The dunes at Sossusvlei is the first thing that many people think of when they think Namibia. And rightly so. It is an enchanting place, where the sun paints the sand in a mesmerising array of colours and the wind forever changes the shape of the giant and ancient sand dunes. At the first morning light, the dunes reflect the gentle mauve of the sky and then, as the sun climbs its way upwards and the heat intensifies, their colour changes from warm yellow to a searing almost white that burns your eyes as much as the hot, dry desert air. Then, as the afternoon changes from hot to warm, so does too does the colour of the sand and tones of orange and ochre saturates the air in the same way as the warm air caresses your sunburnt skin like soft velvet.
The dunes at Sossusvlei form part of the Namib desert, the world’s oldest desert at a mindblowing 80 million years old which covers an area of over 80,000km2. When you stand in this awe-inspiring, primal landscape that drowns you to a mere speck, it feels entirely possible that dinosaurs would have roamed these lands.
Further along you will encounter Dead Vlei, a dried out salt pan where the desert winds have mummified the trees that once grew here. Like giant ghosts, these 700 year old trees stand tall and proud against the white ground and the giant sand dunes that surround the vlei.
To protect these natural wonders, only some of the dunes can be climbed. Dune 45 is probably the most photographed of these, and it is a relatively easy climb to the top. For the fit and adventurous, I recommend taking on Big Daddy which lies like a giant half moon around Dead Vlei and reaches a height of 325 meters.
The last stretch to Dead Vlei is a sand road, and there is a shuttle operating here. If you have a 4×4, you can drive all the way to the end but I strongly recommend that you take the shuttle unless you have some serious 4×4 skills. I cannot count how many stranded vehicles I’ve seen along the way…
To get the most out of your visit, I’d recommend staying inside the park as this will allow you to arrive at the dunes for sunrise and also remain to watch the sunset. If you stay outside, the gates only open at sunrise (and the drive to the dunes is at least 20-30 minutes) and you have to be back out before sunset. Sossus Dune Lodge is the only lodge situated inside the Namib-Naukluft National Park, and although it’s not cheap I’d totally recommend this option for the ultimate Sossulsvlei experience. The second best option is to camp at Sesriem Campsite, from where you will be able to enter the park one hour before sunrise. Another one of my dreams is to fly in a hot air balloon over the dunes at sunrise with Namib Sky Balloon Safaris.