Photo of the week: Deadvlei, Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia
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Photograph of the week: Deadvlei, Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia

Pitch-black trees clawing their way out of bleached-white pans. Rust-red sand dunes reaching up as high as the Empire State Building towards a sky so bright blue it hurts the eyes to look at it. This is Deadvlei, a once luscious marsh long since succumbed to drought and time, leaving behind a Kafkaesque forest. And a photographer’s dream. Photo of the week: Deadvlei, Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia Deadvlei – or ‘dead marsh’ (from the English dead and the Afrikaans vlei) – is located close to the more famous Sossusvlei, inside the Namib-Naukluft Park in Namibia. Here, amidst the towering, fiery-hued dunes of the Namib desert, you will find 900-year old dead camel thorn trees casting bony-fingered shadows across a white clay pan, forming a contrast so stark as to be almost startling. How did this haunting place come to be? It is believed that the clay pan formed more than a thousand years ago, when the Tsauchab river flooded after heavy rainfall leaving behind shallow pools of water. In these pools, hardy camel thorn trees began to grow. Not hardy enough, though. Because after around 200 years, when drought struck the area once more, the sand began to encroach upon the area, soon blocking off the Tsaucheb river and any water required to feed anything living in this once lush marshland. Within this harsh climate, the trees fought back but were no match for the desert sun. Indeed, so hot was the Namib sun that it scorched the trees into dried out, blackened bones, with no chance for them to decompose. Now all that remains are 900 year old skeletons, their brittle roots trapped for all eternity in a white clay cage. And rich orange-red sand dunes, some of the highest in the world, with the highest reaching almost 400 metres (over 1300 feet), in competition with the Empire State Building. If you’re planning on visiting, don’t think the desert sun has become any less hostile since it claimed the trees of Deadvlei! Around a 70-kilometre drive from the Park gates in the village of Sesriem to Deadvlei, it is another hot, dry, 1km-walk from the parking lot to the pan itself, so be sure to wear appropriate clothing and take plenty of drinking water. And your camera. Don’t forget your camera. If you have a really special photograph you would like to share with A Luxury Travel Blog‘s readers, please contact us.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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  1. It is a miracle that these trees are still preserved after 9 centuries. I would have thought that 900 years of attacks from insects like termites would have destroyed them. Perhaps it is such a deadly environment that even the insects have perished. Equally, you would have thought that rain and wind would have eroded the trees. Maybe it is because it is so dry that they have survived.

  2. I know that these trees have been dead for nearly a millennium and that they probably are a different shape to what they were when they were alive but I don’t get why they are called camel trees. Is there any easy explanation?

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