Namibia is renowned for its remote areas and during a trip throughout the country one of the place ‘’not to be missed’’ is the Namib desert, the oldest in the World. In the Nama language, ‘Namib’ means ‘vast’, and this desert lives up to this reputation. One of the most spectacular sight of Namibia is surely the desert part known as Sossusvlei, located inside the Namib -Naukluft National Park .
The stunning Sossusvlei
It is a large, white, salt and clay pan lined by some of the highest dunes in the world. Sossusvlei means “no return marsh”, as it is the place where the dunes come together preventing the Tsauchab River to flow any further. However, due to the dry conditions in the Namib Desert, the River seldom flows this far and the pan remains bone-dry most years. The rain is extremely rare but when it falls the landscape is amazing as the area teems with life, adorning the undulating dunes. During the sunrise and sunset the colors are strong and constantly changing, allowing for wonderful photographic opportunities. If you like experiencing this magnificent place, the best option is to sleep in the small settlement called Sesriem, above all at Sesriem Campsite, located inside the park (the only one inside the gate) and close to all the attractions.
Namib -Naukluft National Park attractions
Sossusvlei area offers the opportunity to climb up the sand dunes and take in the spectacular desert scenery. The closest is Elim dune but the most visited is the Dune 45 (50 km from the camp on the main road). The highest dune of Sossusvlei is called Big Daddy, it is 390m high and can climb up in one hour. The best time to climb up the dunes is at dawn and during the sunset because the midday heat could be intense. Dune 45 and Big Daddy are massive, will exhaust even those who are in the best of shape and the climb will be harder than you expect (if you want to climb Big daddy we suggest you to be very fit). Once you get to the top of the crest, you see another, even larger ridge that you will probably want to climb. Don’t forget to keep with you sufficient water and a hat!
Deadvlei and its incredible landscape
Leaving the Dune 45, going on the main road, after 15 minutes drive you reach one of the most photographed sight of Namibia: DeadVlei. In this area, more than thousand years ago, the Tsaucheb river used to settle into a small lake in the desert, close to Sossusvlei, and here many trees used to grow in this pan. When the climate changed a strong drought struck the area and the sand dunes blocked off the river’s route and any water. The bushes and trees in Deadvlei died but due to the exceptional dryness of the desert conditions they dried out instead of decomposing and the desert sun scorched the trunks to blackened bones. The trees are estimated to be approximately 500 to 900 years old.
After leaving your car at the Deadvlei car park paying a small fee, you have to jump on a 4×4 park vehicle that takes you at the starting point of the trail. From here you’ll walk along the pan surrounded by the dunes that you have even to climb a bit to get at DeadVlei. It’s a bit tiring because of the strong heat and the walk through the soft sand (it takes you around 25 min to go and 25 min back, don’t underestimate this walk on the sand under the heat) but once there, Deadvlei is a ‘’paradise‘’ for photographers as the contrast between the pitch-black trees and bleached-white pans, and the rusty-red dunes and deep blue sky make for incredible images .
The last sight that it’s worth visiting if you have time is Sesriem Canyon, located only 4 km from Sesriem Gate Entrance. It is very little visited and in our opinion is amazing. There are two ways to see it, either from the same level of the road or as a path that takes you to the bottom, that is, 30m deep than the road level. Even in this case, we suggest you to go during the late afternoon when the heat is not so strong and the contrast between the sun and shadows make its color more interesting.
Getting there: from Windhoek is 340 km (5 hrs); from Swakopmund 350 km (5 hrs); from Seeheim is 450 km (6 hrs). Take in your mind that is very dangerous driving throughout Namibia because the most roads are gravel and the maximum speed you should keep is around 90 km/h . The mobile phone is not working out of the touristic places and the towns.
Sesriem map: click here;
Where to sleep: the best accommodation Sesriem Campsite because is located inside the Namib-Naukluft Park gate. The accommodations inside the national parks are administrated by Namibia wildlife Resort then you have to book through this link: click here;
You can find some more ‘’comfortable‘’ accommodations along the road outside the park like Sossuvlei Lodge, Moon Mountain Lodge, Agama River Camp Lodge, Desert Quiver Camp. If you sleep outside the Park, keep in mind that the gate open at sunrise and close at sunset (6.45 to 18.30 summer time) so if you want enjoy the sunrise sitting on the top of a dune you have to sleep inside the Park.