Sossusvlei is Namibia's premium travel destination. I have seen a number of articles about Sossusvlei and none that I have found over the Internet give very good information. I have been living here (at Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge) since the end of 2000 and I have done some 900 Sossusvlei excursions. I have, over the years, made a real effort to learn as much as possible about the area. Here's a little information:

Sossusvlei's location: Sossusvlei is found in Namibia. Namibia is an African country found on the west of Africa on the southern portion of the continent. Sossusvlei is in the south west of Namibia. Sossusvlei is reached by going through Sesriem (where the gate of the national park is) Sossusvlei is found in the Namib Naukluft Park. Sesriem is about 380 kilometers form Windhoek and Swakopmund.

How to get there: By road or flying in. By road (from Luderitz, Windhoek, and Swakopmund. For the most part the roads are all gravel. The roads are generally well maintained, but some sections may be bad at times. It is well worth your while asking about roads while traveling. They days on the road in Namibia can be long. You may choose not to hire a car, but rather to take a tour to Sossusvlei and let a guide drive you. This option lets you experience the area without the trouble of driving yourself. Of course, you can book with us, Frantic Naturalist.

Where to stay: There are a number of good places to stay. Having worked at Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge, I would certainly recommend it as perhaps the best lodge in Namibia. Not only is it a good place from which to visit Sossusvlei, but there is a lot to do on NamibRand Nature Reserve. There are a number of other upmarket lodges, such as Little Kulala, some cheaper lodges like Desert Homestead and Sossusvlei Lodge, and camping at Sesriem. Camping does allow you to go in an hour early and come out an hour late. This is great for photographers.

When to go: Summers can be really hot and winters cold. So the best time to visit Sossusvlei is in March/April/May and September/October. The rainy season is in the beginning of the year, but it is not usually much of a problem for visiting Sossusvlei. If there has been a lot of rain, it is good to spend a couple of days, in case the river flows. It is a very exciting time to be in the area.

Sossusvlei system: Sossusvlei is a pan in the middle of a desert. The Namib Desert is a coastal desert stretching up the western part of Namibia along the coast. In the southern part of the Namib is the Namib Sand Sea. The Namib Sand Sea is a huge, 34,000 square kilometer dune field or erg.

Sossusvlei is found in the middle of this sand sea. It is around 55 kilometers from the sea (the Atlantic,) and it is around 63 kilometers drive from Sesriem. There is no town or settlement or accommodation at Sossusvlei.

The pan of Sossusvlei is a flood pan of the Tsauchab River. The Tsauchab River flows from the Naukluft Mountains in the east down into the Namib Sand Sea. It initially creates a large open valley, before the dunes finally stop the river at Sossusvlei. There is no further surface flow from there on. If you want to get a good idea of how it looks, have a look at 'sossusvlei' on Google Earth.

Sossusvlei is most famous for it's dunes. The dunes are often referred to as the highest dunes in the world. There are no really good references to dune heights and so it is not accurate to claim that. They certainly are big. Most of the dunes in the valley reach up to about 220 meters from ground level. Those that go higher only do so because the ground level changes under them. What is amazing about the valley leading down to Sossusvlei is that these huge dunes, with beautiful red/orange colors, go from ground level up to huge heights, towering over this open valley.

Starting at Sesriem one first needs to get a permit to enter the park. This can take some time. You then need to show your permit at the inside gate before proceeding into the park. Soon a road turns off to your right. This goes to Elim dune. These dunes are part of the eastern margin dunes. They are characterized by vegetation and different ridges. This is a good area to find the Dune Lark, Namibia's only true endemic bird.

If you carry on without going in to Elim the road carries on westward towards Sossusvlei. Initially the dune valley is vary broad and so you only really see the dunes on the right hand side. As you travel past the park's airstrip, you will seed some red rock like stuff sticking out of the distant dunes. These are the so-called 'Petrified Dunes.' These are old remnants of dunes that have become a brittle sandstone.

Further along you will see the dunes change from the partly vegetated linear dunes into Star Dunes. It is clear to see that here the dunes are divided from one anther.

The Tsuachab river is on your right hand side at this point. As you carry on and get nearer the dunes you will see some 'fairy circles' on your right hand side. These barren patches in the grass are still a mystery. Some researchers believe they may be caused by tiny termites in the ground?

Further along you will be facing Dune 1. This huge dune will be in front of you before you turn down the hill to cross the Tsauchab river. The smaller Aub river is further to the South and floods out onto the plains about five kilometers further. After the Aub river has flooded out the valley narrows and the road takes you closer to the dunes on the left (south) of the valley.

Here there are some great photo opportunities. There are three huge dunes in a row before the only hill in the valley. Stop along the road at one or two of these dunes while the shadow is full in the early morning light to get the typical 'Sossusvlei' photo.

After the hill on the left you will soon reach Dune 45. Dune 45 has become the most well known dune in the area. There is a parking lot here. Most mornings the Overland Trucks stop here to walk up the dune. It can be crowded. I usually only like it to take my kids running in the dunes. They don't mind the crowd and Sossusvlei is a bit of a far drive for small children waiting to play in the sand!

If you carry on the remainder of the valley is lined with some amazing dunes. The whitish grey color in the valleys between the dunes on the way to Sossusvlei come from the river sand blown up between the dunes.

Soon a white clay pan stretches out where the river starts to flood out (when it reaches here - usually only a couple times a decade.)

The dunes start to block the river and a new area of Camel Thorn trees and !Nara bushes lead in the last five kilometers to Sossusvlei. This area must be traversed with a four wheel drive vehicle. If you don't have one, go in by foot or with a shuttle. If you walk, take enough water and watch the sun. When going in in winter, dress warm for the shuttles, they use open vehicles.

Around Sossusvlei there are a variety of attractions. There is the famous 'Big Daddy' or Crazy Dune. This 220 meter dune is reached by crossing Ostrich Vlei. Ask any local guide to show you. It is a serious dune and shouldn't be attempted unless you are very fit. Once on top you will have a great view over the dunes and over Deadvlei. The run down the dune, towards Deadvlei is one of the highlights.

I will talk about Deadvlei in more detail in a future blog. It can be reached more easily by parking at the parking area labeled 'Deadvlei Parking.'

Just a little beyond the Deadvlei parking area is Sossusvlei itself. You can cross over the cable and walk down to the pan. It is usually dry, but has flooded (1997, 2000, 2001 and 2006) from time to time. When flooded the pan attracts water birds as well as the normal desert animals like Oryx, Springbok, Black-backed Jackals and Springbok.

Walk Dune 22 (on the western side of the pan) to get a view over Sossusvlei and the area.

Sossusvlei is one of those places that will stick out in your mind for a long time. It has an unreal feeling when you area there. Truly an amazing place to visit.
Share this post
Digg Stumble Technorati Facebook Reddit Subscribe