Leaving camp before dawn brought us to the gates of the park just before sunrise. the rising sun turned the dunes into orange flame as we pulled up to the foot of Dune 45, one of the highest stationary sand dunes in the world at 900 feet over the desert floor. The park contains the highest dunes in the world with some over 1000 feet in height. Three of us got to the top – the views were incredible, as was the wind at the top of the dune.
Our travels then took us further into the desert to the Dead Vlei with its 800-1000 year old dead acacia trees. The trees died 800 + years ago when the Orange river changed course due to drifting sand dunes. Their long roots and the clay hard pan around their trunks has keep them up right since. An amazing moonscape….. More moisture comes in as a fog off the Atlantic Ocean than falls as rain, with the average 106 millimeters of rainfall per year concentrated in the months of February and April. Whole areas of dry river beds and plains will flood every few years. The area attracts lots of bird and animal life at that time. Even flamingos from the coast appear.
The adaptations of the plants and animals living here year round are amazing. The back striped mouse builds its communal nest underneath a thorny !nara bush which produces a very nice melon that the mice eat. Smart rodent to build its house under a supermarket with a built in security system. The shovel snouted lizard can bury itself in the sand in the blink of an eye – we caught a glimpse of one shedding its skin before it disappeared. The blue beetle stands on its head in the sand in the morning capturing morning moisture from sea mists. The moisture runs down funnels in the beetle carapace to its mouth. A couple of drops is all it needs for the day.
A wonderful morning.