At 55 million years old, the Namib is the oldest desert in the world and with sand dunes more than 300m high it contains the world’s tallest dunes. It is a costal desert, rarely penetrating more than 160 kms from the Atlantic Ocean, and stretches along the entire length of Namibia and a part of Angola. The localised climate is caused by the interaction between south westerly winds which are cooled by the Benguella current and warm, dry easterly winds from the Indian Ocean. Along the coast, thick sea fogs occur on up to 180 days of the year and these roll inland to provide moisture.
The scene is Dead Vlei clay pan in the Namib Naukluft National Park. Vlei is an Afrikaans word meaning shallow pond but this area rarely floods. The fossilised camelthorn trees are around 900 years old and bear testimony to the presence of reliable seasonal water at this time which would have allowed them to flourish. The dunes around Deadvlei peak at around 300m.