One of Namibia’s most spectacular landmarks with its rusty red dunes and bleached salt pans, Sossusvlei is a perfect example of Namibia’s unspoilt desert beauty.
Situated in the largest conservation area in Africa, the Namib-Naukluft National Park, this photogenic area lays claim to some of the tallest sand dunes in the world. The word Sossusvlei translates from Nama and Afrikaans to ‘dead-end’ and references how the dunes meet the Tsauchab River, preventing it from flowing any further. Plants and animals here rely on the coastal fog that rolls in from the Atlantic Ocean just 55km to the west, for water.
Dynamic and ever influenced by the winds, the dunes around the Sossusvlei are known as star dunes due to the wind shaping them from all directions. The vivid colour indicates a high concentration of iron in the sand, meaning the older the dune, the more intense its reddish colour. Most are taller than 200 metres with the highest, nicknamed Big Daddy, at about 380 metres high.
Sossusvlei includes Dune 45, Deadvlei and Hiddenvlei. Dune 45 is an easy climb and sitting on its summit with toes dug deep into the sand and a 360-degree view towards the endless layers of red ridges, reminds of how tiny we truly are in this world. Just a grain of sand ourselves, among these millions.
Best Way To See the Dunes
The best perspective of Sossusvlei is gained from a hot air balloon as you are carried on the wind over a sea of sand, dawn making way for the rising sun, catching sight of the occasional Gemsbok and being captivated by the contrasting colours and shapes of the towering dunes, surrounding mountain ranges and mysterious fairy circles below.
Afrikaans for ‘dead marsh’ – Deadvlei is characterized by the dead camel thorn trees that stand stark against the bleached white floor of the pan and surrounded by rusty red dunes. The trees are preserved by this harsh, dry climate and are estimated to be about 900 years old.
* This post forms part of my 100x Magical Places series which offers an introduction to my favourite destinations.