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!
The “Dune Sea” of Namibia’s Great Namib Desert runs over 200 miles from the Orange River to the South to the Kuiseb River to the North. It contains some of the oldest, largest, and reddest dunes in the world. These giants reach up to 300 meters above the parched river bed.
The Namib-Naukluft National Park covers 23,000 sq miles and is one of the largest parks in the world. The shifting sands are constantly changing here making this one of the most dynamic landscapes in the world.
Sossuvlei is at the heart of the desert and an excellent place to explore some of the largest dunes in the Namib. Sesriem is the main camp that allows access to the park and has good facilities.
This place does not look or seem of this earth. The light and contrasts are a photographers dream.
Check out my Namib-Naukfluft National Park page for more information.
Namib-Nauklfut National Park
Soussouvlei is a really nice place to go, %c
BUT: be warned. The road that goes in (and out, since it is only one) is 67 km long, the last 5 km are only permitted if you have a 4WD (and believe it, you will need it, since it is only sand there).
The road was tarred 1 year ago,when we were there(2003), but you wouldn't believe it. It has so many big potholes, that a normal gravel-road like elsewhere in Namibia would be better. The only thing what it improves is, that there isn't that much dust from the cars anymore.
If you go into this dead-end street and you are 2 cars: leave one outside, you must come back the same road anyway...
The big dunes begin after about 30 km.
Dune number 45, which is famous because its closest to the street can be climbed: just try it!
If you have a 4WD do the last 5 km, it is also quite fun driving.
In the Dead Vlei (at the end) you should go and walk a little (1km to, 1km back).
The sand of the dunes have different kinds of colours from red to beige. Don't miss to climb up one dune. Unfortunately I was to lazy that day and now I really regret it. The view you have from the top of one dune must be increadible.
Nov 2004 - Returned to Sossuvlei a second time! One reason: to climb at least one dune.
Finally I made it to the top of Dune Elin (for sunset) and Dune 45, of course for sunrise:-) Just like everyone :-) For me doing no sports since some month it was quite exhausting :-)
From the bottom it looks easy.
But wait till you start climbing. The kids ran up and down with no effort.
I made it to the top and has a photo to proof it. ( There is no way I will send it out into the world)
Once you got your breath back the view is stunning. Just be careful the sun really burns you up there.
Believe me that is the first thing people asks you when you come back from Namibia.
" Did you climb Dune 7"
So just do it.
Little canyon very near Sesriem's campsite. Its a canyon of great beauty that is worth the visit indeed. Of about 30 meters in deep, I did saw a little pool inside, but I have read that in rain season the canyon gets fill of water "That must be incredible to see"
It is not easy to see cause its appear suddenly.
The day I took a plain to flight over Namib Desert I saw it from the sky, and it was much longer that I imagne from the floor.
After climbing Dune 45 we had breakfast and went to Dead Vlei. It was really cold, very cold, even after walking for long time.
It was a long way to reach the Dead Vlei, over 5 km. We found gemsbok in our way. A white dry lake under our feet, and some more dunes to climb, but little ones. At last you reach where dead trees are, like burn ones, and where the bigest dune in the world is, "bigone".
The way back can be easyer cause you can take a shuttle to the parking. Follow the people to find the shuttle, is over 1 Km from the Dead Vlei.
Of course you must take water, is a long way. And if you want ... do it as I did, with bared feet, it was great.