Namibia is the second-least densely populated country in the world and is home to some of the largest dunes, the darkest skies, and the oldest cultures in Africa. The dunes here are some of the highest in the world, and the tallest in this area, standing as high as a whopping 325m (1,066ft); it is appropriately named Big Daddy. The oldest dunes are those of a more intense reddish color.
Sossusvlei is surely Namibia’s most iconic landscape, a clay pan, of roughly oval shape, covered in an outer layer of salt-rich sand. The rust-red dunes, bleached white pans and deep blue sky are instantly recognizable, and symbolize the country’s vast, dry, desolate expanses.
These dunes are estimated to be 60–80m years old and partially covered by vegetation comprising grass, bushes, and some trees. Their fine ruddy-orange sands are carried over time from the Kalahari Desert with the help of winds from the Atlantic. The Sossusvlei Dunes are best seen in the early morning as they transform colors from a tinted pink to a bright orange as the sun creeps higher into the sky.
Big Daddy Dunes
This is the highest dune in the Sossusvlei area, at about 325 meters. Big Daddy is located past Sossusvlei proper, near Deadvlei. This area is characterized by high sand dunes of bright pink-to-orange color, an indication of a high concentration of iron in the sand and consequent oxidation processes.
Just next to Big Daddy Dune at Sossusvlei is a sight that has a chalk-white ground, sand-drifted trees and a rich blue sky. The dried acacia trees are estimated at almost 900 years old. This is surprising considering how perfectly preserved they are.
A remarkable feature of Deadvlei is that it used to be an oasis with several camel thorn trees and afterwards, the river that watered the oasis changed its course. This creates a particularly fascinating and surrealistic landscape that has appeared in countless pictures and used as a setting for films and videos.
The Petrified Dunes of the Namib Desert
Not too far from the dunes of Sossusvlei lies the petrified dunes of the Namib Desert, where the desert’s sand has been transformed into solid rock. These dunes are considered the most ancient of all of Namibia’s deserts.