Located in the southern region of the country in Sesriem, Sossusvlei is set within the heart of the park. Sossusvlei itself refers to the clay pan or 'vlei' (an Afrikaans word meaning ‘valley’ or ‘pan’) that is created by a river that flows through the Namib Desert every 5 to 10 years. Mostly dry, the pan rarely fills with water, but it is surrounded by towering dunes of up to 300 metres from the desert floor, and it is this stunning combination of scenery that makes it so enchanting. Interestingly, the word ‘sossus’ also means ‘place of no return’ which you can understand when you are there amidst the isolation of the place; there are no towns nearby, which does however mean that the night’s sky offers you the some of the most incredible star gazing in the world.
One of the most captivating characteristics of the dunes is the vibrant palette of colours you will see at various points throughout the day and at different dunes. Never before has colour seemed so striking, with the range of red-hued shades you see depending on the age of the dunes (the older the dune the brighter the colour) and the time of day. Ascending Dune 45 (or another nearby dune) in the dark and watching the sun appear on the horizon of the world’s oldest desert is breathtaking.
Access to Sossusvlei is from the nearby town of Sesriem, which is also the name of a nearby canyon located just south of the petrol station, which can be a good spot to watch the setting sun and you can also climb inside the canyon and walk on the dry riverbed. The canyon has also been used for years as a watering hole for thirsty travellers, their horses and oxen and a walk through the canyon reveals some strange rock formations.
South of Sesriem within the park you’ll also find Namibrand Nature Reserve, a private reserve that contains a variety of landscapes within the desert, including inter-dune valleys filled with vegetation, plains, dramatic mountains and soaring dunes. It also offers some quality lodges such as Wolwedans Dune Camp, whose spectacular setting and refined simplicity makes it a perfect base for exploration.
From Sesriem the road that leads to Sossusvlei is comfortable and well maintained, and the last 5 kilometres the road morphs into a sandy track which heightens the sense of adventure.