The ancient dunes of the Namib Desert offer the quintessential desert landscape. Reduced to rusty red sand and clear blue skies Sossusvlei is one of the world’s most popular photographic destinations. The complete quiet and serenity of the desert have an undeniable attraction making Sossusvlei one of Namibia’s top tourist destinations. The characteristic red dunes reach heights of up to 300 meters. Except for the occasional gemsbok wildlife in the area is scare, but the towering red sand and endless sky are a perfect image of desolation that every traveller should experience at least once in his life.
The best time to visit Sossusvlei (view website) is in the early morning. The park gates open at dawn and the golden light just after sunrise is perfect. In the cool stillness of the early morning the play of light and shadow on the sand ledges is most impressive. Early birds also escape the midday heat and the desert sun.
Sossusvlei is part of the Namib Naukluft National Park. You can buy your permit at the park gates at Sesriem. The gates open at sunrise and close at sunset. The Sossusvlei pan is about 65km and an hour’s drive from the park gates. The first 60km of the road are tarred and the last 5km take though soft sand. If you don’t have a 4×4 vehicle you can just walk to the pan or take the shuttle.
While the name ‘Sossusvlei’ rings familiar it is not just the dry mud pan that draws so many visitors to this area. For aeons the red sand of the Kalahari is has been washed into the Atlantic by the Orange River and back onto the coast by icy waves. Sossusvlei is part of the Namib, the world’s oldest desert. With the endless wavelike sand, clear blue skies and overpowering silence the Namib is the epitome of a desert dream.
Located 65km into the Namib Naukluft National Park the dry mud pan is one of the world’s best locations to watch the sunrise. Many photographers pilgrimage to this place for the rich colour and simplicity of the landscape. The ledges of the tall dunes draw flowing lines between the dark shade, rusty sand and blue sky. Hardy Oryx antelope complete the trademark image of Namibia.
Many of the images associated with Sossusvlei are actually taken at Deadvlei. Skeletons of camel thorn tree stand in parched pale ground with towering dunes in the background. The trees grew during a time when the Tsauchab River filled the pans in the area. Today the trees are dead but the air is too dry for them to decompose. Blackened by the sun over an estimated 900 years the trees of Deadvlei are a situated close to Sossusvlei and definitely worth the detour.
Dune 45 is located 45 kilometres from Sesriem on the way to Sossusvlei. The dune stands up to 170m tall, but a relatively gentle gradient allows visitor to ascend the dune. Dune 45 is a great spot to watch the sun rise before you continue to Sossusvlei.
Located 4km from the settlement of Seriem the homonymous canyon holds the only permanent water source in the area. Carved by the Tsauchab River the canyon is about 30m deep, which according to Afrikaans speaking trekkers equalled six belt lengths – the literal translation of ‘Sesriem’. Using half a dozen of belts the early pioneers hauled their water from the canyon in buckets.