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We got up before sunrise to drive from our lodge into the heart of the Namib-Naukluft Park. 4WD vehicles are mandatory and our guide Jeremia partially deflated the tires to aid traction in the sand. The desert is considered to be the oldest on earth and is one of the most popular destinations in Namibia. It did not disappoint.
This photo of an oryx was taken from our vehicle just before sunrise. The sand is red due to the iron oxide content.
Jeremia indicated that most of the animals graze either early in the morning or as the sun is going down.
It is hard to process the scale of this geography. Those are full sized trees near the base of the dune.
That is another dune just a little further down the road as the sun was coming up over the horizon. It was impossible to get a shot that included both animals in the foreground and the top of the dunes.
The nara plant (Acanthosicyos horridus) on the slopes stabilize the dunes and help them achieve their incredible heights. It is a leafless, spiky thicket that grows only in the Namib Desert. It has no leaves to prevent water loss. Instead, it conducts its photosynthesis directly through its green stems and spines. The plant also absorbs moisture from fog directly through its stems.
This is Dune 45, one of the most visited dunes in the park. People hike up and take pictures at the top. Very important to start before sunrise and carry water. We settled for a photo from the main road.
Close up of a few of the hikers. The drop off on the shaded side is pretty steep.
This is Deadvlei (dead marsh), one of the most famous locations in the park. At one time the area was a clay pan that filled when the Tsauchab river flooded. As the dunes moved the source of water was cut off and the trees died – about 600 years ago. The area is too dry for them to rot and instead they slowly turned black from the scorching sun.
As we were hiking to this area Jeremia picked up a little bit of sand. He placed it on a piece of paper. Then he moved a magnet under the paper. The sand separated into black and red. The black sand was magnetite. The red iron oxide sand hides that color in the dunes.
A very unique landscape. Notice the nara plants on the dunes.
Jeremia said there had been an unusually wet rainy season in this part of Namibia. We drove to this area that had almost dried up. Namibia has no perennial rivers or any other permanent water bodies.
We spotted this large gourd growing wild near the water. Citrullus ecirrhosus, commonly known as Namib tsamma, is a species of perennial desert vine, and it’s a relative of the watermelon (Citrullus lanatus). The plant relies on water deep in the ground and morning fogs. I have read it is bitter tasting but desert fauna eat it for the moisture the gourd contains.
Next Stops – Walvis Bay and the Skeleton Coast