Sossusvlei is one of the world’s most remote and beautiful places, synonymous with sweeping sand dunes and astonishing sunsets. The salt and clay pan is enclosed by towering, vivid red dunes, which some say are the highest in the world, presenting a breath-taking picture, as their crimson colour clashes with the cobalt sky.
Although the area is accessible, the roads are in quite a bad condition, so if you don’t have a 4×4, it’s wise to opt to be part of tours to Sossusvlei. The area is located within the Namib-Nauklift National Park of Namibia, in the heart of the exquisitely isolated desert. Sossus is Nama for ‘no return’, while vlei is the Afrikaans word for marsh, so effectively the area is known as ‘no return marsh,’ in reference to the fact that it is the Tsauchab River’s natural endorheic drainage basin.
The region spans between the Koichab and Kuiseb rivers and is every photographer’s dream destination. The dunes have a brilliant red palette and are best viewed at sunrise and sunset, when the sun’s crepuscular rays cast them in an incandescent flaming hue, while the wind demonstrates its artistry, painting complex ripples in the sand. Imagine a solitary herd of Gemsbok stepping carefully on the crest of the sandbank, leaving soft footprints in the silt. The highest of all the dunes is ‘Big Daddy’ which dominates the landscape, measuring a remarkable 380 metres in height.
Although the region is predominantly associated with draught, periodically the rains will fall and the vlei fills with water, attracting many animals and people to its banks. This sight is extremely rare and not one to be missed, as the area teems with life, adorning the undulating dunes.
Visit the majestic Sesriem Canyon which starts as a deep cleft in the ground, eventually expanding into a flattened plain. Witness the Naravlei, from the top of ‘Big Mama’ – an obliging dune which is well worth the climb and explore the haunting desolation of Dead Vlei, which is named for its numerous dead camelthorn trees, some of which are over 800 years old.
You will be amazed by the diversity of life which has adapted to the desert’s harsh conditions, succeeding in surviving in one of the earth’s most hostile environments. Be part of one of the reputable Sossusvlei tours which will open your eyes to the geographical and cultural history of the area.