Saturday, March 10, 2012

Namibia has the Largest and Most Beautiful Dunes in the World

Namibia stunned me. It is so dry, hot and barren, yet so picturesque, a rich visual feast. From Little Kulala Camp we drove into the Sossusvlei region surrounded by immense, deep-red sand dunes stretching to the horizon, their sharp ridges curving sinuously, dividing the landscape into bold patterns of bright redness and velvet shadow.


Barefoot, we trudged up the spine of one of the largest dunes. From the top, I could see for miles in the hot, dry air. Sand, sand lay everywhere and in starkly beautiful patterns. Accustomed to lush rain-forests of western Canada, I found this terrain naked, yet, it had a powerful appeal and its own splendour.

Later, we flew along the coast. An immense desert of dunes, known as the “sands of hell”, lies along the entire Atlantic Ocean. I could see how wind constantly shifts the geography, creating incredible designs. We passed over a shipwreck with its skeletal ribs protruding from the sand, now far from the sea.

Surprisingly, this barren landscape harbours and sustains life. We saw a herd of desert elephants sliding down a towering dune. Beetles, spiders and snakes leave patterns in the sand.

At Swakopmund, Land Rovers — modern-day camels — carried us deep into the endless sand dunes. The guide raced up the crest of a tall dune and then dove down the other side. It was wilder than a roller-coaster ride. Parking in the lee of a dune, our guide set a table with white linen, fresh oysters, calamari and salads. I sipped a wine and gazed at the tall dunes marching into the pounding surf.

Next day I joined a desert nature tour, kicking off my shoes as the guide let air out of the tires to give his big Land Rover better traction. Then he drove into the dunes, stopping whenever he spotted a clue. “This is the desert newspaper,” he said pointing at tiny tracks in the sand. “During the night spiders, lizards and beetles come out. In the morning before the wind comes up you can read their tracks.” He followed a faint trail, scooped sand furiously and triumphantly held up a translucent Palmetto gecko. Later, pointing at the bizarre tracks of a sidewinder snake that travels sideways, he noted, “It’s poisonous.” I wished I had not removed my shoes.

Sitting high on a dune, I realized my lasting memory of Namibia, this parched piece of paradise, would be of seductively beautiful desert dunes.



*** To learn more about this amazing country and see over 130 colour photos, view my on-line book Impressions of Namibia at:
http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/2881752 ***


General info on Namibia: www.namibatourism.com.na
Wilderness Safaris operates lodges throughout southern Africa with 18 camps in Namibia: www.wilderness-safaris.com
Travel Beyond makes bookings for Wilderness Safaris in North America:
www.travelbeyond.com
Namibia Tracks & Trails makes travel and accommodation arrangements in Swakopmund and throughout Namibia: www.namibia-tracks-and-trails.com

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