Literally “dead marsh,” Deadvlei is a flat expanse in the middle of the Namibian desert famous for its surrealistic terrain: charcoal black trees grow out of the white textured ground with the backdrop of rolling red dunes and the clear blue sky. It is a landscape that used to be brimming with life, but has now receded into a dramatic “death.”
Located in the Namib-Naukluft National Park, Deadvlei used to be a lake where the Tsauchab river drained, giving life to a humble desert oasis. However, through time, the slowly moving dunes blocked the pan from the river, turning it into marshland and eventually into a “dead vlei” (“vlei” is an Afrikaans name for a lake or marsh surrounded by dunes).
While Deadvlei was still alive, numerous camel thorn trees sprouted across the area. But when the water source was cut off, the area became too dry even for the trees to decompose. The sun baked the thousand-year-old trees, turning them black and creating an eerie petrified forest in the middle of the red desert. Yet in its strange, alien-like appearance, some call it the most beautiful ‘dead’ place on Earth.
Deadvlei is a 44-kilometer drive from the park gate, passing through the great Sossusvlei salt pan.