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A Day Amongst The Deadvlei Dunes

Staring out of the window as your PC12 aircraft lines up with the airstrip, the red dunes of Sossusvlei become apparent, and the bareness of the desert a reality. The plane touches down and comes to a hault, the door opens and the silence hits your ears like a sledgehammer. Climbing out and marvelling at the magnitude of the surrounds, you make your way to the safari vehicle waiting to escort you to the lodge that will be your home for the next few days. Now the adventure really begins…

You wake on the first morning as the early light of day starts to break on the horizon, the coolness of the air braces against your skin and you make your way through the main lodge for a cup of coffee before heading into the park and down the ancient river bed to get your first real sight of the enormous dunes, formed around five million years ago. The red dunes begin to burn red like hot embers from a fire, as the sun starts to peak over the horizon and paint them with light. The red coloration is a result of a high iron oxide in the sand, which was washed north from the mouth of the Orange River and blown inland to create these mega dunes. The more intense the red, the older the dune!

The giant red dunes of Sossusvlei… dwarfing even the largest of ostriches!

The apparent lifeless beauty befuddles the brain as you wonder to yourself, “what would be able to survive in this sea of red-hot sand?” Then, as you traverse further, your question is answered. Commonly seen are oryx feeding on sparse vegetation between the dunes. With the beauty of their long spear-like horns and their monochrome white, grey and black fur contrasting radically against the surrounding red backdrop, they are certainly a sight to behold as one approaches “Big Daddy”, the largest dune in the world (scaling to almost 1000ft from ground level!)

A majestic oryx roams the desert plains, thriving in this harsh environment.

At the base of this famous dune, a coffee station is set up for you to enjoy the tranquility of the desert with a hot drink in hand, giving you the extra energy required to scale the soft, red sand of Big Daddy. As you climb, your feet sink into the almost liquid sand, making it feel as if it’s two steps forward and one step back. You look back to see how the view opens up behind you, to your right you look down on an ancient flood plain with petrified trees that have been cut off from the original river by sand dunes. This is one of the most photographed places of the planet, called Deadvlei. It is dominated by the sheer height of Big Daddy, a fact which makes for a true feeling of accomplishment when at the top!

Climbing Big Daddy, the highest dune on earth.

Now it’s time to go down, so you turn to face Deadvlei and with a confident stride you start the adrenalin-filled run down the side of the dune towards the vlei below. As you find your way down the dune, the sound of the shifting sand fills the air around you, and the trees in Deadvlei begin to grow larger with each descending meter. Once you enter Deadvlei you are dwarfed by 900-year old petrified trees and what appeared as a small white patch from the top of the dune has grown into an enormous amphitheater! The petrified trees stand like forgotten sentries in the white sand which, due to being baked by the relentless African sun, causes cracks to run like veins under your feet.

Petrified trees decorate the sandy landscape of the Namibian desert.

After a full morning of exploration, you return to the lodge for a hearty brunch and a bit of downtime during the heat of the day. As the sun begins to dip lower and relaxes its hot grip over the earth, you can enjoy a beautiful high tea with sweet treats and iced tea as you ready yourself for the afternoon activity, quad biking! You hop onto the quad and head into the desert for a different perspective of this incredible, parched landscape. Dinner follows this activity and after you fill yourself with delicious foods and beverages, you finish the day off by sleeping on the roof of your room under the majesty of the African night sky.

There are few places where the stars shine this bright.

When one thinks of the desert, one does not normally think of endless activity, extreme comfort and world-class luxury. However, we at Safari Architects are beyond excited to show you just how diverse and beautiful this complex landscape can be!

The Safari Architects Team