The immediate reaction on arriving at the foot of these immense orange dunes, is a sense of awe, and yet also of familiarity. Dune 45, Big Daddy and Big Mama along with the desolation of Deadvlei and the remnants of ancient dead acacias must be some of the most photographed desert scenes.
The scale and sinuous form are extraordinary, the geometry sensuous. Here multi-directional wind lifts up the dune skirts forming star shapes with three or more arms extending from their peaks. Eastwards a transverse dune belt lies sculpted by southerly winds in summer and firmly packed by the easterlies in winter into linear shapes. Further north the barchans / crescentic dunes lie perpendicular to the strong southerlies and are pushed like waves northwards towards the Kuiseb River where the encroaching sand is halted and stopped from spreading onto the gravel plains that spread northwards to the Swakop River.
This arid desert biome supports a surprising population of adapted fauna and flora. An average of less than 50mm of rain falls in a year, but precipitation is supplemented by coastal fog – a crucial source of water for many plants and animals.