Sossusvlei & the Namib Desert
Arguably the main attraction in the Namib-Naukluft National Park is the towering orange dunes of the Sossusvlei, possibly some of the highest dunes in the world.
One of our highlights was walking up the sand dunes at Sossusvlei and getting to the top of Dune 45.
A vlei is a name given to a salt pan or clay pan in southern Africa. Sossuvlei (meaning dead-end marsh) is in the desert landscape of Namib-Naukluft National Park, though it is commonly used to describe the greater surrounding area. The towering orange sand dunes of Sossusvlei surrounding the pans are one of the iconic images that we associate with Namibia. Best avoided around midday due to the heat, the dunes are at their peak for photography early morning and late afternoon.
There’s more to the mysterious Namib Desert than the dunes. Adjacent to the Namib-Naukluft National Park, sharing 100km of its border, is the largest private reserve in the country, the NamibRand Reserve where every day is a lesson in survival in this harsh, yet achingly beautiful environment.
- Dune climbing: Some of the highest dunes are the most popular to climb. Dune 45 or the aptly named Big Daddy are two such contenders.
- Sesriem Canyon: A good place to stretch your legs is the Sesriem Canyon, 30 metres deep in some places. Views from the top are also quite breathtaking.
- Take to the air: With an early start, it’s possible to see the dunes from above in a hot air balloon. It’s a memorable experience. If you prefer a fixed-wing aircraft, then scenic flights can be arranged. Flying over the landscape will give you a sense of scale of the area and the vast coverage of the dunes.
- Dead Vlei: A popular spot for photography, even the most amateur photographer’s photos will be spectacular. The black dead trees are a stark contrast against the white salt pan with a backdrop of intense rust-coloured dunes and an azure blue sky – picture postcard stuff.
- Hidden Vlei: As the name suggests, this spot is a little more off-the-beaten-track. A visit to Hidden Vlei promises fewer people and a chance to experience the desert in almost solitary splendour.
- Night sky: NamibRand is the place to have a bash at astronomy. With almost no light pollution to speak of you should experience spectacular displays of stars.
- Wildlife: Though plentiful, the wildlife may be harder to spot. The usual suspects are Hartman’s zebra, oryx, steenbok, springbok, ostrich and warthog. Keep an eye out for the smaller inhabitants too such as scorpions, insects and grubs.
- Birding: The varied habitat of the Namib Desert attracts a variety of bird species with over 200 recorded. See how many you can identify.