Sossusvlei is Namibia's popular attraction in the Namib Desert. Sossusvlei happens to be a vast clay pan, surrounded by gigantic sand dunes. Some of the spectacular sand dunes reach up to a height of 300 metres, the highest in the world.
The dunes of Sossusvleihave developed over a period of years, and the Namib Desert is considered the oldest desert in the world and stretches to about 1,200 miles along the Atlantic coast of three countries including Angola, Namibia, and South Africa. Apart from the existence of some unusual species specifically adapted to dry regions, the desert also offers the one-and-only attraction of Sossusvlei, a salt and clay pan surrounded by gigantic red dunes. Located inside the Namib-Naukluft Park, this area is more than 186 miles long and 87 miles wide.
The word 'Sossus' is from Bushman and Nama origin and it means: 'A gathering place of water'. The word Vlei is Afrikaans meaning a shallow area that becomes flooded during the rainy season.
The main characteristic of Sossusvlei is the large red dunes that fortify the inner area. Some of the dunes can reach up to 400 meters tall, making them some of the tallest in the world. Inside the circle of dunes, there is a wide salt and clay pan, which is referred to as Deadvlei. While everything seems a little bit plain in words, the actual spectacle is something you have to witness to understand.
This salt and clay pan is created by Tsauchab River that flows through Sesriem Canyon. Thanks to the dunes, the flow of water never reached the Atlantic Ocean. Every drop of water is drained away as it seeps through the huge pile of sands.
What makes the nature more interesting is that water flow actually keeps on searching for a way to pass through the sandy obstacles. After about 1000 years after Sossusvlei came to existence, another place called Deadvlei was created; both places are just about 2 km apart.
Deadvlei is inhabitable by any means. While this used to be an oasis in a dry land, the water changed its course and moved away from the area. There is not even enough moisture for dead trees to decompose; as a result, all the remnants of vegetations are still here. They have been preserved for many centuries. If the view and images of post-apocalyptic world is your cup of tea, then you can please your inner amateur photographic talents right here in this place. All you need is a good camera and steady hands, and of course bottles after bottles of water.
When to visit Sossusvlei
It does not seem that annual climate changes bring any noticeable effects to the condition of the environment in Sossusvlei. You can visit the place all year round while visiting the national park and other attractions in Southern Africa. There are, however, some times of the day when you can get the best of the views and experience. Early morning and late afternoon provide best stage for photography. If you’ve been playing with cameras for a while now, you surely understand about something called magic hours. As a rule of thumb, these hours happen during the first hour after sunrise, and the last hour before sunset. During midday, there is barely any shadow to bring artistic touch to your still images.
Tips when visiting Sossusvlei
You need a permit for entrance. If possible, acquire the permit the day before you visit Sossusvlei, so you don’t have to spend the morning golden hour at the queue. At the very least, bring 2.5 liters of water if you intend to sit around and enjoy the view. In case you want to make a climb on the dunes, you will need double or more that amount. Don’t forget to wear a hat a apply sunscreen all over your face. Your metabolism can survive the harsh hot temperature, but your skin is not well-adapted to desert climate.
Activities / What to Do
You will not get an intense dramatic safari as you would get in Serengeti, but you must understand that Sossusvlei is indeed an entirely different attraction. Despite the lack of migrating herds that consists thousands of animals, you still have the chance to enjoy the views that you cannot get anywhere else on Earth.
Nature Drive: a safari in a 4WD vehicle offers the opportunity to spot unusual animal species unique to this environment for examples caracal, jackal, bat-eared fox, springbok, gemsbok, and aardwolf. Once again, the best time to do this is in the afternoon; the heat is not overwhelmingly punishing, and the sunset always makes the desert more beautiful. You may need to spend few days to enjoy the entire scenic landscape, especially if you already spent an afternoon pressing that shutter button on your bulky camera.
Quad Bike Adventure: climbing the dunes can be too much of an effort, but you can still reach the top on a quad bike. The view of the surrounding area from the top of the dunes is like nothing else. It is important you are doing this with an experienced guide.
Balloon Safari: to get a bird-eye perspective of Sossusvlei, the most satisfying way to do that is getting on a hot-air balloon safari. Early in the morning and late in the afternoon are great times for this activity.
Star Gazing: in case you have not noticed yet, the desert sky is different from your typical skyscrapers’ lights views. Sossusvlei Desert Lodge offers an observatory room to gaze at the bright stars million miles above your head. The good thing is that the lodge hires an astronomer to help you point the scope at the right direction. You can bring a book about constellations, but you probably don’t have times to read especially when you can just ask someone to tell you all the information.
Sossusvlei and the surrounding areas will give you a glimpse of a different world. It is a desert where the climate is so harsh that it is beautiful to the eyes. Animals are unique as they need to adapt to the ecosystem as well. Beneath the sand, you can find spiders, beetles, geckos, and lizards, especially if you look closely; don’t be scared, they are not aliens, they are pretty much terrestrial animals with a bit strange appearance.
Among the desert plants, you will see a couple of Nara plants. These plants have no leaves and bear a round spiky fruit once a year. It serves as a food source for some birds, Oryx, Hyenas, Jackals, Porcupines and also humans.
The magnificient, ancient dunes of the Namib Desert offer the ideal 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 tranquility of the desert have an undeniable taste, making Sossusvlei one of Namibia’s top tourist attractions, and for camping lovers, this would be your chance to camp in the desert, and hear nature's sound from the wilderness all night long