Ancient deserts, incredible birds and wildlife, the peace and quiet of a sparsely populated landscape – there were many reasons why Namibia seemed an attractive travel destination. Stumbling across the stunning images of Deadvlei as we researched possible routes for our trip sealed the deal.
Literally meaning “dead marsh,” Deadvlei is a dried out salt pan in the southern corner of the Namib desert, the world’s oldest. The arresting images of its desiccated acacia tree trunks surrounded by magnificent red sand dunes are so ubiquitous in various corners of the internet that we’re certain most of you have seen them without, perhaps, realizing the photographs’ origin.
It took us the better part of five hours to cross the dried plains and mountains that separate the Kalahari Desert from Sesriem, the gateway town of the Namib desert. We had thought the Kalahari hot, but upon arrival in the Namib realized that stopping there first had been a fortuitously prudent move. The Namib was at least ten degrees hotter, with scorching winds kicking up great clouds of stinging sand.
Even there, in one of the aridest places of a very dry country, we found a surprising diversity of stubborn wildlife. It seems impossible, but there were jackals, oryx, springbok, and all manner of birds that have adapted themselves to the harsh environment of the Namib. Several dry riverbeds that on rare occasion flash-flood when this parched corner of the world receives a modicum of rain were lined with trees that made for productive birding.
Because of the searing heat, we had to get up with the sun, rushing to complete our visit before it became too unbearably balmy to move. We first stopped at Dune 1, right at the entrance, to search for the dune lark – Namibia’s only endemic bird. Then we drove on to Sossusvlei – another, bigger salt pan located next to Deadvlei.
Our guide suggested ascending the massive sand dune that overlooks Deadvlei first – in order to get a bird’s-eye view of the pan. Munchkin initially asserted his independence, running through the sand and insisting on climbing the dune himself. Predictably, he tired quickly and grew agitated when he saw S and her parents disappear from his view. D carried a whimpering Munchkin on his shoulders the rest of the way – “Where’s mama?” he kept whining. “Mama, you’re leaving me,” he reproached S when we were all reunited atop the dune.
Deadvlei proved even more magnificent than we had anticipated – and just as hot as we had feared. We didn’t linger long, and by 10:30am were back at the lodge, our touristing for the day already behind us.