I ended up staying here extra days, I loved it so much and there’s so many different things to see. This is a hot, dry, and sandy place. In general, expect to focus on sunrise and sunset times, and plan to rest during the hottest hours of mid-day.
Limitations & Frustrations
There are many new rules and regulations, some of them in effect just this year, that prevent the acquisition of the best photos. I honestly don’t know if that is their intention or not. There are permits that can be attained by having a commercial filming budget or knowing the right person in government, but these are less accessible options for passionate (read: not wealthy) photography hobbyists.
So many composition exercises here. The best contrasted lighting during sunset was at the exact time I had to leave to get back to the gate at closing time. This area has thousands of tourists around 9am. At sunrise (5:30am) and at sunset (7:30pm), I had it completely to myself.
There are many angles that show trees together without actually “touching” each other which creates a very nice picture against the vast dune wall in the background. I only captured a few of them.
It earns its name, creating the wall behind Deadvlei. Stepping through steep, soft sand was much harder than it looked. I was the first to the top that day, so I had the privilege of exploring un-footprinted. I didn’t follow the tourist path along the ridge, but rather followed antelope tracks up which I believed to be slightly easier (when In Rome). I was the first one at the gate when it opened at 5am, arrived at the top at 8am at a brisk pace, hours after sunrise, so the lighting didn’t feel quite as perfect
Big Mama & Sossusvlei
Not nearly as tall, big mama sits behind Sossusvlei, and I ended up continuing ascending the dunes behind it as well which made it more worth the trip. Don’t forget to run/fall/fly down a nearly vertical wall of sand and get some closeup shots of Sossusvlei.
Dune 45 & Other
Dune 45 and other dunes like dune 35, 3 tree dune, are extremely popular and closer to the gate. I personally preferred the other options, but every photographer should certainly seize the opportunity for a variant of this iconic shot.
A unique circular foliage pattern, primarily believed to be created by termites, though there are various theories and speculation, and remains somewhat of an unproven mystery.
Drones are highly banned in the entire country and especially in all national parks, since a lot of tourists abused the privilege. Talking to various people about the issue, I heard multiple stories of tourists flying in spite, and having their equipment destroyed by the police. And not just their aerial equipment.
Helicopter tours can be booked at a cheaper cost if you can find a few people to go with you. It really is a perfect place to view from above. Make sure to plan the helicopter takeoff for arriving at your destination exactly when you want it to. For me that was 15 minutes after sunrise, based on the previous 2 days of examining the light at that time. It’s also worth being ready with a telephoto to capture early ascenders from above.
This is certainly one place that can’t be missed during time in Namibia. It’s also worth spending the extra energy to be at the right place at the right time, for the perfect view into this spectacular world.