Namibia has always been a special place for me to visit, the landscapes are ever changing and makes one feel like you are completely alone at times.
And while there are long distances to drive, sometimes you can drive for hours without seeing another vehicle – the country rules apply – if someone is stuck, everyone stops.
A country which is 4 times the size of the UK but with only around 2.5 million people, offers a vast amount of land to explore – an adventurer, and photographer’s playground. The reason for the small population – The Namib Desert!
This desert stretches 2000 km extending from Richtersveld National Park in South Africa all the way up the Skeleton coast to Angola. While it’s the driest on earth – there is plenty of water – the entire western border of the Namib desert borders the Atlantic Ocean.
This causes unprecedented weather – with the clashing climates where sea and desert meet, creating some dense fog along the coast – hence the Skeleton coast which is dotted with shipwrecks.
This ancient desert is also one of the world’s most extreme environments.
After the flat desert to the ocean like dunes. The ocean actually shaped this landscape – Namib dune sea. Sands from the sea were pushed onto the beach, as the Atlantic hit the shore, creating huge dunes. Sands pushed so far inland that they covered an area as big as Belgium.
Sossusvlei, located in the Namib Naukluft Park, is a highlight and bucket list spot to see. The name literally translates into “Dead end Marsh” from the Nama word Sossus and the Afrikaans word Vlei.
The vast sights make one feel completely isolated, like you are the only person left in the world.
The most astonishing thing about these barren landscapes is that there is actually life out there. From barking geckos, springbok, ostrich to the beautiful Oryx, Namibia’s national animal.
The oryx antelope has developed a unique system to cool down its blood. Thanks to a fine network of blood vessels the brain is cooled and thus the animals can handle a body temperature of more than 40°C for longer periods.
The best times of course to go are early morning or late afternoon – the gates open and close around 6am and 6pm respectively.
The side lighting at those times accentuates the height, and of course it’s generally cooler. The incredible scenery makes anyone look like (or at least feel like) a professional photographer!
Once one reaches the parking area at the dunes you are free to walk anywhere to get your photos – there are many places to see and explore, and there are no real directions.
There is usually someone who points you in the general direction, with a shout of “2 litres of water and plenty of shade” – there is no shade by the way – so take a big hat!
Alternatively follow the footsteps of the people before you – if you are early, and there are no footsteps – look out for the man pointing the way!
Continue to walk through torrid temperatures, staring up into the towering dunes as you watch the ant like people racing down the steep slopes – this is what makes the long walk up the dunes worthwhile though!
Though they might look easy to climb – the highest, fondly known as “Big Daddy”, is on average 350m high – it’s quite a challenge!
Deadvlei is another area to explore. This is a white clay pan formed after the Tsauchab river flooded creating temporary shallow pools, allowing trees to grow. However after climate change and drought hit, the sand dunes encroached, blocking the river.
Some of the trees, thought to have died some 600 years ago, are still standing because the desert is too dry to allow the wood to decompose.
The cracked white surface is all that’s left of the ancient marsh – a therapeutic crackling as one walks over the dry clay.
Every decade or so, there is enough rain to turn these into beautiful pools once more – for a short period – the last time was in 2021, a time, unfortunately, that few people could get to see it.
After a couple of hours, it’s too hot to stay. One’s mouth at this point feels like an old leather sandal, your eyes are about to fall out of your head like raisins and the sand in your shoes needs to be poured out so you can get back to your normal height – yet
– It is definitely worth it!
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