Deadvlei: The Beautiful Yet Dead Forest Sorrunded by The World’s Highest Sand Dunes


deadvlei desert
A surreal place in the Namibian Desert. Image credit: Amazing Places on Earth

This sun-blackened dead forest in a white clay pan in the Namibian desert is called ‘Deadvlei’ (or ‘Dooie Vlei’), which means ‘dead marsh’. Once an oasis fed by a one-time river, the place is now so dry that the lack of water have forced the roots of trees to come outside looking for moisture.

Counted as one of the strangest places in the world, the area is surrounded by rust-orange giant sand dunes that form a contrasting backdrop. They rest on a sandstone terrace and and are said to be the highest in the world. The biggest of them reach 300–400 meters (350m on average) and are called ‘Big Daddy’ or ‘Crazy Dune’.

deadvlei namibia
Deadvlei early in the morning before most visitors start arriving. Image credit: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

The clay pan formed due to rainfall and the flooding Tsauchab river, creating temporary shallow pools where the abundance of water allowed camel thorn trees to grow. When the climate changed, drought hit the area, and sand dunes encroached on the pan, which blocked the river from the area.

As there no longer was enough water to survive, the trees died. The remaining skeletons, which are believed to have died 600–700 years ago (ca. 1340-1430), are now black because the intense sunlight has scorched them. Though not petrified, the wood does not decompose because it is so dry, giving the area an eerie eternal look.

deadvlei dry trees
Dead camel thorn Vachellia erioloba in Deadvlei. Image credit: Ikiwaner
deadvlei view
General view of Deadvlei. Image credit: Diego Delso
deadvlei tree
A dried out camel thorn (Vachellia erioloba) in Deadvlei. Image credit: Diego Delso
deadvlei aerial view
Aerial view of Deadvlei. Image credit: Olga Ernst & Hp.Baumeler

Sources 1, 2

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