How are parabolic dunes created

sand dunes

The dunes around the Sossusvlei

Dunes in Sossusvlei

It is believed that the dunes were formed around five million years ago.

Sand colored by iron oxide was washed out of the Kalahari by the Orange River towards the sea. The Benguela Current drove the sand north, about the height of Lüderitz. North-westerly winds blowing inland ensured that the sand was distributed and the dunes were formed.

The Namib dunes consist of colorful, pure quartz sand and shimmer in different shades. The following applies: the more intensely the red shade of a dune glows, the older it is.

The wind ensures that the dunes are constantly changing their shape. The upper part of the dune is called the "slipface". On the windward side of the dune, the wind deposits the sand, on the leeward side of the dune ridge the sand then slides down, so this side of the dune is the steeper.

The dunes around the Sossusvlei are known as parabolic dunes or star dunes because they run in different directions from one vertex. These longitudinal dunes extend up to 50 kilometers in length.

According to research, the star dunes migrate up to 10 meters per year. The Namib dunes are among the most stable representatives of their kind, because they rise from the approximately 100 meter high Tsondab sand dunes, which are said to have been active 20 to 40 million years ago and then petrified.

The heavy iron-rich sand lies particularly at the foot of the dunes, while the lighter sand blowing towards it constantly reshapes the dune ridges. The dune known as “Big Daddy”, which rises imposingly above the Vlei, is particularly well-known. When visiting the Sossusvlei, a climb up the dune ridge is a must, because from here there is an incomparable view of the dune landscape and the surrounding Vleis. The effort involved in the ascent should not be underestimated, because it is not an easy undertaking in the slippery sand! Once at the top, however, it's great fun to slide down again.