What makes Deadvlei in Namibia so unique?

This natural phenomenon can be found close to Sossusvlei, where the Namib Desert is in full control of the environment.

Deadvlei - Image: en.wikipedia.org

Deadvlei – Image: en.wikipedia.org

First off, let’s take a look at the name, ‘Deadvlei’. So, true to the Namlish culture, this name is a combination of the English word ‘dead’ – obviously – and the Afrikaans word ‘vlei’, which means marsh.

Deadvlei follow markers - Image: http://www.roamfarandwide.com

Deadvlei follow markers – Image: http://www.roamfarandwide.com

Essentially this place is called the dead marsh. Why? Simply because it used to be a marsh filled with water that has, over time, dried out and left a nice white clay pan in its place.

Deadvlei - Image: http://seattlestravels.com

Deadvlei – Image: http://seattlestravels.com

Now picture a dry, white clay pan set into the rich, fiery orange of the Namib desert…it makes for quite a contrast.

"Deadvlei salt pan" - Image: http://travelspirit333.com

“Deadvlei salt pan” – Image: http://travelspirit333.com

It is assumed that the clay pan formed over a thousand years ago. Apparently, the Tsauchab River would flood after heavy rainfall and form shallow pools of water.

"Former oasis" - Image: http://ripper.blogspot.com

“Former oasis” – Image: http://ripper.blogspot.com

These pools or rather, marshes, allowed camel thorn trees to grow in their midst. However, after 200 years the area’s climate shifted and a drought set in.

The sand dunes that steadily began to fill the area, quickly blocked off the Tsauchab River along with any other possible water sources.

Image: http://www.mnn.com

Image: http://www.mnn.com

No water, obviously means no survival for the trees that had grown in that area. But they stuck around nonetheless. The climatic change was so harsh that the trees dried out, instead of decomposing.

Blackened state

Image: http://www.360doc.com

The sun helped the process along by scorching the wood and immortalizing the trees in their blackened state.

Deadvlei - Image: Pinterest

Deadvlei – Image: Pinterest

When you look over the marsh now, all you see are the blackened remains of the trees. Quite a sight in its own right, especially so if you consider that the trees are 900 years old.

"Curved trees" - Image: http://ciapannaphoto.wordpress.com

“Curved trees” – Image: http://ciapannaphoto.wordpress.com

The dunes surrounding Deadvlei add to the astonishing sight, as they reach up to almost 400 metres.

Image: http://wild-wings-safaris.com

Image: http://wild-wings-safaris.com

Image: www.bemytravelmuse.com

Image: www.bemytravelmuse.com

This is definitely a sight to add to your Namibian Bucket list! Check out Namibia Desert Lodge as base from which to explore Deadvlei.

If you have an interesting Deadvlei story or experience, please share it with us in the comment section below.

Author – Jescey Visagie is a proud Namibian and is passionate about writing and language. Tag along for the ride as she tries to uncover new insights into Namibia and explores what the country has to offer.

Jescey Visagie


101 sunsets with Gondwana  

In Namibia, clear skies and delicious warm evenings have inspired an important tradition – and celebration of life – sundowners!

As part of their 20th anniversary celebrations, the Gondwana Collection held a ‘101 Sunset Competition’, inviting the public to share their sensational sundowner moments. The competition kicked off at the Namibia Tourism Expo in May and continued until the end of August when it wrapped up with 875 entries. It took another month to carefully evaluate the photos, selecting the finest. In October, the winners were announced and the prize of 101 nights at Gondwana’s lodges was shared between the five winners of the various categories, who each won 20 nights, with the overall winner bagging the additional day to make up the total of 101.

Overall winner & Natural Sunsets Category - Winner: Alloyce Makhosi

Overall winner & Natural Sunsets Category – Winner: Alloyce Makhosi

Crazy Sundowner Moments - Winner: Michael Hackauf

Crazy Sundowner Moments Category – Winner: Michael Hackauf

Pro Sunsets - Winner: Carsten Von Carsten von Frankenberg-Lüttwitz

Pro Sunsets category – Winner: Carsten Von Carsten von Frankenberg-Lüttwitz

Images of clinking glasses, striking landscapes and land and water aflame with the deepest and richest colours on Earth came streaming in. They encapsulated the wonderful African tradition: sundowners i.e. spending the late afternoon somewhere out in nature with a drink in hand, appreciating the landscape bathed in gold at this enchanting time of the day. It’s the time to stop whatever you are doing and enjoy the transition between day and night, when softness and beauty merge the two in a spectacular display, one of the best shows on the planet.

Social Sundowners Category- Winners: Ralph Ellinger

Social Sundowners Category – Winners: Ralph Ellinger

Image: Mike Scott

Sundowner Competition – Image: Mike Scott

 The bustle of the day and the excitement of travel or wildlife viewing pauses for a while as drinks are sipped and snacks are nibbled. Then, as the sun begins to dip in the sky, there’s a hush as the ruby orb slowly and regally sinks into the horizon. A wash of pastel colours splash dramatically across the heavens in its wake,lit up from below,before the first stars begin to shimmer and the blanket of night is eventually drawn over the land.

Sunsets and Wildlife Category - Winner: Suzanne Pienaar Van Zyls

Sunsets and Wildlife Category – Winner: Suzanne Pienaar Van Zyls

Sundowner Competition - Image: Carlo Palomba

Sundowner Competition – Image: Carlo Palomba

The world stills as the diurnal birds turn in and the nocturnal life begins to stir, adding its voice to the indigo night. Occasionally, jackal calls ring out through the air. The power, magic and mystery of creation is palpable.

 As part of Gondwana’s 20th birthday bash – and the sunset theme, Gondwana (in partnership with Namibian kwaito singer EES and Namibian Breweries) released a ‘Sundowner’song celebrating just that, the time of day to close laptops and workplace doors, hang up tools, pack a coolbox and head out to a rooftop vantage point, a dam, or if fortunate enough, the great Namibian wilderness, the canyon or countryside.

The video clip showcases the vast and majestic scenery of the Fish River Canyon and the sweeping landscapes at this golden hour, accompanied by EES’s lively beat. Towards the end of the clip, while sitting at the edge of the dam as the sun sets into the African bush, EES turns to his friend and makes the apt observation: “The thing is,” he says, as the music quietens in the background,“I think people nowadays don’t realise how important a sundowner actually is; how to chill and relax and to just let the day quietly settle.”

Image: Silke Kuhr

Sundowner at Namib Desert Lodge – Image: Silke Kuhr

So, here’s a reminder. While in Namibia, remember to take time out for the best time of day. Take a walk or a drive, or simply sit on your veranda or balcony. Or, if you are at one of the Gondwana lodges, join the sunset celebrations to appreciate the Namib Desert, Fish River Canyon, Zambezi waterways or Kalahari dunes when Mother Nature puts on her best performance on Earth just for you.

Image: Piero Alberto Grassi

Sundowner at Kalahari Anib Lodge – Image: Piero Alberto Grassi

Sundowner Competition - Image: Myriam Werra

Sundowner Competition – Image: Myriam Werra


 Gondwana’s top ten sunset spots:

  1. The crest of the 20-million-year-old fossilised dunes at Namib Desert Lodge with a superlative view of the desert landscape
  2. A sunset deck built on the hill overlooking the mopane savannah and Brandberg in the distance at Damara Mopane Lodge
  3. The edge of the Fish River Canyon that drops down to ancient chasms – Canyon Roadhouse, Village and Lodge
  4. The boat on the Kwando River after a game drive into the Bwabwata National Park at Namushasha River Lodge
  5. Watching the Namib wild horses at the Garub viewpoint while visiting Klein Aus Vista
  6. The Hakusembe River Queen on the Okavango River at Hakusembe River Lodge
  7. The end of the jetty as the waves crash around you (the Delight hotel,Swakopmund)
  8. The top of the granite koppie (hill) at Canyon Lodge overlooking the Gondwana Canyon Park
  9. The wooden deck at Etosha Safari Lodge, with a view of the mopane woodland
  10. The red sand dunes of the Kalahari (Kalahari Anib and the Farmhouse)

Ron Swilling is a freelance writer, based in Cape Town, writing for Namibian and South African publications. She is a regular contributor to Gondwana’s History and Stamps&Stories columns and documented the information on the Wild Horses in the Namib Desert for Mannfred Goldbeck and Telané Greyling. She invites you to ‘Follow her footsteps’ on her journey from the Orange River, exploring the Gondwana routes through the intriguing country of Namibia.


Ron Swilling


How Gondwana can guide you through Namibia

Namibia covers a vast amount of land, 825,418 km² to be exact. For someone who hasn’t been to this lovely country before, it’s good to know that there are long stretches of open space between most of the towns. These wide open spaces actually add to your Namibian experience because they are filled with stunning landscapes that include deserts, savannahs and bush fields. This being an ideal opportunity to experience the great outdoors!

Now one of the big points to be made: Namibia is stunningly beautiful in general, but there are a few specific locations scattered across the country that are absolutely awe-inspiring and are not to be missed. The catch is that these lovely locations are not always conveniently placed within city limits or even town limits. A lot of the times they are placed in the middle of nowhere.  This is where the Gondwana Collection comes in! We have lodges placed close to all the great sights in the country and these lodges offer various opportunities to actually experience the sights on a more personal level. And of course the placement of these lodges makes them the ideal place to visit or stay along your way through Namibia.

In southern Namibia, tucked away alongside the incredible Fish River Canyon – the second largest canyon in the world– is a stretch of land that has become the Gondwana Canyon Park. What’s great about this park is that the entire area is a conservation area, meaning that all animals roam freely and in peace. The park also holds other secrets, including three of our lodges; Canyon Lodge, Canyon Village and Canyon Roadhouse. Each of which is unique in their own way, and all offer activities to exploit the scenery of the canyon to the best of your photographic skills.

Fish River Canyon Namibia

Fish River Canyon Namibia

Canyon Lodge Namibia

Canyon Lodge Namibia

When you start heading north again, you may find yourself cruising along the Kalahari Desert, with its bright red sand stretching into the savannah. And what better way to experience the sun set the sands alight, than watching the sunset from your personal terrace at the Kalahari Anib Lodge or Kalahari Farmhouse. And as you move slightly toward the west, you find yourself smack-dab in the middle of the oldest desert in the world! The Namib Desert has its own way of convincing you to stay, to dig your toes into the fine sand and let it wash through your fingers… the most incredible sight is experiencing the night sky in all its wonder as the milky-way sings you to sleep. This can only be experienced when visiting the Namib Desert Lodge and of course the Namib Dune Star Camp, where you can push your bed out onto the deck and truly experience the starlight.

The Namib Desert experience

The Namib Desert experience

The Namib Desert Lodge

The Namib Desert Lodge

All the way to the west, as you stand on the beach facing the Atlantic, with a soft, salty spray sticking to your skin and the vast dunes stretching inland behind you, a slight chill runs down your spine as the evening breeze lazy clings to your shoulders… you can set your mind at ease knowing that you have a warm cosy bed waiting for you at the luxurious Delight Hotel.

The Delight Hotel Swakopmund

The Delight Hotel Swakopmund

The Delight Hotel guestroom

The Delight Hotel guestroom

Heading north, you enter into Damaraland and cast your eyes onto the rich Namibian lands with high mountains, low valleys and ancient rivers finding their way through their domain. The Damara Mopane Lodge lies here, serving as an oasis amongst the red rocks that scatter the area. Comfortable, beautiful and ideal for your visit.

The Damaraland experience

The Damaraland experience

The African elders find themselves roaming along the Etosha National Park and of course there are few other places where you would be able to get as close to these magnificent elephants. Visit watering holes and spot the king of the savannah,hunting as you drive across the sandy plains. Spend your evenings surrounded by lively chatter in an exquisite setting in the Etosha Safari Lodge or the Etosha Safari Camp where you should not miss an opportunity to get comfortable in a recycled tyre-chair at the Shebeen.

Etosha Game Drive

Etosha Game Drive

Etosha Safari Lodge Namibia

Etosha Safari Lodge Namibia

Along the great Okavango river, at the Hakusembe River Lodge, you could find yourself cruising along the water or lounging in a cabin looking out onto the serene waters drifting by. Or head further east and find yourself in the Caprivi at the Namushasha River Lodge along the Zambezi River where you can spend lazy afternoons on the restaurant deck watching the current flow by and contemplate the meaning of life…or what you want for dinner. Whichever floats your boat!

Boat cruise along the Okavango River

Boat cruise along the Okavango River

Namushasha River Lodge along the Zambezi River

Namushasha River Lodge along the Zambezi River

With so many options to choose from and so many activities to show you the depth and beauty of the land, how could there be any other option? The Gondwana Collection is an ideal way to guide you to the beauty Namibia holds. A beauty that will not leave you disappointed.