Burnt orange sand dunes reach up high to touch a bright blue cloudless sky. Dead trees slice through the landscape, casting shadows that deceive the eye. And when sunset comes, the landscape inverts, the sky becomes burnt orange, and the land becomes silhouettes of black ink. This is Sossusvlei.
As the largest conservation area in Namibia, the Namib-Nakluft National Park covers nearly 50 000 km2. Sossusvlei means “dead-end marsh” and though the climate ranges from hot and harsh during the day to unexpectedly freezing at night, it is home for a variety of tough animals and plants that have adapted to survive. Antelope like Springbok and Gemsbok have found a way to eek out an existence in this desert, as have the Spotted and Brown hyena. Bat-eared Fox, Cape Fox, Black-backed jackal, Aardwolf and the prehistoric looking porcupine prefer to venture out at night, their calls the only sounds to break the silence of the desert.
The magic of the Namib Desert also lies in its flora and microorganisms. Camelthorn trees are well suited to this environment – their tap root system allowing them to keep hydrated, their external structure resilient against both extreme heat and frost. The Namib Desert is the only place on earth you’ll find Nara melon and Welwitschia plants. Nara melons are a delicious feast for animals who find them. They return the favour by spreading the Nara melon seeds in their droppings. The Welwitschia is a “living fossil” – thousands of years old, they are able to thrive by extracting moisture from the environment. They are the original air-to-water device!
There are various must-see attractions of the Namib Desert. Getting lost – and then found again – in Sesriem Canyon is an exciting way to explore the rock formations of the canyon. Shady and cool, it miraculously holds water all year round.
Dune 45. Five. Million. Years. Old. That’s how old the red sand of Dune 45 is.Framed by blue sky and the white of the pan, it is easy to see why this is the most photographed sand dune in the world. As the light shifts throughout the day, shadows fall this way and then that, changing the mood of this 85 metre star dune.
Silent and spectacular, Hiddenvlei is ideal for following animal tracks. From antelope spoor to the slither-stripes of the Sidewinder Snake, tracks big and small will remind you of the natural wonders that lie hidden in this desert wilderness.
Poster child for Namibia, Deadvlei is a much-loved landscape for photographers. Stark and dramatic, this pan was once the site of abundant water. As sand encroached, this once-lush landscape transformed into a desert, and changed the lie of the land forever.
Standing proudly between Sossuvslei and Deadvlei, Big Daddy is the tallest dune in the region. At 325 metres high, it is somewhat an optical illusion. While one side is burnt orange, the other is black. As the sun moves, one side of the dune becomes steeped in the darkness of shadow, making it impossible to discern the contours of the land.
Accommodation in the Sossusvlei area ranges between camps, laid-back lodges and luxury lodges. While luxury accommodation offers all the creature comforts you might need, they are designed to bring the outside in –keeping your wining, dining and sundowning experiences connected to the surrounding landscape.