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Sossu Vlei, Namibia


The Sossus Vlei, Namibia's famous scenic highlight in the heart of the Namib Desert, is a huge clay pan, enclosed by giant sand dunes. Some of the spectacular dunes reach a height of 300 metres, which makes them the highest dunes in the world. In this gigantic sea of sand the dune ridges slope from in a star pattern sloping in different directions, which is why they are referred to as star dunes.


The dunes of the Namib dessert have developed over a period of many millions of years. Wind permanently reshapes the patterns of the Namib dunes. It timelessly forces the grains of sand on the flat windward slope upwards to the crest of the dune. Here they fall down in the wind shade. The leeward slope is therefore always considerably steeper than the windward side. The trees left in place are hard and petrified as though they too have been there for millions of years.


The clay ground of the Sossus Vlei is almost always dry. Only after a heavy rainfall, which is a rare event in this area, every ten years in average, does the vlei fill with water. As the clay layers hardly allow any water infiltration, a turquoise lake will remain for quite some time.


We returned to this area to photograph many times and reaching the lake was an ardous hike that started at 4 in the morning, so that we could catch the 15 minutes of perfect light, as the sun peaked over the ridge of the dunes and lit up the basin, before the light was too hot and white.  By 8 am, we were finished photographing and headed back for breakfast at the camp.