Sossusvlei is a clay pan in the central Namib Desert, lying within the Namib-Naukluft National Park, in Namibia. The National Park stretches 400km south of Walvis Bay and is sandwiched between the west coast and the escarpment that runs parallel more than 100km inland. Its huge red dunes and flat valley floors make up the archetypical view of the Namib that is world famous.
Desert-adapted wildlife such as ostrich, springbok and gemsbok eke out an existence and are sparsely distributed here. Larger predators include spotted hyena and occasionally brown hyena, an almost mystical shaggy-coated scavenger. Smaller creatures such as bat-eared fox, black-backed jackal, porcupine, Cape fox and aardwolf can be seen at night in the cool desert air, and one bird, the aptly named Dune Lark, has its entire global distribution limited to the area, so dependent is it on the area's characteristic sands.
It is fed by the Tsauchab River which is known for the high red sand dunes which surround it forming a major sand sea. Vegetation, such as the camel thorn tree, is watered by infrequent floods of the Tsauchab River, which slowly soak into the underlying clay. Sossusvlei Wilderness Camp is situated 34 kilometres from Sesriem, the entrance to Sossusvlei within the heart of Namibia's Namib Desert.
This is one of the most remarkable sites in the Namib-Naukluft National Park and the Namib Desert. Huge towering dunes, the highest in the world, rise dramatically over 1000 feet above the surrounding plains at Sossusvlei itself. The spectacle of changing colours and the lonely Oryx silhouetted against red dunes is one which visitors and photographers from around the world come to savor and capture on film.
Sossusvlei itself means 'the gathering place of water' in the local Nama language, and, odd as it may seem, in good years seasonal rains in the foothills of the Naukluft and Tsaris Mountains succeed in reaching the Vleis, creating temporary lakes that mirror the sand dunes surrounding them. The Vleis have evocative names such as Hidden Vlei and Dead Vlei, while the dunes rise up to 300 metres above the valley floor with razor-sharp edges that stand out against the blue sky.
Despite the lack of vegetation and low rainfall, a surprisingly diverse array of insects, reptiles and rodents make their home here, surviving thanks in part to the coastal fog that creeps up off the sea each dawn and penetrates up to 50km inland. Shovel-snouted lizards with their peculiar thermo regulatory dance and tenebrionid beetles have all adapted to life here. Nocturnal explorations can reveal dancing white lady spiders and perhaps Grant's golden mole, a Namib Desert endemic.
How to get there
The wilderness camp lies 350km South of Windhoek by car and 380km from Swakopmund. Scheduled charter flights operate to the Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge airstrip, where guests are greeted and transferred to their accommodation, a mere six minutes drive away.
Hiking in the red sand dunes and among the dead Camel thorns in Dead Vlei provides unbelievable photographic opportunities. guests who are fit can attempt to climb "Big Daddy", one of the tallest dunes in the world, the views from the peak are amazing.
Full day excursions to Sossusvlei
A 1hr 30 minutes to 2 hour drive to the end of Sossusvlei. It centers on early morning excursions in 4x4 vehicles to the magnificent Sossusvlei dunes and the "vlei" itself at the end of the Tsauchab River, a dry river bed that flows only in years of exceptional rainfall.
Hot Air balloon excursions
Wonderful early morning ballooning safaris are offered. Enjoy the scenery of the Sossusvlei from above taking in the desert scenery and its unique fauna and flora. This is an amazing experience though quite expensive.
Nature drives and walks
Experienced guides bring the desert to life during nature drives and walks, with night drives producing sightings of nocturnal species like Bat-eared Foxes and Aardwolf. Afternoon and evening activities take place on the private reserve - taking in the desert scenery and its unique fauna and flora.
Wildlife and Environment
The dunes - the most well-known being Big Daddy or Dune 45 - have developed over millions of years, the wind continuously remodelling the contours of this red sand sea. The 'vlei' itself fills only after rare heavy rainfall when, in a complete turn-around, it becomes a spectacular turquoise lake.
Where to stay
Kulala Desert Lodge: is situated in the heart of the Namib Desert, surrounded by red dunes and open plains.
Le Mirage Lodge & Spa: Luxury desert lodge and spa located near Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert, Namibia.
Little Kulala: Luxurious desert safari lodge with direct access to Namibia's Sossusvlei area.
Moon Mountain Lodge: Luxurious desert lodge, situated in the Namib Naukluft Reserve in Namibia.
Sossusvlei Desert Lodge: Luxury lodge situated near Sossusvlei and Sesriem Canyon, Namibia.
Sossusvlei Lodge: A comfortable lodge located directly adjacent to the entrance gate to the Namib-Naukluft Park.
Sossusvlei Wilderness Camp: Wilderness Camp near the famous Sossusvlei red dunes, in the Namib desert.
Wolwedans Dune Camp: Tented camp in the remote Namib Rand Nature Reserve south of the Sossusvlei Desert Dunes in Namibia.
Wolwedans Dunes Lodge: Superior desert lodge situated in the NamibRand Nature Reserve, in Namibia.
Wolwedans Private Camp: Superior desert suite, accommodating a max of 4 people, situated in the NamibRand Nature Reserve.
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