Advantages Stunning scenery and desert wildlife
Disadvantages Quite a long way to travel and very hot
Trip into the desert to Sossusvlei and Dead VleiWe stayed at Sossusvlei Lodge just at the gateway of the Namib Naukluft National Park and as soon as we arrived we booked to go on this half day trip which cost 585Namib dollars per person (about £55 as the conversion is the same as the ZAR - $ 11Namib =£1). We came to this lodge specifically to visit Soususvlei and the dunes and to see Dead Vlei which is in one of our many ‘Must see before you die’ books.
We started from Reception at 6.45 as the gate opened at 7am. We could see the queue building up of vehicles ready to get into the park as it opened. Obviously as the desert gets very hot later in the day the earlier you can start the better as you do have to do quite a bit of walking.We were in a group of six in total; the others were all German and were travelling together with their guide who was also their pilot. We therefore had two guides, the local one and also the pilot German/Namibia guide who was with the German party. Interestingly the pilot spoke Afrikaans, German, English and two local languages so the local guide from Sossusvlei was saying they could talk to each other in Afrikaans, Herero or even English which put us to shame big time. This became even more apparent as the Germans included us in the breakfast conversation later by all speaking very good English.
We were travelling in a safari four wheel open sided vehicle with seats that were raised so that the back ones were higher than the front. At 7am driving along at about 60mph in this was actually quite chilly but they had provided blankets for us so gradually we all gave in and wrapped up in the blankets. The attraction of this area are the huge dunes which have magnificent colours ranging in hue from ivory, to yellow, rose and even orange at times, they are featured on most posters for Namibia and are a true treat for photographers and artists.Sossusvlei is a combination of two languages words for pan and Sossusvlei is a part of the Tsauchab River which rises in the Naukluft Mountains and once made its way to the sea however its way became blocked by the huge dunes causing the area we now know as Sossusvlei. This area floods every now and then which allows life to regenerate. Dead Vlei is the pan further on which now no longer gets any water at all hence the death of all the trees in that pan or vlei.
As you enter the National park the dunes are not immediately obvious. The terrain is desert but scrubby desert and if you keep your eyes open you may be lucky enough to see springbok, gemsbok, ostrich, black backed jackal, kudu and oryx. Then the vegetation changes from pale wavy grass to tufts of dry dark vegetation and the sand begins to encroach more on the mountains and gradually the vegetation thins even more and the dunes take over. The shapes are stunning with really hard clear lines curving and casting shadows in a most spectacular way as the sun gets higher in the morning sky. We were looking at one dune and the guide pointed out that there were two ostriches half way up and you could only just make them out. Some of the dunes are 350 metres high and it is not until you see people climbing up that you realise how high they are as the people become small dots on the horizon.On the way we stopped at a number of the dunes, Dune 65 and Big Daddy as well as stopping if any animals came close enough to photograph. Some of the dunes in Sossusvlei have a special multi crested shape and are known as star dunes and these are caused by the wind changing direction, from the ground it is quite hard to see but they are quite obvious from the air apparently.
If there has been a very high amount of rain in the mountains then sufficient water will flow down the Tsauchab River and reach the vlei of Sossusvlei but according to our guide this is fairly rare and only lasts a matter of days but it seems to be enough to sustain the trees in the area. In the vlei area you can find brackbush, camel-thorn trees, and acacia erioloba and narra plants. It is estimated that some of the larger acacia trees are about 500 years old so they are pretty hardy to survive that time in the desert conditions.There is a tar road of about 60km almost to Sossusvlei and then you get to a car park where you either take a four wheel drive or walk the last 300 metres or so as it becomes a sea of sand. We had a four wheel drive but you could tell it was struggling at times. Once at Sossusvlei which is white clay like flat pan scattered with the previously mentioned trees then you have a walk to reach dead Vlei as it is surrounded by dunes. We were escorted by the pilot guide while the local guide went off to set up our breakfast.
We were told there was a longer but flatter route or we could climb the dune, we chose the dune which is harder than you think. Climbing up to about 200 feet on sand when every step you take up you slide back half a step but we made it and the view down into the white clay pan of these dead trees that were over 800 years old set against the reddish orange of the surrounding dunes was quite a special sight.It was now getting quite hot but the sand was still reasonably cool as I was in bare feet. To get down from the dune you walked, slid or ran down. Initially I was a little concerned as it was very steep but once I started and realised it was a lot easier than coming down a steep normal hill as the sand sort of acted as a brake. It was quite fun and I was down in no time at all and was able to take photos of my husband on the way down looking so tiny still near the top.
Once into Dead Vlei it was a photographer’s dream as the colours of the dead white pan with the stark dead trees contrasting against the dune colours and the bright blue sky. We spent some time enjoying taking photographs before meeting up with the others in the group and climbing back out up a lower dune. By now the sand was getting a bit hot so I had to put on my trusty crocs so my feet didn’t burn. It was quite a long walk/climb so by now we were feeling like our breakfast.We found our other guide and waited for the Germans who had met up with some other Germans and were chatting. Once we were all together we got back in the vehicle (no need for the blankets now) and were driven round to a beautifully laid table. A huge picnic basket was taken out of the back and food piled onto the table. Unfortunately the weaver birds also spotted the food and hundreds sat chirruping in the tree above us. I covered my plate with a bowl and seconds later a bird pooped on the bowl so I was pleased that my bread was protected. The breakfast was provided by our hotel and included fruit juice, fruit and yogurt, cheese and cold meats and lovely bread, it was perfect. There was also tea and coffee too.
On the way back we stopped and took photos of an oryx family under a tree and several other animals but other than that we drove straight back as the others were all flying to Swakopmund once we got back to the hotel. We arrived back at about 12.30 and it was beginning to get quite hot so we spent the rest of the day relaxing round the pool and in the air conditioning of our room.This was a trip to remember and these dunes are supposed to be some of the highest in the world. The vleis or pans are unique I believe and make a stunning spectacle if you can cope with the desert temperatures it so well worth driving for six and half hours each way over dirt roads to see.
This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name
Attention, this is the first review from this author
Instead of giving a negative rating, consider:
Help this member by giving your advice
Report fraud (for example plagiarism) or other issue with the review to the Ciao support team
Add your comment