The Miracle at Sandhof

A pan on the farm Sandhof in Namibia is transformed every four of five years when it is filled with 15 centimetres of water. 

Main picture: The lilies of Sandhof pan

About 35 kilometres north of Maltahöhe, in Namibia, on the farm Sandhof, is an enormous salt pan extending over an area of a thousand hectares. The pan is normally bone dry and few people would think of visiting it other than to drive across it at speed to see how fast their vehicles can go.

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However, once every four or five years when there have been good rains in the surroundings, usually in January or February, the pan becomes inundated, if the water reaches a depth of 15 centimetres, it transforms miraculously into a vast field of lilies emerging from a sheet of sparkling water tinged red by the underlying sand. In next to no time shoots break through the surface of the shallow water and burst into a vivid display of pink and white for as far as the eye can see. This ephemeral blaze is short-lived, because as quickly as the flowers take shape they wither and thousands of elephant beetles appear as if from nowhere, devouring the lot within days.

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To see the fleeting spectacle, visitors flock to Sandhof from different parts of the country and even South Africa. They usually converge on the small town of Maltahöhe, which has a country hotel and a small number of guesthouses.

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The last time the lilies appeared was after the copious rains of 2006.

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