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Saturday, 20 November 2010 19:42

thumbSossusvlei - Deadly beautiful desert


There are places in the world so magic and beautiful that one just cannot really conceive; places where you must simply sit down and watch all the beauty around that nature has created. That is exactly what I would do in Namibian Sossusvlei desert last October if we had more than just one morning for visit of this wonder from another world.




Sossusvlei is a clay saltpan although it might seem as a narrow valley for the first sight. It is located in Namib – Naukluft National Park in the central part of Namib desert SW from the Namibian capital Windhoek. Although the area is very dry, the Tsauchab river springing in nearby mountains causes casual seasonal floods in the valley. Sossusvlei is mostly famous for its red-colored dunes – one of the highest in the world, and the valley of dead trees – Deadvlei.


Duny v Sossusvlei




It is pretty simple to plan a trip to Sossusvlei – one of the most visited places in Namibia is guarded by a gate that opens ca. 1 hour before sunrise and after sunset you must leave the Park again. By saying “simple” I meant that you can forget spending a night between dunes to make some spectacular photo of nightscape – your time in the park is given and it is quite clear that the best times for visiting the dunes must be shortly after sunrise and before sunset. During the day the hot African sun fades all the amazing shapes of desert into endless yellow and red plain.



Our time in Sossusvlei was really short – we only had half a day to spend there. Fortunately I managed to persuade the other guys to wake up very early t be at the gate long before sunrise – it would definitely be waste of time travelling to this place and not use the best of it! We still had to decide where to go first – there are two main spots in Sossusvlei, the dune 45. (romantic name for the most photographed dune in the world, isnt it% :- )) some 45 minutes drive from the gate and the Deadvlei even 15 minutes further. We knew we could only make one of these so we let the decision for later. Seing the dune 45 with coupe of cars and busses and a row of tourists climbing up the dune edge made the decision easier – we headed towards the end of the valley where Deadvlei was supposed to be...




Well, it should have been but it seemed like all our effort would go in vain – without proper map, GPS and signposts it took us some time to find a direction... We had a good luck to find a dried salty pan with a few trees behind one of the numerous dunes. I was happy although it all did not look as I thought it should – well, imagination sometimes makes the picture far from real. I stayed in the small pan and began taking pictures while my friends disappeared somewhere beyond sandy horizon. I spent about half an hour there to finally realize that there was probably nothing more I could photograph and set off in the direction I saw the guys last time…





Behind the horizon, just few hundreds meters from the place I was, there was the real Deadvlei! While the first place we found was rather a small spill, Deadvlei is valley approximately 500 meters wide and 1200 meters long surrounded by high dunes from three sides ( here is the Deadvlei on google maps ). I have noticed sun quickly rising and cutting off the long shadows of the desert so I took my last chance and started to photograph like in a frenzy – the whole scene, the tree trunk against lit dune, trunk against dune in shadow, two trunks agains dune, five trunks with long shadows, simply a head full of great ideas :D





When I felt I did most I could I took exactly the same picture that you will find on the cover of the older Lonely Planet guidebook and realized that not a single picture I had taken during previous hour was any kind of special or exceptional. At that moment, cooling down and realizing that the battle is over anyway I begun to enjoy Deadvlei as a place – not as a photographic race where you must take five extraordinary pictures during five minutes and run at least five kilometres...





The sky was blue without a cloud, huge piles of red sand around, dried and cracked soil beneath the feet, silhouettes of dead tree trunks all around and the blowing sand that pinches like if thousands of mosquitoes were biting my bare legs. Sometimes the strong wind rises up the sand and dust covering the trunks into milky cloud resembling so much the autumn morning mist back home in Europe. The sun shining through the whirled up dust created an amazing background for the trees and it made me lie down on the ground to make shots with long focal lengths against the light.



The sand stays close to the ground too so the wind blows grind my face severely – Im trying to protect with hands but still Im getting loads of fine sand into my ears. I stay lying down for a while making some interesting pictures but the morning is almost gone and the crowds of tourists entering the valley indicate that it is time to leave the scene. The mission has been completed, pity it only took one short morning…


a few remarks at the and:

  • Sossusvlei is one of most tourist-.visited places in Namibia but also is one of the most charming. If you get up early, you eliminate the first and enhance the latter.
  • If you plan to see Deadvlei at sunrise, get up early and make sure you have a good direction how to find that place!
  • If you plan to see Dune nr. 45 at sunrise, get up even 30 minutes earlier and if you do not manage to be very first at the gate, rush to be the first at the dune – otherwise you will be trapped walking behing a line of organized tourists.
  • To climb up the 200 metres high dune during the day is a hell!



Last Updated on Saturday, 20 November 2010 23:12
Comments (53)
  • Evžen Takač

    Ahoj Jirko.
    Pěkné počteníčko a fotky super.
    Nejvíc mě dostává č.2 a č.4 odzadu.

  • Jirka

    Diky moc Evzene, tu druhou odzadu mam taky rad ale znas to, cim vic se na svoje fotky divas, tim vic nevis, jestli se vlastne povedly a jestli se daji publikovat :-)

  • Ondřej Prosický

    Tak tam jsem také ještě nebyl :-)
    Inspirativně provokativní, moc líbí!

  • Jirka

    Ani nevis, jak je tzaky najit nejaky misto, kde jeste nikdo z ostatnich ceskych fotgrafu nebyl ;-) Delam si srandu, byla to vse vicemene nahoda, neplanovana zastavka ale potesila. Znas to, lepe se pracuje na jeste relativne neprozkoumanych lokalitach ;-)

  • alessandro

    outstanding images
    warm congrats Jiri

  • Jiri

    Many thanks Allle ;-)

  • chris (crisscross)

    nice to have an opportunity to see the full range; although the full colour pics may not be as subtle as the near monos, they are still a pleasure to see

  • Jiri

    HThanks for visit Chris, I also prefer those almost BW pictures, it was interesting to see how the angle of light can change the perspective and mood completely...

  • Martin Pelánek

    Jirko, moc pěkné fotky. Měly by viset...

  • Jirka

    Diky Martine, na netu je prehrsel fotek, ktere by mely viset (na zdi), mozna i tyto se jednou dockaji ;-)

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