Towering dunes, shimmering pans and an endless sea of sand, this is Sossusvlei. Sossusvlei means ‘the gathering place of water” though seldom will you find water here. Instead you’ll find the highest sand dunes in the world and perhaps Namibia’s most outstanding scenic attraction. These dunes, part of the Namib Desert, have developed over a period of many millions of years. The result of material flowing from the Orange River dumped into the Atlantic Ocean, carried northward and then returned again to land by the surf.
Here the wind continuously shifts the sand further and further inland, reshaping patters in warm tints that contrast vividly with the dazzling white surface of the large deflationary clay pans at their bases. Climbing up one of these dunes provides breathtaking views of the whole area, including Deadvlei, a large ghostly expanse of dried white clay punctuated by skeletons of ancient camelthorn trees, carbon dated between 500-600 years old.
The best time to view Sossusvlei is close to sunrise and sunset when the dunes refract spectacular colors, ranging from burnt orange, red and deep mauve. These gigantic star-shaped mountains of sand are a prized destination for artists and photographers. The warm tints of the sand contrast vividly with the dazzling white surfaces of the large deflationary clay pans at their bases.
Visitors are allowed access to Sossusvlei only between sunrise and sunset. The first 37 miles of the road from Sesriem to Sossusvlei has a permanent surface and is suitable for sedan cars, whereas the last 3-mile stretch of sandy track is negotiable by 4×4 vehicles only. A shuttle service is available for people who do not want to hike the last 3 miles.