Desert bounty



Julie Edwards is spellbound by the macro- and micro-fauna of the Namib Desert, a photographer’s dream

We had three choices: the gorgeous Skeleton Coast, the iconic Etosha National Park or the Namib Desert. For us, lovers of deserts of all kinds, it was an easy decision. Pointing the truck south out of Windhoek and turning off onto a desolate dirt road, we drove away from the crowds and into the great sand silence.

The Namib is one of the great deserts of the world. Stretching along the coast of Namibia and curving inland, it covers over 80,000sq km, a sweeping landscape of low scrub, rocky plains and dune seas of red and white sand. Wildlife is less plentiful here, but a variety of specially-adapted mammals, insects, and reptiles reward keen-eyed travelers. A photographer’s dream, the shifting sand and wide vistas combine with amazing evening and morning light to create seemingly endless picture opportunities.

The NamibRand Nature Reserve is a superb spot for adventurers looking for the solitude of a rooftop tent and the ability to explore away from the crowds. Intrepid travelers will be rewarded with glimpses of Namibia off the beaten path. At over 2000km it is one of the largest private nature reserves in southern Africa and provides a limited number of concessions, keeping tourist numbers low. Conservation efforts have preserved and protected the delicate biodiversity in the desert. This ethic of conservation stretches beyond just the terrestrial, and the NamibRand is an officially recognised International Dark Star Reserve, defined by the International Dark-Sky Association as “public or private land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment”. As the sun fades from the scrub plains and mountain vistas, look upwards for some of the most amazing star-gazing around. Even on nights when the moon is full, as it was when we visited, the quality and quantity of stars is extraordinary.

A visit to the dunes at Sossusvlei is a must for any desert lover, and it is relatively easy to escape the crowds. Although Dune 45 is the most famous, there is no shortage of gorgeous, sweeping sand to explore. The precision of cut and colour in these great sand dunes just might convince you that they were etched by an artist. A popular time to visit is just before sunrise, but the warmer evening light is perfect for photographers.

While you won’t find the concentration or variety of wildlife you would at Etosha, time in the Namib will reward those seeking silence, solitude, and desert secrets. This photo journal highlights the macro- and micro-desert – from sweeping sand dunes to desert giraffes and stunning vistas to the smallest of creatures: