We visited Sossusvlei, located in west-central Namibia, in August 2014. The word Sossusvlei really refers to one specific clay pan in the Namib-Naukluft National Park, but it is used generally to describe the entire scenic desert area surrounding it. We heard it was a must-see destination in Namibia and our visit absolutely lived up to the high expectations. Towering red sand dunes, craggy mountains and a clear blue sky dominated our impressions of Sossusvlei. Even with a number of other visitors congregating at the popular sites, the vastness of the place imprinted itself in our minds. The area is perfect for quiet contemplation, solitude (just hike a short distance from the crowds to claim your own private sand dune) and photography. I wish I had a wide angle lens for this trip as the images below do not do it justice.
Travel to Namibia, and to Sossusvlei in particular, has gotten much more international attention in recent years and while it has long been a popular destination for European travelers, more marketing has been done to get Namibia on the radar of American media outlets such as CNN and the New York Times (Namibia is ranked number six on their list of the top 52 places to visit). The deserts of Namibia also provided some of the filming locations for the new Mad Max movie.
We booked a three day/two night camping option through Wild Dog Safaris. The total cost was about $340 per person and it was definitely worth it as they handled transport, park fees, all meals and the 4am wake up call to catch the sunrise. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and had previously worked on the anti-poaching unit in Etosha National Park and with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.
We departed mid-morning from Windhoek and after a very long but scenic drive, we arrived in the early evening and barely had time to scramble up a dune to catch the sunset. The dune was close to the campground so after the colors on the horizon faded, we returned for a delicious dinner and helped the guides to finish setting up the tents. This was true “glamping” with mattresses and comforters provided.
The next day we got moving very early and climbed the very popular Dune 45 before dawn to catch the sunrise. After our climb, we drove on to another scenic spot and followed our guide on a few kilometer hike to deadvlei, which is one of the most photographed places in Namibia. We ended the day with a hike into Sesriem Canyon and watched the sunset from the top of the safari vehicle.
Another benefit to a tour group is the interesting mix of backgrounds and nationalities of your fellow travelers. Our group included a Scottish man and an Australian woman who live and work in Kenya; a family of three from another country in Europe (we can’t remember exactly where), a German woman living in Durban, South Africa and her friend visiting from Germany; a Frenchman who works in New York City part of the year and travels for the rest; a young man from London; and a young scientist from Denmark.
It is also easy to rent a car in Windhoek and drive to the park. The road is mostly gravel, but it can be done in a 2WD vehicle in about six hours.