Namibia is a truly stunning place on earth which arose from dust and sand. You will enjoy the thrill of observing numerous species of wildlife in their natural habitats. It will make you rise while it's still dark to roam the savanna for glimpses of the kind of nature you've seen in documentary films. You'll see the natural world in all of its ruggedness and rawness. You'll watch a cheetah or lion devour it's recently hunted prey for breakfast. Gripped by the brutal honesty of this primal act of survival, your eyes will stay fixed on this sight. The untamed landscape of Namibia is not to be conquered, it consumes. The sand, the emptiness, and the endless desert will swallow you up, pull you closer to the Earth and embed the Earth more deeply in your soul.
Trying to describe what Deadvlei looks like in words is no easy task. It is a surreal place, a bizarrely beautiful landscape that makes you feel like you’re strolling on Mars rather than planet Earth. Deadvlei lies in the Namib Desert which is generally considered to be one of the oldest deserts in the world. The distance from the main gate to the park is about 70km. The gate opens at sunrise and closes at sunset with times varying throughout the year. For the last five kilometres you need a 4WD to be able to drive through the deep sand to the Deadvlei and Sossusvlei.
A notable feature of Deadvlei is that is used to be an oasis with several acacia trees; afterwards, the river that watered the oasis changed its course. The large salt pan that lies at the base of the Big Mama sand dune, is thus punctuated by blackened, dead acacia trees, in vivid contrast to the shiny white of the salty floor of the pan and intense orange of the dunes. This creates a particularly fascinating and surrealistic landscape, that is a dream for each photographer.
We visited this place on numerous occasions to see it in a various lights. The glowing red sunrise and sunset were unforgettable. We loved the game of lights and shadows as well as taking pictures at dawn when the warm light of the morning sun was illuminating a huge red sand dune dotted with white grasses while the white floor of the clay pan was still in shade. The perfect moment for us was when the sun reached all the way down to the bottom of the sand dune just before it reached the desert floor.
It is amazing to see how colours change during the sunset. The huge Big Mama sand dune that is famous for sunrise climbing gets illuminated by the setting sun and gets a nice golden-red glow. It is another great opportunity for us to take more pictures before we have to head back to the Lodge for dinner and before gates close at sunset. Afterall, there is about 70km driving back to the gate.
The next day we woke up at 2.30am and drove back for night photography. The only way to get here for the night photography is to stay at the Sossus Dune Lodge which is located inside the park itself. All other lodges and campsites are outside, behind the main gate and you can only enter the park at sunrise. The night before the sky was full of stars with no moon and we could easily see the Southern Cross and the Milky Way. This morning the moon was so strong that we didn't need torches for the 1.1km walk from the carpark to Deadvlei. The walk itself is quite strenuous especially in the heat of the day when temperatures can reach 40C. This morning however, the walk was quite pleasant.
As we were taking pictures of a sky full of stars, suddenly a big halo appeared around the moon behind our backs. As an old weather saying: "Ring around the moon, means rain soon", it is quite rare here especially during the dry season. This incredible halo in Deadvlei is caused by both refraction or splitting of light and also by reflection from ice crystals in clouds. The sky surrounding circle is darker than the rest of the sky and the inner edge is always sharp while the outer edge is more diffused.
As you can imagine, we started to snap away. Unfortunately this rare effect lasted only few minutes and with long exposure, we only managed to take a few pictures. Nonetheless, we reckon they are quite interesting.