Sossusvlei is usually taken to mean the red dune area of the Namib-Naukluft National Park which lies in the southern part of the Namib Desert, Namibia. Although there is an actual salt and clay pan called “Sossusvlei”. If you do a search in Google Images on “Namibia”, a lot of the images that are displayed come from three locations in Namibia – Etosha, the Fish River Canyon and Sossusvlei. It is that amazing a place.

I’ve always wanted to go there – and it seems that I lot of other people do too. We had been told that it was advisable to be at the Sesriem gate to  Namib-Naukluft National Park when the gate opened in the early morning. First to beat the heat – you don’t want to be walking around on the dunes at midday; and also to beat the crowds. From the Sesriem Gate it is still a 66 kms road until you reach Sossusvlei proper. 60 kms of that is tarmac . The last 6 kms is deep sand and can only be travelled in a 4×4 vehicle.

The name “Sossusvlei” is of mixed origin and roughly means “dead-end marsh”. Vlei is the Afrikaans word for “marsh”, while “sossus” is Nama for “no return” or “dead end”. Sossusvlei owes this name to the fact that it is an endorheic drainage basin (i.e. a drainage basin without outflows) for the ephemeral Tsauchab River. [Wikipedia]



It’s 6:30 a.m. – waiting for the gates to open. There’s already a long line of vehicles in the queue. ©LB/

Early morning hot balloon ride in the desert. ©LB/

As we were driving down to Sossusvlei, these people were going for an early morning hot air  balloon ride in the desert. ©LB/

One of the huge red dunes at Sossousvlei - you can see the size next to the tree at the base as well as the tiny people climbing the dune. ©LB/

One of the huge red dunes at Sossousvlei – you can see the size next to the tree at the base as well as the tiny people climbing the dune. ©LB/


Rippled sand dunes. ©WMB/


People climbing one of the huge dunes ©WMB/


You can see by the number of footprints in the sand that there have been a lot of people walking up this dune recently. ©WMB/

We were particularly keen to see Deadvlei. From the carpark it took about 30 minutes to walk at a leisurely pace through the dunes to Deadvlei.

Deadvlei is another clay pan, about 2 km from Sossusvlei. A notable feature of Deadvlei is that it used to be an oasis with several acacia trees; afterwards, the river that watered the oasis changed its course. The pan is thus punctuated by blackened, dead acacia trees, in vivid contrast to the shiny white of the salty floor of the pan and the intense orange of the dunes. This creates a particularly fascinating and surrealistic landscape, that appears in innumerable pictures and has been used as a setting for films and videos. [Wikipedia]


Starting the walk in to Deadvlei at about 08:00 a.m. It was already very hot there.  ©WMB/


Hard, crusty surface over some of the red soil. ©LB/


Deadvlei from a distance. It does not look very big from this distance as the dunes tower over it. ©WMB/


Dead trees in Deadvlei ©WMB/


A group of still living trees and grasses. ©LB/


You can see Willie walking around and taking photographs at the bottom of Deadvlei. ©LB/








Looking at the dunes further south from Deadvlei. ©LB/


As we were walking back out of the dunes, I turned around and saw there were still plenty of people streaming into the dunes. ©LB/





There is life on the red dunes when one looks up close. ©WMB/



This is the last post for the October Dash – my daily blog post challenge for October 2016.  Thank you to everyone who has been reading and supporting me!

This post is part of a series I will be publishing about our travels through Namibia.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Lifestyle/Travel, Nature/Environment, Photography


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at and (my photoblog)


Subscribe to the Notes from Africa RSS and Twitter feeds to receive updates.

25 Comments on “Sossusvlei”

  1. October 31, 2016 at 1:01 pm #


  2. October 31, 2016 at 3:41 pm #

    Almost otherworldly…what an experience!

    • November 1, 2016 at 6:03 am #

      I think that’s why it is such a popular place – even within Namibia it’s such a unique area.

  3. October 31, 2016 at 3:53 pm #

    Wow! The first image (your featured image) and the third last ones are my favourites – though all of them are impressive! I also like the close-ups of the grasses… and the texture of the baked ground… and and and…. 🙂

    I had no idea there would be so many people around, though! It must have been very challenging to find a dune without footprints on it and a composition without people somewhere, hey?

    07h30 seems quite late in the day already… how come the gate doesn’t open before sunrise? What if you want to be in the dunes at sunrise?? 🙂

    • November 1, 2016 at 5:56 am #

      It’s always interesting to see which photos people like – everyone seems to have different favourites. There were a lot of people, but there is really a lot of sand to go around! 😉 The biggest dunes are the ones that people walk up the most – it’s like conquering a mountain I suppose. I would have like to see the view, but even at 8 or 9 in the morning, it was already very hot there.

      You have pointed out something I missed. I was also wondering about why it seemed so late in the morning as I’d remembered it to be earlier. After you commented I suddenly realised that I was using the camera time as a reference – which was set to South African time, an hour ahead! Thanks! 🙂

    • November 1, 2016 at 5:57 am #

      Also, there is accommodation inside the Park, so if you wanted to be there for the sunrise you would have to be staying there.

      • November 1, 2016 at 8:12 am #

        Interesting about the time…. I’ve made the same ‘glipsie’ whenever we travel to Namibia – forgetting to change the time zone in the camera. Nowadays, we also have to remember to change the time on the cellphone and laptop etc… 🙂

        Apart from that, Namibia has daylight saving time, so from the start of April to the start of September, there is an hour’s difference between SA and Namibia (they change from GMT +2 to GMT +1, while we remain GMT +2 throughout the year). And the date of the change-over changes every year, so that also complicates it. (

        As to the accommodation inside the Park, I was wondering about that too. I think it’s the Sossusvlei Lodge on the luxury side (their rates are way out of our league…) and the Desert Camp on the self-catering side (also pre-e-etty pricey….). The Cardboard Box site looks quite helpful on that score.

      • November 1, 2016 at 8:36 am #

        When we were in the Sossusvlei area we stayed at the Little Sossous and Moon Mountain Lodge (which was expensive – a special treat Willie had organised). I’ll still be doing a post on both.

      • November 1, 2016 at 11:45 am #

        Oh those sound wonderful! What a lovely treat!

  4. October 31, 2016 at 4:18 pm #

    Wow- so many fabulous shots. When I lived in West Texas there were dunes that “All of the sudden appeared” seemingly out of nowhere.Monahans sand hills…You can see it from the air. I have always been fascinated at how they seemed to plunked in the middle of an otherwise different landscape.

    • November 1, 2016 at 5:48 am #

      The red dunes are very “photogenic” – it’s almost impossible to take a bad shot. Just checked out the Monahans Sandhills – very interesting. Reminds me of the northern Namib Desert which has white sand dunes.

  5. October 31, 2016 at 5:00 pm #

    What great photos. That will do me. I can’t see myself trudging up a sand hill in the heat.

    • November 1, 2016 at 5:44 am #

      Thanks! I didn’t climb up the dune either – was really struggling with the heat.

  6. November 1, 2016 at 1:00 am #

    A rather severe environment, but it gave you some stunning photos.

    • November 1, 2016 at 5:43 am #

      We love deserts so enjoy the stark environment. The Sossusvlei area is a favourite with photographers.

      Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! 🙂

  7. Eha
    November 1, 2016 at 4:05 am #

    The ‘dead’ trees, the ‘lunar’ landscape . . . . almost ‘otherworldly’, oh yes . . . now that the ‘October Dash’ is over, hope you will still post regularly: plan to be ‘off’ for a ‘November-get-the-local-stud-done-gal!’ break, but shall be looking out for yours . . . .thanks and love . . .

    • November 1, 2016 at 5:41 am #

      I wanted to end the October Dash with one of our favourite places. Would have loved to have seen the area at night.

      I plan to post 2 – 3 times per week, so not too crazy a schedule. Thanks for all your support this post month! 🙂

  8. November 1, 2016 at 4:19 am #

    Wat n plek!

    • November 1, 2016 at 5:39 am #

      It is amazing. Have you been there?

      • November 1, 2016 at 9:33 am #

        Unfortunately not Lisa, but when we do I will never stop bragging that we have!

  9. November 2, 2016 at 10:10 pm #

    Congrats on a full month of blogging!

    • November 4, 2016 at 6:36 am #

      Thank you! 🙂 It was a fun and interesting exercise, but not something I’d be able to maintain over a longer period.

  10. November 8, 2016 at 7:51 am #

    Hi Lisa. These are great pics of a great place. We visited there many years back when there was only a campsite – no lodges. When we visited the big dune at sunrise only two other people were there, yodelling as they skied down it. That afternoon when we climbed the dune to watch the sunset there was nobody else there. Just the two of us. Your photos showing the footprints show so graphically how much it has changed!

    • November 8, 2016 at 9:18 am #

      I can imagine that things have changed a lot in recent years. We met so many foreign tourists in Namibia – especially at the major tourist attractions. It must have been really magic to be on the dunes at sunrise and sunset.

      Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: