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... is located in the Southwest Namibia.

Upsides ...

This area is home to the enormous red sand-dunes for which Namibia is so renowned. The 100km between here and the coast is occupied by the enormous orange dunefield of the Namib Desert and contains the largest sand ridges in the world.

The Tsauchab River, which flows out towards the coast, once held back these massive dunes, its ephemeral flow being sufficient to wash the advancing sands out into the Atlantic. But at some time over the last thousand years the river failed to flow for too many years and the sand manage to advance to permanently block its path. These days the river valley only penetrates about half way to the coast, cutting a swathe through massive truncated dunes and terminating in a flood pan known as Sossusvlei. This pan still floods every few years to create a remarkable tree-lined oasis the middle of the sands.

A little further into the desert, over the next dune ridge, lies the even more remarkable Deadvlei, a circular pan of cracked white earth inhabited by the ghostly remains of long dead camelthorn trees. The intermittent flow to this pan was cut off decades or even centuries ago, leaving behind this remarkable scene.

This incredible landscape can easily be visited by vehicle, there is a sealed road leading into the valley from the park entrance at Sesriem and only the last few kilometres is on sand. The priority, especially for photographers, is usually to get into these dunes for first or last light, when the sand really comes to life.

Further inland, the rocky desert in which most of the lodges are located, is also extremely scenic, with a good deal of resident wildlife.

Activities include some excellent opportunities for ballooning, quad-biking and horse-riding.

Read more about the upsides for this area ...

Downsides ...

The overwhelming downside here at Sossusvlei is traffic. Naturally just about everyone who visits the country wants to include this place in their trip and almost everyone wants to see the dunes at sunrise.

Read this section for some tips on how to avoid traffic for this area ...

When to visit ...

May/Nov ... is the dry season in this area, so there is extremely little chance of encountering any substantial rainfall or even much in the way of cloud and the landscapes should be at their best. Night time temperatures can drop very low May/Sep, so be sure to pack some warm layers and a decent jacket.

Dec/Apr ... is the green season, although in this particular area the chances of any really significant rainfall is pretty low. Having said that, the odd shower can really transform the landscape. Whilst this can create some lovely scenes, with lots of baby animals around, the landscape itself can become a good deal less photogenic as the grasses cover the rocky terrain and even part of the dunes. Another potential issue for travellers is the chance of encountering rivers which have been swollen by rainfall further inland, making fording difficult, although these floods tend to subside after just a few hours.

Read more about when to visit this area ...

How we like to include this area in trips ...

Virtually all first time visitors to Namibia come to see the remarkable sand dunes of Sossusvlei. It can therefore become quite a busy place, with perhaps a hundred or more vehicles heading down the valley each morning during the main seasons, but we feel it is still well worth the effort.

The majority of guests stay 3 nights here, which provides a full day for the dunes and an extra day for all the other interesting activities in the area.

One significant exception is for high-end guests who are also staying in the nearby Namibrand area, who may well only stay the one night here.

Little Kulala Lodge ... is the most upmarket lodge in the area, situated on an excellent private reserve with private access into the park and is the one most commonly used in flying safaris around the country.

Kulala Desert Lodge ... is also situated on the same excellent private reserve with private access into the park, but mid-priced.

Sossus Dune Lodge ... is a parks authority facility offering similar levels of build and price and priority access into the dunes, but with unreliable service.

Hoodia Desert Lodge ... is another mid-priced option, much less well positioned for the dunes themselves, but offering elevated levels of service and reliability.

Desert Homestead ... is the best of the lower cost options and offers excellent horse-riding activities.

This Sossusvlei area is most commonly combined in trips with other popular locations around the country such as Fish River Canyon, Luderitz,, Swakopmund, Twyfelfontein and Etosha.

When visited as part of a top-end flying safari, the area is most commonly combined with a lodge in Namibrand, plus two or three of the top camps in the remote Namibia Northwest, as well as the prime safari camps of Okavango Delta in Botswana.

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Jay Hanson
Jay Hanson, Senior Safari Consultant
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