For the non-romantics, Sossusvlei and Deadvlei are just some dry, salt-and-clay pans surrounded by big dunes, in Namibia’s Namib Desert. For the rest of us, it's a natural wonder that defies description: one of those corners of the planet that look too dream-like for anybody to believe they actually exist. We went to Namibia to check for ourselves―and brought back these photos.
No matter how extensive the vocabulary, it's almost impossible to convey the grandeur of the giant mountains of rusty sand, shaped into crescents and waves by the Atlantic wind. No matter how colourful the language, it fails at describing the magic of contrasts of the salt-white pan and inky trees of Deadvlei, set against the fiery dunes.
It's quite a spectacle. The African sun paints the sand with ochres, brick-reds and brilliant oranges, but the first sun rays of the day also unlock violets and carmines, emerging from the blue shadows and the milky morning mist.
The fog comes all the way from the Atlantic, across the vast expanses of the Namib desert: hundreds of kilometres of rolling dunes, wind-swept and untouched by human civilization.
It never rains in the Namib Desert. The blackened trees of Deadvlei are too dry to decay, even though they have been dead for almost a millennium - but their skeletons live on in countless photographs and in people's imagination.
This eerie grove has been on our bucket list for a long time. When we finally made it to the site, it transfixed us… the experience was almost spiritual. Sometimes we still have to pinch ourselves - yes, this place exists and yes, we were lucky to visit it.
The best light for photography
Many guides list “climbing the dunes” as the must-do, especially since they are among the tallest in the world - but this is not why we travelled to Sossusvlei. The view from the top is great, but we wanted to capture the Deadvlei pan… and the light changes quickly.
If you are, like us, more interested in the surreal landscape of Deadvlei than in scaling the dunes, head to the site as early as possible: it is at its most photogenic early morning.
Bear in mind that access to the Sossusvlei area is restricted - the main gate, at Sesriem, opens before sunrise and closes at sunset. It's quite a bit of a drive from the gate, so prepare for a mad dash to the site. The best bet is to stay in the adjacent to the park private Kulala Wilderness Reserve, which has its own gate, and although also with restricted opening hours, you will get to the dunes early enough.
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