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A popular tourist destination, Sossusvlei is a salt and clay pan encircled by looming scarlet dunes that lies in the southern portion of the Namib Desert, in the Namib-Naukluft National Park of Namibia. Sossusvlei is frequently used to define the pan as well as its surrounding regions, including adjacent dunes that are one of the primary tourist attractions of the country. The name ‘Sossusvlei’ itself is derived from various origins and basically means ‘dead-end marsh’. This is due to the fact that the pan is in fact a basin with no outlets for the ephemeral Tsauchab River.

Sossuslvei’s sand dunes that are peppered across the Namib Desert are regularly referred to as the tallest dunes in the world. Dune 45 is known as the ‘most photographed dune on earth’ due to its strangely basic, yet captivating form, as well as its close proximity to the road which makes it easy for visitors to make photographic stops. The dune lies 45 kilometres past Sesriem, en-route to Sossusvlei. It is 80 metres in length and is not too steep, making it relatively simple to scale.

‘Big Daddy’ is the tallest dune in the Sossusvlei region, at approximately 380 metres in height. This dune lies just past Sossusvlei, close by to Deadvlei. Big Daddy is in competition with ‘Big Mama’ which is another enormous dune in the area. From the summit of Big Mama, you will be able to see Naravlei, where hundreds of cucumber-like melons flourish. Deadvlei, another clay pan situated approximately 2 kilometres from Sossusvlei, is located at the foot of Big Mama, and is populated with dead camelthorn trees that date back to 800 years. These trees lie in harsh contrast to the gleaming white salty pan floor and the vivid orange hues of the dunes, making for spectacular, surreal photographic opportunities.

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The finest time to view Sossusvlei is when the day nears sunrise or sunset. This is when the colours are at their strongest, and constantly transform, providing beautiful photographs. The afternoon heat is rather harsh, prompting most visitors to spend that portion of the day relaxing in the shade. Temperatures during the day can sometimes reach over 40 degrees and then drop to below freezing in the evenings. Water is rare, but somehow still exists beneath the sand.

Animals to spot in this area include black-backed jackal, springbok, ostrich and gemsbok, which can last for weeks without any water. During the rainy/flooding season, various migrant bird species begin to appear along the marshes and rivers. Most of the Sossusvlei and Namib wildlife is endemic and extremely well-adapted to the harsh conditions of the region.

Sossusvlei is not without things to do. Because it is perhaps the biggest attraction in Namibia, plenty has been done by Namibian authorities to promote tourism in the area. Recently, various accommodations dot the border of the National Park. Scenic flights and hot air balloons over the dunes are an incredible way to spend your time here, providing you with an exquisite scenic experience. With intriguing fauna and flora, hiking through the Namib is also highly recommended.

When visiting the area, be sure to pay a visit to Sesriem Canyon, which is a fantastic place from which to watch the gorgeous sunsets anof the area.


About Bronwyn Paxton

Article by: Bronwyn Paxton
on August 7, 2013
Filed under  Africa Blog • Destinations • Namibia 
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