Welcome to a guide for Sesriem, Sossusvlei the Namib Desert.
The Namib Desert in Namibia forms part of the Namib-Naukluft National
Park. The Namib Desert - Sesriem and Sossusvlei The Namib Desert - one
of Namibia's amazing highlights, a beautiful, vast, symmetry of natural
beauty like no other place on earth. Covering an area of 80 900 km²
(31 200 square miles), stretching about 1000 miles (1,600 km) along the
Atlantic Ocean coast of Namibia but how do you experience this vast wild
beauty? See below for more information
More information about the Namib Desert
It is considered to be the oldest desert in the world after the Atacama
Desert in Chile. The Namib's aridity is caused by the descent of dry air
cooled by the cold Benguela current along the coast. It has less than
10 mm (0.4 inches) of rain annually and is almost completely barren.
The Namib Naukluft Park is Namibia's largest nature reserve, about 50,000
sqkms in size. Most parts of this enormous area are not accessible to
man. You can only visit a small stretch north of the Kuiseb river: the
Naukluft Mountains and the Sossusvlei in the central dune fields.
The northern part between Swakop and Kuiseb is called the Namib Section.
The highlight of a visit to the Namib Naukluft Park is a trip to the
Sossusvlei. It lies within an area of about 32 000 sqkms, the largest
part of the park. Sossusvlei is the one attraction that should not be
missed while you are in Namibia, the dunes are amazing and even though
this is a popular tourist destination it is still easy to gain a sense
of solitude while climbing one of the dunes or walking to dead or hidden
The sand-dunes at Sossusvlei are some 60km from the Sesriem gate (the
entrance to the park) and the drive takes about an hour. The gate into
Sesriem only opens at sunrise, so those staying outside of the park (which
includes all the lodges in the area with the exception of Sossus Dune
Lodge) will have to wait until sunrise to begin their journey to the dunes.
Many of the lodges outside the Sesreim gate however have access to private
areas of spectacular desert where they will take you for the Namib Sunrise
Although the road into Sossusvlei is renowned for its rough condition
it is traversable with a normal sedan vehicle (two wheel drive). The road
from Sesriem to the 2x4 car park (4 kilometres from the vlei) is tarred
but is in poor condition and is pot-holed. Because the dunes close in
and the road becomes a sandy track near the vlei itself, if you do not
have your own 4x4 you will have to walk the final stretch from the 2X4
parking area to the vlei - many people do - or use the 4x4 transfer service.
The best time to view Sossusvlei is close to sunrise and sunset; the
colours are strong and constantly changing, allowing for wonderful photographic
opportunities. The midday heat is intense and best spent in the shade
while sunset also offers excellent photo opportunities at Sossusvlei.
'Vlei' is the Afrikaans word for a shallow depression filled with water
(well, a depression that might sometimes be filled with water!), and the
name 'Sossusvlei' should strictly only be applied to the pan that lies
at the place where the dunes close in, preventing the waters of the Tsauchab
River from flowing any further - that is, on the rare occasions that the
river does flow as far as this.
During exceptional rainy seasons, Sossusvlei may fill with water, causing
Namibians to flock there to witness the grand sight, but normally it is
bone dry. This particular 'vlei' is actually a more-or-less circular,
hard-surfaced depression that is almost entirely surrounded by sharp-edged
dunes, beyond which lies a formidable sea of rolling sand, stretching
in unbroken immensity all the way to the coast.
However, the name 'Sossusvlei' nowdays applies to the whole area - an
area that encompasses the great plain of the Tsauchab River together with
the red dunes that march along like giant sentinels to south and north
of the plain.
The second attraction of the area is Sesriem Canyon, which is only a few
kilometres from the campsite, the entrance gate, and main Nature Conservation
The canyon derives its name from the fact that early Afrikaner trekkers
had to use six ('ses') leather thongs (a thong is a 'riem') so that their
buckets could reach the water far below. The canyon begins as an almost
imperceptible but nevertheless deep cleft in level, stony ground, and
then widens until it finally flattens out onto the plain. Because it is
so deep and sheltered, it often holds water well into the dry season -
an invigorating sight in such a barren and stark environment.