Situated in the largest conservation area in Africa (the Namib-Naukluft National Park), Sossusvlei is possibly Namibia’s most spectacular and best-known attraction. Characterised by the large red dunes that surround it, Sossusvlei is a large, white, salt and clay pan and is a great destination all year round. The dunes in this area are some of the highest in the world, reaching almost 400 meters, and provide photographic enthusiasts with wonderful images in the beautiful morning and evening light.
Sossusvlei literally translates to “dead-end marsh”, as it is the place where the dunes come together preventing the Tsauchab River to flow any further, some 60km east of the Atlantic Ocean. However, due to the dry conditions in the Namib Desert the River seldom flows this far and the pan remains bone-dry most years. During an exceptional rainy season the Tsauchab fills the pan, drawing visitors from all over the world to witness this spectacular site. Photographic enthusiasts are spoilt with a glassy “lake” holding reflections of the surrounding dunes. When the pan fills it can hold water for as long as a year
Some of the Highlights in Sossusvlei
There are a number of wonderful attractions to be enjoyed around Sossusvlei in the largest conservation area in Namibia, the Namib-Nakluft National Park, which covers almost 50,000 km2. The top attraction of the park and the second most popular attraction in Namibia, Sossusvlei is renowned for its majestic, warm red, star-shaped dunes contrasting against the stark white floors of the pans.
Other attractions in close proximity to Sossusvlei include Sesriem Canyon, Dune 45, Hiddenvlei, Big Daddy and Deadvlei. All of these attractions can be accessed from the road that takes you to Sossusvlei, and are all well worth a visit. In a number of areas surrounding Sossuvlei look out for the petrified dunes. These are ancient dunes that are approximately 1 billion years old and have solidified into rock.
Dune 45 is named for its proximity to Sesrium Gate. It is situated 45km from the gate, along a paved road and is easily reached using a 2×4 vehicle. Its fascinating shape and accessibility makes it the most photographed dune in the world.
The dunes of the Namib Desert were created by sand carried by the wind from the coast of Namibia. The sand here is 5 million years old and is red in colour due to its iron oxide conten. As the lighting changes with the time of day, so does the appearance of the dunes’ characteristic colour, allowing for interesting photographs at any time. The wind in the Sossusvlei area blows from all directions, which means that the type of the dunes hare are known as “star dunes”. This is because the winds cause the sand to form a star shape with multiple arms.
Visitors are allowed to climb Dune 45, so be sure to visit early in the morning to watch the sunrise over the vlei from the top of the Dune. The Dune is 85 meters high and the climb is well worth the effort as from the top you will be spoilt with the incredible panoramic view of Dune Valley. In the morning and evening light the floor of the pan has been described as a “moonscape” and is truly a sight to behold.
Big Daddy is the tallest dune in the Sossusvlei area. This magnificent dune is situated between Sossusvlei and Deadvlei and at 325 meters it dwarfs the other dunes. Should you want the ultimate bragging rights, take a lot of water and trek to the top of Big Daddy where you can look down onto Deadvlei.
At 325 meters, Big Daddy may be the highest dune in the Sossusvlei area, however it is not the highest in the Namib Desert. This honour is given to Dune 7, which has been measured at 388m. Dune 7 earned its name by being the 7th dune along the Tsauchab River.
Close to Sossusvlei, Deadvlei is a clay pan characterized by dark, dead camel thorn trees contrasted against the white pan floor. The pan was formed when the Tsauchab River flooded and the abundance of water allowed camel thorn trees to grow. However, the climate changed and the sand dunes encroached on the pan, blocking the river from reaching the area. The trees are estimated to be approximately 900 years old, however they have not decomposed due to the dry climate.
Deadvlei is a paradise for photographers as the contrast between the pitch-black trees and bleached-white pans, and the rusty-red dunes and deep blue sky make for incredible images.
Why don't you join me in 2019. I am headed there in March and I only have a few spots left. See all the details here, https://www.kevinpepperphotography.com/2019-namibia-photo-workshop