by Matthew Sterne
on July 2, 2013
5 min read

The Namib-Naukluft National Park covers part of the Namib Desert (considered the world’s oldest desert) and the Naukluft mountain range. With an overall area of 49,768 km2 the Namib-Naukluft is the largest game park in Africa and the fourth largest in the world. The NamibRand Nature Reserve (1,722 km²) is a private nature reserve which shares a 100km border with Namib-Naukluft National Park to the west.

Sossusvlei is the highlight of the Namib-Naukluft National Park and the quintessential picture of Namibia.

Sloping orange dunes stretch to the horizon with clusters of zebra and gemsbok dotted across the landscape, dwarfed by the vast expanse that is the 202,000ha NamibRand Nature Reserve. An area so free from light pollution that it is recognised as a ‘Gold Tier’ International Dark Sky Reserve making it one of the best places in the world to see the ‘Great Beyond’.

More than just a desert, Sossusvlei is home to numerous gems among the sands… Some of natures greatest works of art. Our travel experts have provided some tips on how to make the most of your time in and around Sossusvlei. So let’s get started..

How To Get There?

Namibia is big. Really big. The main tourist hubs are spread far and wide often requiring road transfers of over 12 hours. The easy alternative? Fly.

Getting there, drive or fly?

Namibia has numerous safe and easy flight routes making travel between each destination just a quick hop-on/hop-off journey – no pot holes, no worries about fuel and no worrying about keeping the kids placated for 12 hours. And if you’re spending money on a luxury hotel or lodge, why spend your time on the road when you could be landing on a private airstrip, greeted with a cold towel and a refreshing cocktail before spending your afternoon by the pool or seeing the magnificent dunes and wildlife?


Where to Stay?

It’s important to remember that Sossusvlei is a protected area. Most visitors will have to travel a distance to get there and will be restricted to the reserves opening hours. Which can often mean crowds of tourists arriving at the same time.

  • andBeyond’s Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is one of Rhino Africa’s favourites in Namibia. Apart from magnificent rooms, a star observatory and breathtaking views, the airstrip is less than 5 minutes from the lodge. Most importantly however, the lodge is not far from the entrance to the Namib-Naukluft National Park which means that you can beat the crowds and be among the first to summit the dunes for sunrise or sunset.

“Another amazing aspect of Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is that they have one of the only two petrified/fossil dunes in the whole of the Sossusvlei Region, located a 45 minute drive from the lodge.  They offer a morning excursion to guests who wish to view this truly spectacular sighting. The fossil is about  20 million years old.” – Rhino Africa Travel Consultant, Renee Johnston

  • Little Kulala Lodge goes one better and has its own private entrance to the reserve. This makes a huge difference in terms of your experience – you’ll pay a bit more for the privilege but it is certainly worth it.
Zebras, gembsbok and spingbok are common sites in Sossusvlei

Excursions

Climb the Dunes

It’s the thing you have to do when visiting Sossusvlei. From andBeyond’s Sossusvlei Desert Lodge you will have an early start to reach the top of ‘Dune 45’ just in time for sunrise. If you decide to sleep in, the price will be an uphill trek in excruciating midday heat and your photographs will be dotted with the stream of crowds that have had the same idea. Drop a bit of Amarula in your coffee if you need a little kick start!

Climbing the Dunes of Sossusvlei at Sunrise

After Dune 45 venture further from the road to ‘Big Daddy’ – hailed as the 2nd tallest Dune in the world standing at 1,066 feet and composed of sand dating back 5 million years! The perfect way to work off those calories from the delicious food at the lodge.

Dead Vlei

Situated right by ‘Big Daddy’ dune, Dead Vlei is like an alien world hidden between the dunes. Sand is traded for cracked white clay formed from the days when the Tsauchab River flooded the area allowing the growth of the Camel Thorn Trees that now stand as dead skeletons emerging from the ground. A true photographers paradise.

Dead Vlei

Sossusvlei from the Sky

Hot air balloons and scenic flights are the perfect way to see the breathtaking landscape of the Sossusvlei Desert. Spot the elegant gemsbok from the air and see the dunes stretch further than the eye can see. These trips can be booked from your lodge and through your Rhino Africa travel consultant before travel.

Hot Air Ballooning over Sossusvlei

Quad-Biking

There isn’t a better way to experience the dunes than flying through the sand upon your own quad bike. Sossusvlei Desert Lodge has a designated area, perfect for the occasion. Approximately half an hour by 4×4 your guide will take you to the bottom of the blood red dunes, broken up by green grasses – a stunning contrast at sunset. During my stay, two owls had taken up residence in the tree above the hut that housed the quads.

Quadbiking on the dunes of Sossusvlei

After a quick introduction we were off. With few animals to bump into there is little to be scared of, just push on the acceleration and enjoy the views as you climb the dunes, weaving in and out of the tall grasses and skidding through the sand while the sun sets over the desert.

Star Gazing

After a day of adventure there’s nothing better than sitting back with a gin and tonic and learning about the stars at Sossusvlei Desert Lodge’s very own observatory, fully equipped with professional astronomers and a Meade LX200R 12 inch telescope. Read more about Rhino Africa’s Star Gazing Hot Spots.

Namibia is a spectacular country with so much to offer any visitor. But the logistics can be complicated – proper planning is essential so that optimise your time, budget and experience.

Star gazing at the observatory of Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is a once in a lifetime experience

To start planning your Namibian adventure contact one of Rhino Africa’s expert travel consultants who can chat to you about their recent visit to Namibia and provide first-hand destination and product knowledge.

Take a look here to see what they got up to.

Rhino Africa in Namibia