The Namib Dunes stretch for almost the entire coastline of Namibia. But the most densely concentrated are located in Southern Namibia from north of the South African border to the Kuiseb River. In the middle of all this sand is the Dune Sea, located in the Namib-Naukluft Park. Sitting on the fringe of these colorful dunes is the tiny settlement of Sesriem. Perhaps Namibia’s biggest tourist attraction, it’s best to see these dunes when the sun offers lighting that makes them come alive and change before you. The quart z sand that makes up these dunes constantly changes not only with the sunlight but with the wind. Dunes in other deserts, such as the Kalahari just southeast of here feature dunes that for the most part are static and haven’t changed in thousands of years. The dunes of the Namib, on the other hand, change constantly.
Ever since seeing photographs of these dunes in picture books I’ve dreamed of coming to Namibia to see how such marvels of nature could exists — and if they really looked like those pictures we’ve all seen. My plan was simple. I’d want to see the dunes in the early morning light of the sunrise and the late afternoon of the sunset. Taking advice from a couple I’d met at the viewing deck of the Garub Pan while watching the Garub Wild Horses, I enquired about taking a plane flight over the dunes. With such air adventure flights, the cost is directly related to how many people will fly in the six-passenger Cessna plane.
That afternoon the tour director at Sossulvei Lodge offered me to fly with a Swiss traveler who was going on the 45 minute flight regardless if any others joined. But for me, even splitting the cost of the plane was cost-prohibitive. I declined, yet as I suited up to ride the 65km into the park from lodge, I wondered if I just offered the guy the amount I was able to pay. He was going to go anyway, and any amount I offered would defray his cost. If four people had signed up for the flight I would have gone in an instant. So that’s the amount I offered. The Swiss businessman accepted and we enjoyed the ride following the Sesriem Canyon to the Dune Sea.
To see these dunes from these two perspectives is a treat that I wish everyone could experience. By air with the sun setting you can sea the vast expansiveness of these dunes and how they stretch for miles. Plus from above you can see how the migration of the wind changes the shapes. And the geometric shapes and stunning curves and sharp delineating serpentine and circular shapes carved by the wind are absolutlely mother nature’s hand at mixing the modern and surreal art of Miro, Escher, Klee and Dali.
There’s something about these dunes that captivate me. Though I’m spending nearly three days here, I want more. I want to hike to Dead Vlei, picnic at Hidden Vlei and pick a few more handful of dunes and climb to the top while watching the sea change before my eyes. I’ve always been inspired and mesmerized by deserts. From natures collection of natural art like Zion, Bryce, Death Valley, Talampaya in Argentina and Patagonia. Deserts, like the moutains that back up to many of them are perfect sources of inspiration and provide heavy doses of impetus for contemplation.
I guess I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking. These are from my flight:
This is the view to the east as we took off just a mile from the Desert Lodge.
And this is the sea of dunes… Dune Sea.
How does nature sculpt such a perfect shape?