The azure sky, the apricot hued sand dunes and the vast expanse of the white clay pan of Deadvlei will be forever etched in your memory . Deadvlei is located in Sossusvlei within the Namib-Naukluft Park in Namibia. I had read and seen a lot of images of Deadvlei including some in movies like The Cell and Ghajini.
How to reach
We had driven down to Sossusvlei from Swakopmund via the town of Solitaire. You can also drive down from Windhoek a distance of about 380 km via the B1 highway.
We were lodging at the Sossusvlei Lodge in Sesriem. The lodge is at the Sesriem Gate of the National Park. The gates open at sunrise and close at sunset. Once you collect your permits from the gate , you drive on the tarred 60 km road Southwest to reach Sossusvlei in about an hour.
The track beyond the parking lot is just loose soft sand. You have the option of driving through this sand if you have a 4WD vehicle. Alternatively, Namibia Wildlife Resorts NWR runs a paid 4WD transfer service for 100 NAD per head. You can also choose to walk.
Our rental was the rugged 4WD Toyota Land Cruiser, hence we drove on. Debarshi had a gala time drifting the car in the sand. We were stuck in the loose sand at one point . Debarshi was joyous because he could now engage the rear differential lock. In a jiffy we were out of the quagmire.
Deadvlei is extremely dry and arid. We had visited in Namibian winter in July 2017, yet the weather was extreme. In fact we witnessed some strong winds in Deadvlei which made it even more appealing and harsher.
What to carry?
I recommend carrying a liter or two of water per head. There are no shops where you can buy water, so do not forget to carry it along with you from Sesriem. Do remember to wear full sleeves, a sun hat and sun glasses. And apply a sunscreen (anything above SPF 70).
DeadVlei or Dead Vlei means dead marsh. It is derived from the English word dead, and the Afrikaans word vlei meaning marsh or lake. The original Afrikaans name was Dooie Vlei and ominously known as the Place of no return.Geologists say that Tsauchab River flooded due to very heavy rainfall. This happened about ten centuries ago. This resulted in the formation of several surface water pools or oasis or marshes . Tsauchab diverted by a slow build up of clay and silt deposits,
With time , camel thorn trees started growing in these marshes. After a few centuries, the weather started changing and dried up the water source. Dunes were formed around the clay pan. Gradually, the climate became absolutely dry in Deadvlei.
The trees had very deep roots ,but could not reach water because a thick layer of lime deposit on the surface. They died , but did not decompose . Rather were scorched in the intense heat and now stand as skeletons of the past. Today, Salsola shrubs and Nara melons grow in areas from the moisture of the morning dew.
Activities in Deadvlei
I recommend beginning your journey as early as possible. Be at the gates at sunrise . As the day progresses , the heat and is almost unbearable .
The highest dunes in Sossusvlei are the Big Daddy and Big Mama. Big Daddy stands at about 325 meters. Dune climbing is one the main activities here. You can read written my earlier post on Dune climbing in Sossusvlei.
You can also go for the hot air Balloon rides , paragliding , quad biking or sand boarding.
Namib Sky Balloon Safaris operates the superb balloon safaris. I have written about the our Balloon safari in another post.
Why you will remember Deadvlei?
You will see the clearest and bluest skies . The sunrise is indeed memorable. You can click great snaps of Star Trails. But the most haunting vivid image is that of the centuries old tree skeletons fixed in a white clay pan surrounded by the red dunes against a clear blue sky with a rare brilliant interplay of cottony clouds.