The sand dunes of Sossusvlei in Namibia were formed around 5 million years ago, and are some of the highest in the world. The rich orange and red colours of these dunes owe much to the iron content of the sand. Here, embedded in the foot of one of these giants, stands a tree next to a fallen comrade. That the tree has grown, survived, and even thrived in such a harsh environment is testament to its hardiness. You need to be tough to survive in these desert conditions. Certainly my camera gear put up a valiant fight against the sand, with tripod legs being particularly susceptible.
A unique view of the dead, desiccated trees of Deadvlei in Namibia which I photographed in August 2015. This photo won a Photoburst Travel Photo of the Day.
“Deadvlei” from the English word “dead” and the Afrikaans word “vlei” for marsh. It was once an area fed by the Tsauchab River where trees and other plants flourished. Perhaps 600-700 years ago, maybe 900 years ago, the changing climate and encroaching sand dunes conspired to cut-off the water supply, killing-off the trees and most of the plants.
Today, visitors are greeted by an eerie but spectacular sight. Illuminated by the brilliant blue skies, a white clay pan is surrounded by rust-coloured sand dunes which are reputed to be some of the highest in the world at over 1,312 feet (400 metres). And the trees; dead, desiccated, and scorched black by the sun. Truly a forest of the dead.
A cold night meant a cold start to the day in Namibia, even here right up against the Angolan border. Taking advantage of the cold before the heat arrived, I began exploring the rather small Himba village. Much there was to see with the inhabitants shaking off the night. A particular highlight was when I made eye contact with this boy wrapped in a blanket.
We had already journeyed through the sandy deserts of southern Namibia using our overland truck, and we were now heading up north. Along the way, we stayed overnight at Spitzkoppe. This is where we set up camp. Except some of us didn’t use a tent; I slept out on a rocky outcrop and watched the clear night sky before nodding off to sleep.
Our tripods, a gaggle of which are already standing to attention, were essential to taking night sky photographs.
I was very satisfied with the photos I took that night.