorgeous photos of this place I just so wanted to go there and see it for myself. It didn't dissapoint.
Deadvlei is a clay pan formed from where water runs off after the rains. The dunes have hemmed it in and as a result the water forms a shallow lake and at one point trees were able to grow. Unfortunately now the trees have died leaving a ghostly forest of gnarled trunks and branches set agains the white pan, red dunes and blue sky. The age of the trees is not known and estimates range form 60 to 600 years.
However old they are they are fantastic to photograph and you can wander around for hours getting the perfect shot.
Go early in the morning when the sun rises to capture the most vivid colours and to avoid the crowds. The road is not good so you will have to park the car and walk 2km or take advantage of the local shuttle service which bumps back and forth to and from the sight.
This is the most famous dune in Sossusvlei and the one everyone likes to climb.
If you get there in the early morning drive past it and go to Dead Vlei. This is because firstly you will get Dead Vlei all to yourself and its much better than Dune 45 and secondly, when you come back later you can climb Dune 45 and there will be less people around because they have all gone to Dead Vlei!
The reason that it is called Dune 45 is that all the dunes were mapped when the Germans first occupued Namibia and with their usual Teutonic efficiency they numbered them al. What they didn't take into account was the fact that the dunes moved so the maps quickly got out of date! These days apparantly the dunes are tracked by satellite! (not that they are going to move so fast as to run away in the middle of the night!!!)
Still, its there - go climb it. Get the T Shirt.
Sossusvlei is in the Namib-Naukluft National Park,one of Africa's largest. Its famous for it's huge groups of sand dunes, which at up to 340 metres high are the tallest sand dunes in the world.
It was foggy the first morning I was there which is a very strange sight. Fog was spilling over the tops of sand dunes like a cloudy waterfall as the sun came up. It was a pity it was too dim to take aphoto. When the sun came up the fog melted away.
The Namib desert occupies an area of around 50 000 km², stretching some 1,000 miles from africas center(1 600 km) along the Atlantic Ocean coast of Namibia, which is named after this desert. Its east-west width varies from 30 to 100 miles (50-160 km). The Namib Desert also reaches into southwest Angola.
The area is considered to be the oldest desert in the world, having been arid or semi-arid conditions for at least 80 million years. Although it is pretty barren (but nevertheless desolately beautiful) some creatures are able to survive because of sea fog which is a result of the cold Benguela ocean currents hitting the land.
The sand-dunes at Sossusvlei are some 60km from Sesriem campsite, and the drive takes about an hour.
The gate from Sesriem to Sossusvlei opens in time for campers to drive to Sossusvlei before sunrise. Due to the opening time of the national park gates the only way you will be able to be in the dunes for sunrise is to either camp at Sesriem or stay in the accommodation at Sossusvlei Wilderness Camp, Kulala Lodge, Little Kulala or Kulala Wilderness Camp.
There are many other lodges in the Sesriem / Sossusvlei area, but if you are accommodated at one of these you will only reach the dunes after sunrise
Namibia is a place of unique places, and Dead Vlei is definitely one of the most stunning ones.... This is an unworldly haunted place with long-dead camel-thorn acacias rising like gnarled fingers from the parched and cracked clay towards the impossibly blue cloudless skies. All this against a backdrop of the reddest and highest of dunes. So stark and desolate, yet amazingly photogenic. It is like stepping onto another planet … the experience is so surreal you automatically walk in silence contemplating the extreme conditions of this arena of death. The heat deters you from spending the whole day contemplating here, as there is not a single scrap of shade. If you are into weird thigs, it doesn't get weirder :-)
I'll put the directions here cuz VT says it is too long - when on earth is there a short way to explain where something in the desert is?? HA HA
Anyway .... Deadvlei is accessed by driving through all the road leading to Sussusvlei, passing Dune 45 (which you would have probably been visiting in the early morning). The road stops at a car park - this is as far as a normal 2WD can go. If you have a 4WD follow the signs to the Dead Vlei, and be prepared to switch on the 4WD and drive in the sand - it is some real fun :-) If on the other hand, you don't have a 4WD, no worry. There are constant shuttle services taking you to and from the Deadvlei parking ... or you can also walk, the scenery is pleasant.
This is the most photographed dune in the Sussusvlei area .... or maybe in the whole of Namibia. It is definitely very photogenic, with its wonderful curves playing with the light, especially at sunrise. Many people who visit also like to climb the dune, which is not as easy as it looks as for each step you make upwards you fall 2 back :-) But the view from the top is definitely worthwhile - you can see dunes upon dunes and the vlei (pan) slowly getting narrower, being stifled by towering sand dunes. It is unmissable if you visit Namibia!
Deserts are fascinating places - they are beautiful in their simplicity and in their extreme; but they are also interesting places in ecological terms. The Namib is one of the driest places on earth with basically very little or no rainfall. How can anything possibly survive here? The answer lies within the shores of Namibia, reached by the cold Benguela current all the way from the Antarctic. The cold currents cool the air that condenses into fog as it meets the warmer desert air. The prevailing winds push the moist fog inland, into the desert. Many years of adaptation have allowed plants, to absorb this fog - allowing other creatures to colonise even such a hostile environment. Geckos scramble around foraging for particles of dead matter, snake predate on whatever they may find, gemsbok can survive without water. Animals such as foxes, gerbils and elephants will eat desert melons - a valuable source of water. Beetles will climb on the dunes in the morning, stand on their heads with their backs facing the wind and let the water condense and trickle down their backs and into their mouths. The dunes seem to be alive, in fact they shift at a rate of about 20 cm a year - the desert is indeed ever-changing. The Namib is truly a natural wonder, for its incredible scenic beauty and the story it tells about how nature always finds a way.
The Namib is probably the oldest desert on earth, the other contender being the Atacama in Chile. The Namib's age has given time for the different forms of life to adapt to it.
The Namib desert is spread across the western part of Namibia, with parts of it protected by natural parks and mining areas. The Namib-Naukluft, Skeleton Coast and West Coast Recreational area are all in the Namib.
One can find dune deserts, mountains and gravel plains - so the Namib is not simply just a sea of sand, it is indeed a varied and interesting extreme world of its own.
For more info of places in the Namib refer to my Namib Naukluft pages.
While staying at the Kulala Desert Lodge we arranged to visit Sossusvlei with one of their guides, Francis. He was an excellent guide and made sure we got to the best photo stops ahead of the tour groups (although that did mean a very early start to the day, of course!)
The highlight was visiting Dead Vlei. We parked the jeep and walked across several dunes. As we came over the top of the last, Dead Vlei was spread before us. It's an amazing sight and if you're a photographer you'll love it - the contrast betwen the white dried-up clay, stark black trees and surrounding red dunes is out of this world! See my travelogue for more images.
We went to see the desert dunes at dawn. As you can see I had my camera and tripod ready.
The Namibian sand dunes are supposed to be the biggest in the world.
It was pitch black when we climbed to the top of the dune, then every minute the light and the shadows changed, it was so incredible.
Henties Bay is a small coastal village about 70 km from Swakopmund on the way to the Skeleton coast. Not much to do really except for the nice beach. The kids loved it and build tons of castles on the sand.
From what I heard it is the place to go if you are into fishing.
This road is about 30km. It runs between the sea and the desert. It was one of the most amazing visual experiences I've ever had. We drove it one afternoon at about 15:00. There was still fog over the sea. You could see the boats on the water through the fog. It looked like a scene from a pirate movie.
On bright days, like the one on the photo everything seems very light and bright. People drive with their light on. You cannot describe it to anyone. You have to see it for yourself.
The Sossusvlei is part of the Namib Naukluft Park and only about 60 km off the Atlantic coast.
From the park entrance, visitors can follow a street surrounded by dunes towards Sossusvlei.
After approx. 70 km you can only advance by off-road vehicle.
However, you don't need to go all the way to experience the stunning views of the orange dunes. It's gorgeous!