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Sossusvlei, located in Naukluft National Park in Namibia, is home to some of the highest sand dunes on the planet.
Sossusvlei, meaning dead-end-marsh, is one of the places on most visitors must-see lists when they visit Namibia. Along with Etosha, and visiting cheetahs it was certainly on mine. Most visitors, myself included try to hit the dunes in time to catch the sunrise. I’m not normally an early riser, but this is totally worth waking up early for. The sand dunes turn a golden yellowish-orange as the first rays of sun catch the dunes. I’ve only ever visited the dunes at sunrise, but I’m told they’re far less spectacular later on when the sun is out. Plus it’s much more crowded later on, not to mention hot. Some dune are even a deep red or light pink caused from the large quantity of iron in the sand. Unlike people who get more wrinkly as they grow older, sand dunes turn a deeper red color. So it’s possible to identify the oldies, just by their color!
The most famous of all the dunes is Big Daddy, measuring in at an incredible 380m – give or take – sand dunes are always a work in process, literally changing form with the wind. Many other dunes measure 200m, which may not seem like much….until you try climbing one to watch the sunrise as I did. With each footstep I sank in mid-calf, even on what appeared to be hard packed sand. It’s a slog as you lift each foot out, covered with the weight of sand, slowly making your way up the dune. It’s much harder than it initially looks! Between the uphill slog and my previous misadventures in sand boarding, I learned very quickly how much I had underestimated dunes and developed a new appreciation for them. My jam-packed schedule didn’t allow time to climb Big Daddy. I felt a mix of relief (it’s hard work) and regret. Despite the slog, I still would have done it if time had permitted.
You’ll also want to watch out for critters. Despite many people believing there nothing lives in the desert, that’s a big fat whopping myth! You can find small reptiles – yep that includes poisonous snakes too, so watch where you step, rodents, jackals, oryxes, springboks and even ostriches. I saw an ostrich just as we were leaving and some type of wild cat footprints, although the cat itself eluded me. Guess he didn’t care that I’m a huge cat lover?
Planning Your Visit to Soussusvlei
- I stayed in the environmentally friendly built Sossus Dunes Lodge, located in Naukluft National Park. I LOVED staying here. It’s incredibly peaceful here and soooo quiet. If you’re lucky you will see oryx or springboks grazing in the distance of your very own hut.
- You will need to visit the dunes via an organized tour, as private vehicles are not allowed in order to minimize the impact on the environment. Sossus Dunes Lodge can arrange a tour on your behalf.
- I highly recommend the sunrise tour.
- What else can you do in the area? I recommend a visit to the nearby Sesriem Canyon, stargazing, or one of the guided nature drives.
Note: Many thanks to the Namibian Tourism Board for making my visit possible. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.