Soussusvlei, Namibia: Photojourney to the Highest Sand Dunes on Earth

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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?

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The view of Sossusvlei from the top of a dune.
Sunrise from the top of a dune overlooking Naukluft National Park

Petrified trees contast against sand dunes
Petrified trees contrast against sand dunes
Wild cat tracks across the sand in Naukluft National Park
Wild cat tracks across the sand
Sossus Dune Lodge, a great environmentally friendly place to stay in Naukluft National Park
Sossus Dune Lodge, a great environmentally friendly place to stay in Naukluft National Park

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.


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About Author

Laurel Robbins is the founder of Monkeys and Mountains Adventure Travel. She's passionate about getting outdoors as often as possible and helping travellers do the same on their vacation in a sustainable way. She's Canadian and grew up in the Canadian Rockies but now lives in Munich, Germany. You can find her skiing or hiking in the mountains most weekends, hanging out with her cat or with her nose in a good book.


March 18, 2014
Sounds like it's a real work-out to climb a sand dune! The stark desert landscapes are striking...
March 18, 2014
So many nuances of gold - beautiful!
March 23, 2014
Incredible photos, Laurel - what an amazing experience!! I love the contrast between the sand dunes and the bright blue sky!!
March 29, 2014
Thanks so much @Lisa. Our timing was perfect when we visited the dunes!
March 24, 2014
Those long footstep trails make for some great photos.
March 29, 2014
Thanks @Stephanie!
Sally @ thewinetraveller
March 24, 2014
So nice photographs and so nice place. what an amazing experience!! really ideal place for travelling. Really like these images. Great publish.
March 30, 2014
These photos are amazing. I'm sure this was a great experience. I'm also sure it wasn't easy either. Thanks for sharing this with us! :-)
April 7, 2014
Stunning shots. Did you find scorpions there?
April 18, 2014
Oh, wow! Now a very big reason to visit Namibia - a place that I always thought was just a deserted land. It has become an even more beautiful place now.
May 9, 2014
Oh, this is super high on our list.....Such beautiful photos!!
November 4, 2014
I've never thought of sand dunes being permanent (or at least semi-permanent) structures that anyone would name. I wander how old Big Daddy is? Lovely photos by the way.
November 26, 2014
Great shots.. especially the photo of wildcat tracks attracted me more....

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