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Situated in the largest conservation area in Africa (the Namib-Naukluft National Park), Sossusvlei is possibly Namibia’s most spectacular and best-known attraction. Characterised by the large red dunes that surround it, Sossusvlei is a large, white, salt and clay pan and is a great destination all year round.
The dunes in this area are some of the highest in the world, reaching almost 400 meters, and provide photographic enthusiasts with wonderful images in the beautiful morning and evening light. The characteristic red dunes of the Namib Desert have developed over many millions of years. The red sand that forms the dunes was deposited into the Atlantic Ocean from the Orange River. The Benguela current then carried this sand northwards, to be deposited back onto the land by the ocean’s surf. From here the wind carried the red sand inland to form the dunes over time.
Sossusvlei literally translates to “dead-end marsh”, as it is the place where the dunes come together preventing the Tsauchab River from flowing any further, some 60km east of the Atlantic Ocean. However, due to the dry conditions in the Namib Desert the river seldom flows this far and the pan remains bone-dry most years. During an exceptional rainy season the Tsauchab fills the pan, drawing visitors from all over the world to witness this spectacular site. Photographic enthusiasts are spoilt with a glassy “lake” holding reflections of the surrounding dunes. When the pan fills it can hold water for as long as a year.
Despite the harsh desert conditions in the area, one can find a wide variety of plants and animals that have adapted to survive. These include insects, reptiles, birds, mammals and many desert adapted plants, flowers and fruits, like Namibia’s national plant, the welwitschia.
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