Sossusvlei, Namibia Sep 2017

From Victoria Falls, we go west to Namibia in southern Africa bordering the Atlantic Ocean.  We fly into Windhoek which is the capital of Namibia after it gained independence from South Africa in 1990.  Windhoek was once part of colonized Germany and the German presence can be strongly felt in the architecture, food, and beer.  We stayed at the beautiful Olive Exclusive All-Suite Hotel before embarking on our adventures in Namibia.

The Olive Exclusive:

The first destination in our 10 days in Namibia is Sossusvlei in the southern part of the Namib Desert.  The name Namib means “vast place” as the desert stretches for more than 2,000 kilometers along the Atlantic coast and is the oldest desert on the planet.  Sossusvlei is a part of the desert with a salt and clay pan surrounded by high orange-pinkish dunes.  The older the dune, the more intense the reddish hue.  We were transported by light aircraft from Windhoek and stayed at the andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge.  This is one of the nicest lodges in the area with 10 beautiful suites surrounded by mountains and sand dunes.

DSCF7907The vast Namib Desert from our flight.

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DSCF7925Arriving Sossusvlei after an hour and half flight.

DSCF7934It was a bit cramped in this little aircraft.

DSCF7943First sightings of oryxes on our way from the airstrip to the lodge.

andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge:

DSCF7963Love the view from the dining area of the lodge.

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DSCF0073Reminds me of a color field painting by Rothko.

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DSCF8014Scenic drive to the Petrified Dunes for our sundowner.

DSCF8029Champagne and sunset at the dunes

The first morning after our arrival, we woke up early for our hot air balloon ride.  Watching the sunrise as we float across the stunning landscape of red dunes, rolling plains, dark shadows and rocky mountains is definitely something I will never forget.   I especially love the silence except the occasional sound of fire inflating the balloon.   After an hour, we landed in the dunes with a champagne breakfast set up awaiting us.

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After our wonderful hot air balloon ride, we returned to our lodge for lunch followed by some free time to relax.  Around 4 in the afternoon, we went on our game drive to see some of the wildlife living in the area.  We saw some oryxes, springboks, ostriches and zebras.  Don’t expect lots of animals like in Botswana or South Africa, but I enjoyed the drive and scenery nonetheless.  We drove by many mysterious fairy circles that create a polka dot pattern across the Namib Desert.  These are circular patches of land without any grass or plants often encircled by a ring of grass.  This phenomenon mostly happens in the arid Namib Desert but similar rings have been found in Western Australia as well.  Many theories have been put forth in attempts to explain this such as sand termites or even natural divinities.  Local bushmen see these fairy circles as footprints of gods or of land once poisoned by the breath of dragons.  The most popular theory is that these circles are formed so that the plants can access the maximum amount of scarce resources.  The natural competition between desert grasses result in these circles which can grow to 25 meters wide.

DSCF7932Fairy circles creating a polka dot pattern on the desert.

DSCF7985An example of a fairy circle surrounded by a ring of grass.

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DSCF8111Lone oryx

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DSCF8158Springbok at a watering hole

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DSCF8190Sociable weaver nest looks like a sheep’s fur rug thrown over a tree branch.  300-500 of these little birds inhabit each nest.

DSCF8188Sociable weavers enter their nest from these little holes on the bottom of the nest.

DSCF7968Sociable weavers at the lodge chirping away like the three tenors

The following morning, we got up bright and early to visit the sand dunes of Sossusvlei and Deadvlei about an hour and a half away.  Sossusvlei is one of the most visited and photogenic destinations in Namibia.  It is famous for its large red sand dunes which are some of the tallest in the world.  Big Daddy is the tallest sand dune in the Sossusvlei area at 325 meters.   Climb up to the top to get spectacular views of Deadvlei, but make sure you bring lots of water.

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DSCF8220Visitors climbing Dune 45.  Climbing only allowed at certain sand dunes.

DSCF8224The type of dunes here are known as “star dunes” because the winds blow in all directions causing the sand to form a star shape with multiple arms.

DSCF8237Big Daddy in the back on the left is the tallest dune in the Sossusvlei area.  I only went up the dune in the front and was already completely knackered.

DSCF8241Quite a lot of effort going up the dune when the sand is super soft.  Much easier cheating and waiting for someone to pass by and then following his footsteps hehehe…

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DSCF8251One can also reach Deadvlei without climbing up the dune.

Deadvlei has been made iconic by all the photos you will have seen in travel magazines.  It is a clay pan characterized by dark, dead thorn trees.  Deadvlei used to be an oasis with some acacia trees.  After the water source dried up, the trees became blackened and it creates a surrealistic picture set against the white clay pan, red dunes, and blue skies.  The trees are estimated to be about 900 years old and have not decomposed due to the dry climate.  I could spend hours here photographing the trees at different angles, playing with the light and contrast, creating photographs that look like two-dimensional drawings.

Not far from Deadvlei is Sesriem Canyon.  It is worth a quick visit to see the rock formations created by the Tsauchab River over millions of years.  It reminds me of the canyons in Utah and Arizona in the United States.

Since we had a long morning visiting the sand dunes and Deadvlei, we opted for a short quad bike ride near our lodge in the afternoon.  It was fun zooming up and down the dunes and coming very close to some oryxes and zebras.  And of course admiring another beautiful African sunset which I will never tire of.

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Our 3 nights at Sossusvlei flew by and it was already time to continue on to our next stop: Swakopmund on the Atlantic coast.  Stay tuned!

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