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Are the beautiful Namibian dune photos an every morning occurrence?

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May 19th, 2009, 02:58 PM
  #1
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Are the beautiful Namibian dune photos an every morning occurrence?

Or are some mornings cloudy? Is there a time of year that you are more likely to capture the bright colors in the sun?

How about evening? Is the opportunity the same then?

If you know those answers, you can also mention exactly where are the best opportunities. I assume you drive there or are there places where those views are at the camp/lodge?
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May 19th, 2009, 10:33 PM
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Hi Lynn,
when we were there in mid Sept 08 we stayed 2 nights at Kulala Wilderness Camp which is a perfectly lovely camp- there are others in the area which I'm sure you'll check out prior to booking.

The first morning we went to the dunes and it was quite foggy! Not the classic 'blue sky, red dunes' at all. We took pictures anyway figuring any fool can buy the 'picture perfect' postcard but no-one expects to see the dunes in a fog. It was very broody and magical in it's own right. The weather didn't help with photos at Dead Vlei - it was later in the morning, fog was still hanging around, and the light was quite 'dead' if you'll pardon the pun. My hunch is early morning or mid- afternoon on a clear day would be good at Dead Vlei if you can stand the heat in the afternoon, as the shadows would be more interesting and the 'heat haze' coming off the white pan could add something to the photo IMHO. Alternately early morning of course for crisp light and long shadows.
Following morning at Kulala was misty, rather than foggy and cleared just after sunrise to a beautiful clear day. If you're planning to do a balloon ride book 2 nights minimum ,where ever you're staying, as ballooning is VERY weather dependant. It was cancelled for the 3 days before we got there because the weather was not right. Luckily we went up as scheduled on the day of our booking.
We loved all of Namibia- fantasic landscapes, wildlife, friendly people and endless horizons

Hope this helps,
Kaye
PS the public toilet at Dune 45 is not recommended.
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May 20th, 2009, 01:44 PM
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Hi Lynn!
We have visited Sossusvlei (in Namib-Naukluft Park) on three occasions - all in July/August. On all three occasions, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. However, in 2008, due to the smoke in Namibia, the sky wasn't the lovely blue that it had been in 2004 and 2007. Much of Namibia was under a smokey haze in 2008 - our pictures from that year aren't nearly as nice as the two previous years.

We have found that the best time to photograph the dunes is just after sunrise when the sun is low in the sky and one side of the dunes are in shadow. Fantastic colours!

You should definitely plan to visit Dead Vlei - truly a breath-taking place. If you climb (the dune) Big Daddy, which overlooks Dead Vlei, you can climb to the top of the dune, enjoy the view and then run down into Dead Vlei.
Here is my description of Dead Vlei from our 2004 visit:

"The 1.2km walk across Dead Vlei was wonderful, albeit a tad hot, with towering dunes all around us, the blinding white crust of the pan below us, mirages blurring the horizon ahead of us, a startling blue sky above us, and the skeletons of a few old Acacia trees scattered before us, evidence of wetter times. The fiery red dunes, cobalt blue sky, glaring white pan, and bleak grey trees provided a stunning contrast. It was a breathtakingly beautiful place."

You can drive to Dead Vlei and Big Daddy, but you need a 4x4 - otherwise you have to hike the last 5km (not bad in winter, but deathly hot in summer) or take the shuttle.

We have stayed at Kulala Desert Lodge and Kulala Wilderness Camp - both are lovely. The big advantage to either Kulala property (both owned by Wilderness) is that they have a private entrance to the park which is much closer to the dunes than the main entrance at Sesriem, where most visitors gain access to the dunes. The private entrance means that Kulala can get you well into the dunes before sunrise. If you enter at Sesriem even when the gates open, it is a long drive to the Dead Vlei area and almost impossible to get there by dawn.

The dunes are also lovely in the late afternoon, but unfortunatley you have to be out of the park before sunset - so you are not able to get dune and sunset pictures.

There are photos from our 2008 visit to Big Daddy and Dead Vlei starting on page 46 of the following trip report and photos - even in the haze and smoke, Sossusvlei was beautiful! Robin

http://bert-and-bin.smugmug.com/gall...61053054_KcDbR
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May 20th, 2009, 02:18 PM
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Robin - went over to your smugmug link and immediately recognized/remembered your trip report. What a wonderful write up with photos you did!!!! You doing another for 2009 - I hope?? Everyone, even if you're not keen on the Namibia question here, still look at CR's trip report.

regards - tom
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May 20th, 2009, 04:07 PM
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Very interesting and informative replies, Mega and Robin. Thank you!

How much time would you recommend in this location? It seems 2 nights is what most people do. Can you break down your time in the area from arrival to departure and what you were doing? I mean in general, minute by minute tweets or twitters are not necessary.
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May 20th, 2009, 06:20 PM
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Hi Tom!
Thank you for your kind words. My husband and I are headed to Kenya and Tanzania for a month in August 09 on another self-drive through the Mara, Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara and Tarangire - I have no doubt that a report will follow - I use the Smugmug report as the basis of a book that I put together on Blurb - a Christmas gift for my traveling companion!

Hi Lynn!
I have stayed two nights and three nights and found the two nights far too short as we always arrive late on the first day (from Aus - check out Eagle's Nest Lodge, Klein Aus Vista, Aus - one of our favourite places) and have to leave at a reasonable time on the last day (to get to the coast - Walvis Bay or Swakopmund). You really do need at least two full days at Sossusvlei (3 nights) to do the area justice. With three nights, I would do the following (it is the best of what we have done):

Arrival day:
just in time for dinner - after having spent most of the day in the car, we always spend the first evening relaxing on the deck of our tent watching the sunset - at either the lodge or camp, it is a lovely experience - you could do a sundowners trip, however

First full day:
Balloon ride at dawn with breakfast - our trip was booked and arranged by Kulala - check out my post (link below) about this experience - it is a fabulous experience but includes a warning. I see you also posted on that thread but my imput comes after yours, so you may not have seen mine.

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...on-trip.cfm?18

In the afternoon, a trip to Sesriem Canyon with a guide from Kulala
Evening sundowner trip - Kulala Wilderness Camp has a wonderful sundowners spot about a 20-minute drive from the camp

Second full day:
Into the dunes with a guide from Kulala
Sunrise at dune 1 - lovely spot to watch the sunrise behind the mountains (avoid the always busy dune 45 - ugh!)
Climb Big Daddy (we started our climb ~8:30 to 9:00am) and then head down into Dead Vlei
Lunch in the dunes (Kulala packed us a picnic) as described in the above report - fabulous!
Another sundowners trip - see photos in the report - it was fabulous

Departure day:
Drove to Sesriem in our vehicle (arrived when the gates opened!) and spent until about 9am (2 hours) in Namib-Naukluft Park enjoying the dunes and taking many, many photos
Headed out to the coast from Sesriem around 10am - the drive across the Namib Desert from Solitaire to Walvis Bay is one of my favourite drives. I am a desert person!

The other advanatage of two full days/3nights is that it gives you two possible days on which to do the balloon ride - as Kaye mentioned, the balloon trips do get cancelled - Kulala always books our balloon trip on the first day of our visit so that, if the weather is poor, we can switch it to our second day.
Robin
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May 20th, 2009, 07:52 PM
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Good advice on this thread so far! Just thought I'd add my 2 cents...from a photography standpoint, to best "capture the colors in the bright sunlight" I would recommend that you get out to Deadvlei and Sossusvlei early in the morning or late afternoon if you can.

Staying at Soss Dune Lodge (the only lodge within the park) is the only way you can access either at sunrise and sunset, as both areas take an hour to reach from the main gate at Sesreim which doesn't open till 7am. (Sunrise is 6:30am this time of year) You will need a 4x4 to drive all the way to these 2 surreal landscapes however, meaning you have to either rent that type of vehicle, or hire a guide to take you there (or take the shuttle offered by Sossusvlei Lodge, near Sesriem outside the main gate)

But if you are there mid day in the harsh light and hazy atmosphere, just zoom in on the interesting gnarled camelthorn trees against the apricot dunes and eliminate the sky which will be a blown highlight anyway. Omit the sky whenever you can at midday, and you will be much happier with your pictures!

To see some of my Deadvlei and Sossusvlei Dune images check out my gallery at www.UniquePhotoTours.com. It's one of my very favorite landscapes in the world, and deserves a couple of days to wander around the eerie space. You'll love it if you're a desert person!
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May 21st, 2009, 09:49 AM
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Lynn...when are you going?
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May 21st, 2009, 03:15 PM
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"You'll love it if you're a desert person!" Even if you are not! Fantastic photos, Wanderlust. The glare off the branch was a unique concept.

Divewop, If I win the lottery, I'll be going within a year, otherwise, just some day. I was corresponding off the forum with someone about Namibia, so it got me thinking.

These are great hints for good pictures. I'm sure someone will put them to use before I do, barring a lottery win, which is unlikely because I don't buy tickets.
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May 22nd, 2009, 05:41 PM
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Hi Lynn
At the risk of igniting the hoary old chestnut of the rates at Wilderness lodges, we limited our stay to two nights in the 'heart' of the area because of cost.
The afternoon we arrived we were happy to take 'sundowners' at the lodge. It has a spectacular view- but don't they all! http://lh6.ggpht.com/_St0L_3rgL2M/SR...norama%201.jpg

The second day was the foggy morning at the dunes. We visited Sesriem Canyon in the afternoon but unfortunately one of the other guests was unwell and we didn't get to spend a lot of time there. The next morning was the 5.30 am balloon ride and then we drove on to next destination at mid-day.
We did, however, know that this area was going to be a scenic wonder, so we extended our time in the general vicinity by another three nights at Zebra River Lodge. The lodge is about an hour and a half fromKulula, in the Tzaris Mountains. Geologically fascinating. The lodge itself is lovely, Rob and Marianne make guests feel right at home with self guided or guided walks to caves and magical natural springs. Some of the best food we had on the trip and, in our opinion, ZRL had one of the best Sundowners' spots ever- over the Tzaris mountains, all the way to the Namib Nukluft Mountains. http://lh3.ggpht.com/_St0L_3rgL2M/SR...2/IMG_4003.JPG
Don't wait to win the lottery, Lynn. Namibia is great value and easy to get around. We are so haunted by Namibia that we are hoping to go back next year.
Kaye
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May 22nd, 2009, 07:44 PM
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I got a Google error on the first link. The 2nd one worked. Lovely tree.

Thanks for the additional info, Mega and good luck on your return.
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May 22nd, 2009, 07:46 PM
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I just noticed Kaye. So you are running everything through the Africa meter to enable that return! Am I right?
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May 22nd, 2009, 08:03 PM
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Lyn- the Africa meter always 'on'
Look PAST the tree Lynn- the view! The view!
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May 23rd, 2009, 07:20 AM
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But the light on the tree compliments the view!
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May 24th, 2009, 01:39 PM
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My visits to Namibia were in 2001 and 2004, both in June.

On the first visit we were in the NamibRand Nature Reserve for 2 nights and Sesriem/ Sossusvlei for another 2. We had clear, blue skies with just a few clouds. We did experience a brief and localised wind storm in Sossusvlei during one lunch time but very minor and short.

On the second visit, we were in NamibRand Nature Reserve for 4 nights (and Windhoek for 1) and again, we had beautiful, clear weather.

Best time for photography is early and late, for that beautiful golden and red light. But photos taken at other times of the day can also be interesting as the harsh light and very strong shadows make for some wonderfully abstract shapes!
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May 30th, 2009, 07:24 AM
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My wife and I were there on our honeymoon last year at this time and did a self drive to the park for sunrise...we stayed down at Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge and had to get up extra early as it was about a 45 minute drive from there to Sesriem. It was perfect sunrise weather for photograpgy when we arrived.

The one issue with hiking in the dunes is the blowing sand. I would highly recommend a $20US pair of tinted swim goggles for use when hiking in the dunes. Having hiked in Great Sand Dunes National Park and White Sands National Park in the US on several occasions and scratching my cornea from the sand I always bring a pair of tinted swim goggles if I plan on hiking in sand dunes.

Me is goggles at Dead Vlei
http://www.arachnoboards.com/ab/gall...?imageid=13309

Back2Sabi in goggles at Dead Vlei
http://www.arachnoboards.com/ab/gall...?imageid=13308

My favorite Namibia Panoramic - Dunes on sunset quad-bike trip near Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge. The small size does not do it justice. I look at this when I am having a crappy day at work.
http://www.arachnoboards.com/ab/gall...?imageid=12972

];')
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May 30th, 2009, 10:29 AM
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I'm thinking our NEXT trip (after the more imminent trip this year) may well be self-drive Western Cape to Namibia....
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May 30th, 2009, 10:47 AM
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You look handsome in those goggles and what a great idea! A scratched cornea is no fun. I've done that twice but not from exotic desert winds and sand. Thank you.
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May 30th, 2009, 05:09 PM
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uhoh_busted - you won't be disappointed with that drive! If you time it right, you might be lucky enough to see the wildflowers throught the Namaqualand which would be a real bonus.
The timing of our entire trip was so we would (hopefully) arrive in Namaqualand for the wildflowers. The timing of the wildflowers is dictated by several factors; when the winter rains come, the lack of hot winds, lack of frost but abundant sunshine. When we arrived in Springbok, ZA, it was mid September, weather was cold and raining – our waitress at lunch informed us that the rains had come earlier than usual that year and since then they had hot winds followed by frosts The wildflower “season” had finished three weeks ago! Such are the vagaries of nature travel. We moved on early to Capetown.

Even after 4 weeks on the road in Namibia, I couldn't get enough of those breath-taking views - nothing but you and the car, no fences, no houses, no sign of civilisation. I'll admit that I may have been influenced by the upgrade of our rental vehicle to a Mercedes 180 kompressor but I could drive the back roads of Namibia forever....
Kaye
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May 31st, 2009, 06:15 AM
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I just returned from 3 weeks in Namibia, and I have a few thoughts on clouds and light in Namibia. I actually prefer to have clouds, but not overcast skies. I like to have big, puffy clouds to cast shadows down on the dunes for dynamic photographs. Clear skies aren't great for photography, and are often referred to as 'tourist skies' that don't convey much in a photograph. Just a thought if photography is your goal.

I am very partial to April/May or September/October as the temps are very comfortable, it isn't the rainy season, and the Sept/Oct dates work well if you are looking to combine Etosha into your planning.

$.02


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