If you think the Deadvlei is ‘just some dead trees’, well that’s a bit like saying the Aurora Borealis is just ‘a few pretty lights in the sky!’ As far as I’m concerned, Deadvlei should be on everybody’s bucket list, it’s absolutely magical, and definitely worth a visit. It’s a scorched valley of dead camel thorn trees in the arid Namib desert and probably one of the most photographed places in Namibia. It’s a surreal, otherworldly landscape surrounded by some of the highest sand dunes in the world.
Reasons to visit Deadvlei (Dead Marsh), possibly the most beautiful dead place you’ll ever see
Deadvlei, near Sossusvlei in the Namib desert, is one of the most incredible places I’ve ever been to. In addition to Kolmanskop this place was my second reason for wanting to travel around Namibia and it didn’t disappoint. The main reason for going was to take some (hopefully) great photographs. For a while, whilst I was waiting for the sun to rise higher and illuminate the dunes, I put my camera down and just sat, and absorbed, and listened. To nothing. I’ve never known silence like it. There were only a handful of other people in the whole area, and there was no wind. Being surrounded by high sand dunes it muffled all sound.
DeadVlei is an area of dried white clay with skeletons of fantastically shaped trees that are up to 600 years old. As a photographer, I’m always looking for the best possible light, and having scurried around taking far too many photos in my excitement to capture them all, I realised that the light was getting better all the time as the sun rose over the dunes. The only problem was that part of the stunning backdrop to the trees was in full sun, and part in shade. That’s when I allowed myself to stop, sit, and wait. I positioned myself in front of some trees and watched the sun creep down, and down, until the moment that the dune behind them was in full sun, yet the ground remained unlit. THAT was the shot I’d anticipated and waited for and I had no longer than a minute before the sun was creeping across the ground and making the white pan blindingly bright.
Are the huge sand dunes at Deadvlei really bright orange?
The answer is yes and no! It really depends on the time of day and the light. If you search on the internet and look at the images, the overwhelming majority are bright orange. The look of course depends on the camera they were taken on, the white balance, and what’s been done in post production. I have had great fun ‘playing’ around with my images, and here are some examples. (The first image is the Raw import)
How can I avoid the crowds at Deadvlei?
Get there at sunrise or stay until dusk. Either of those options are only possible by staying inside the Namib-Naukfluft National Park, either at the campsite at Sesriem or at Sossus Dune Lodge. The park gates (approximately a one hour drive away) are only open between sunrise and sunset, so by staying inside the park you can have access to Deadvlei without the crowds. It was definitely worth setting my alarm for 04:30 as I had over an hour there with only 7 other people, ensuring that I could capture the incredible trees without people being in my shots. We left as the masses were arriving……
Do I need a 4×4 vehicle to get there?
There is a car park at the end of the road and only four wheel drive vehicles can drive past this to get to the closest point. Even so, you need to know how to drive on deep sand and I saw a few cars that needed rescuing. We did have a 4×4, but chose instead to use the shuttle service that’s run by the National Park.
So yes, Deadvlei could be desribed as just some dead trees, but starkly, strikingly, and stunningly amazing ones too!
Want to visit the Deadvlei with me on my next adventure in Namibia?
I’m running my second photography tour of Namibia in September 2018. Maybe you’d like to join me on the adventure visiting inspirational locations like this? You can come along just to see all the great locations, or also to learn how to take better photos. I’ll happily teach you how to use your SLR or mirrorless camera in a more creative way, capturing the soul of each place we visit. Take a look.
Words & pictures by Julie Lovegrove.