Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last twenty years, we’re quite sure you have seen at least one image of the enormous and iconic orange dunes of Sossusvlei.
And if you haven’t seen images, we’re quite sure you’ve seen it in movies. Terrifying, beautiful, desolate, and romantic all at once, the sprawling Namibian desert with its almighty saffron-hued dunes and sweltering skies has provided the magnificent backdrop for a diverse range of films; The Cell (remember Jennifer Lopez in her white dress, among the dead traas of Dead Vlei?), 2001: A Space Odyssey, Mad max, etc.
But the region has more to offer than its iconic red dunes. In fact, Sossusvlei itself is part of the much bigger Namib Naukluft National Park, a park 50000 square kilometers in size, one of the largest conservation areas in the world, stretching all the way from Swakopmund to Luderitz coastal towns. And Sussusvlei is an ideal base from which to discover all that the park has to offer.
Sossusvlei is the location where the course of an ephemeral river has made a wedge in the enormous dunes close to the ocean. Near the town of Sesriem visitors can actually get down to the bottom of the crevasse that the river has cut out of the bedrock.
Further on towards the ocean, the river’s presence can only be derived by a corridor that runs through the dunes. Vehicles entering the corridor are dwarfed on either side by enormous red dunes, whose color is and casted shadows are most intense early morning just after sunrise.
A typical Sossusvlei tour therefor starts very early, before sunrise. Everyone tries to be amidst the red dunes before the sun rises above the horizon. Most tours also allow you to climb one or more of the dunes. You need a good physique to get to the top (and make sure you drink plenty of fluids), but when you get to the top you ar rewarded with simply stunning views.
At the end of the corridor lies the remarkable and haunted Deadvlei, with its fossilised tree skeletons. After Deadvlei the only way is to back. A visit to the crevasse near Sesriem is typically kept for the afternoon, as it is the perfect hiding place from the sun’s fierce glares.
Most visitors only stay in the area for two nights / one day, as one full day is enough to explore Sossusvlei itself. But the area merits a longer stay, as it offers a good range of activities, as well as quite different landscapes.
Hot air ballooning, quad biking, horse riding, and epic scenic flights are the most common activities in and around Sesriem. But perhaps less known is that the area offers some amazing hikes.
The Waterkloof Trail, in particular, is highly recommendable. It’s a 17 kilometer long trail that winds along small creeks of the Naukluft Mountains in the Namib Naukluft Park and leads through beautiful, varying landscapes. The trail also offers various swimming possibilities in crystal-clear pools with -for Namibian standards- ice-cold, refreshing water. These pools are the perfect spots to take a refreshing plunge!
It takes about 6-8 hours to complete the trail. The difficulty is medium to hard. The trail is very well marked and well manageable without a guide. However, hikers should always be sure to follow the yellow footsteps. The trail does not attract many visitors, so you may find yourself all alone, during most of the day. A true Garden of Eden.
On the hike, you are not only bound to enjoy the wonderful landscapes of Namibia, but with a bit of luck - especially if you walk quietly - you might also observe various wild animals. The Naukluft Mountains are home to the Hartman Zebra, oryx Klipspringer, Kudu, Baboon and Dassie (Rock Hyrax). Furthermore, numerous species of birds, including birds of prey such as black eagle and owls can be seen.
Our favourite lodges
Accommodation; 10 wood & thatch chalets (for 2 people), one family unit (for 4 people).
Location; Ideally located in the valley that leads straight to Sussusvlei. The lodge is closer to Sussusvlei than Sesriem village.
Meals; Buffet style breakfast, plated dinners.
Lodge facilities; Restaurant, pool, bar, library.
Activities; game drives, quad biking, sleep outs, guided bush walks.
Price Range; 550-950$ pppn.
&Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge
Accommodation; ten stone and glass desert villas with endless vistas, framed in the background by the ever-changing colours of the Namib dunes.
Room type; Twin or double bed setup. Aircon. Wifi. Private plunge pool. Bedroom with retractable skylights for in-bed star-gazing. Fireplace. Two rooms can be linked for a family or friends traveling together.