Amazing Things to do in Sossusvlei
Sossusvlei has been referred to as the “dead-end-marsh” of Namibia. It is known for the vast dunes and the glittering red sand. The Sossusvlei region of Namibia is generally the clay pans incredibly beautiful to attract the many tourist across the globe.
Sossusvlei is nothing but the series of sandbank spreading to the vast ground with inexhaustible numbers. The salt pans of Sossusvlei are spreading to an area of 300 kilometers, and stretching wide to about 140 kilometers.
The dunes at Sossusvlei are high reaching up to 400 meters. Some of the dunes have come together and formed a barrier, holding back the flow of Tsauchab River. The dunes are believed to be around 5 million years old that have slowly modified their characteristic to suit the deserts.
The pans are the Sossusvlei major tourist attractions offering many activities to be done in Sossusvlei. The pans in the region are generally dry due to the climatic conditions, expect for the rainy seasons.
As much as Sossusvlei with its best sand hills of Namibia experience the dry desert climate it is still home to abundance of flora and fauna. This is a bliss for photographers as Sossusvlei is an attraction that is known for the immense panoramic beauty.
Sossusvlei is home to the world’s highest sand dunes or the dead vlei. There is a clay pan with hundreds camelthorn tree skeletons. It has several unique guided Hiking Trails can be done in the Sossusvlei region. Furthermore the Sesriem Canyon and the Duwisib Castle are worth a visit if you are looking for things to do in Sossusvlei.
Visit the Duwisib Castle
Duwisib Castle is replete with history and romance. This historic building set in the beautiful southeast of Namibia. Duwisib Castle is conveniently located between Fish River Canyon or Sesriem and the Namibian desert.
The location makes Duwisib Castle an ideal stopover for visitors’ en route to the South of Namibia. This is especially true for those going on the 2 day Sossusvlei tour or those on the 3 Day Sossusvlei tour from Windhoek.
Duwisib Castle is located approximately 70 kilometers south west of the small town of Maltahöhe. This small town was founded in 1885 by Henning von Burgsdorf. He established a police station and named it after his wife.
Duwisib Castle was a brainchild of the German army officer Baron von Wolf in 1908. This was a gift of Love for his American bride Jayta whom he had married in 1907.
The news of the outbreak of the First World War came to Henning von Burgsdorf. He was enlisted but unfortunately he died in 1916 in France.
His wife Jayta on getting the news left and did not return. The castle and the stud were left to deteriorate. Today it is assumed that the feral horses of the Namib are actually descendants of the stud.
The state took over the property as well as the castle in 1978. In 1991 the state embarked onto the renovation of the castle before it was declared a national monument.
Head to Sossusvlei and Hike the Dunes
The Sossusvlei refers to a salt-clay pan surrounded by dunes. In the local Nama language Sossus means something like “blind river”. This is in reference to the Tsauchab River, which ‘disappears’ in the desert without reaching the Atlantic which is just 50km away.
Tsauchab River presumably did flow into the Atlantic Ocean some 60,000 years ago. However, due to sanding up the river was cut for a whole 50 km to the Atlantic. This area consists of different vleis, of which the Sossusvlei is the best known.
With time and wind formed there was the formation of the famous up to 300 meters high dunes that surround the vleis.
About every ten years after exceptional rains the Tsauchab fills the clay pan with water. This forms a lake that remains for some time. This is because of the impermeable underlying clay layers.
The lake forms a beautiful contrast to the surrounding dune landscape with its turquoise water.
Tour the Dead Vlei
Not far away from the Sossusvlei is the impressive Dead Vlei. This is another Vlei that has long been cut off from the Tsauchab River. This was by a large sand dune. This created a large amount of dead camelthorn trees. The trees have been conserved by the extremely dry climate which does not allow the trees to rot.
Located at the edge of the Dead Vlei one is the ‘Big Daddy’. It has also been referred to as the ‘Crazy Dune’. This is because it is assumed to be the highest sand dune worldwide.
For those on Namibia tour to Sossusvlei, It is advisable to arrive in early morning hours. This is if you will be attempting to climb this Namibian dune. Climbing the Big Daddy in Namibia takes 1.5 to 2 hours and is quite strenuous. However, this effort is rewarded with one of the most incredible views! Descending is quite fast and needs less energy.
Enjoy the Namib Naukluft Park
The Namib Naukluft National Park is located in the Namib Desert. This is the oldest desert in the world and extends far beyond the borders of the National Park. This is the place where the highest dunes worldwide are found with heights up to 300 meters.
This is home to Sandwich Harbor which is situated in the north of the Park. The harbor is about 45 km south of Walvis Bay. It consists of a 10 km long lagoon that is surrounded by dunes and vegetated by reeds.
This bay is home to more than 200,000 birds. They include flamingos, cormorants, pelicans and other sea birds. You can only access Sandwich harbor on 4×4 from Walvis Bay.
Major parts of the Namib Naukluft Park are not accessible to human. This park which is about 32,000 km² of dune fields, it is only the area north of the Kuiseb River, the Naukluft Mountains and the Sossusvlei that can be visited.
Look for Wildlife in NamibRand Nature Reserve
NamibRand Nature Reserve is found in southern Namibia. This is a private nature reserve established to help protect and conserve unique ecology and wildlife of the south-west Namib Desert.
The area along the eastern edge of the Namib Desert is critically important. This is in order to facilitate seasonal migratory wildlife routes and to protect biodiversity.
NamibRand Nature Reserve is probably the largest private nature reserve in southern Africa. This park extends over an area of more than 200,000 ha.
The Reserve shares a 100km border with the Namib-Naukluft National Park in the west. To the east it is bordered by the imposing Nubib Mountains. Virtually all facets of the Namib Desert are represented on the Reserve.
Here you will find sand and gravel plains and stretches of savanna alternate with mountain ranges, inselbergs and vegetated dune belts.
Attempt the Easy Paced Tok Tokkie Trail
Tok Tokkie Trails is a walking safari that brings you close to the desert’s stunning beauty. The trail allows you to discover many secrets of the Namib on foot. You will experience Namibia in a way that you have never experienced when driving.
Tok Tokkie Trail takes you to the middle of pristine nature and you should look forward to the luxuries that you do not want to miss. This will allow you get to feel different aspects of the Namib starting with mountainous terrain to sandy dunes.
On the trail you will be looking for Fog-basking Tok Tokkie beetles, barking geckos, dancing spiders, bat-eared foxes, and many more. The desert is not deserted at all, it is home to some of the unique creatures find nowhere else in the world. Let your guide introduce you to this world, relax with a sundowner and enjoy a three-course dinner before falling asleep under the stars.
At a pace set to suit the group, you will walk in small groups of between 2 to 8 people. This allows for personalized attention and a more private atmosphere. This will allow you to fully savor the vast and serene calmness of the desert
Try the Waterkloof Trail
The Waterkloof Trail is the longer of two day hikes starting from Naukluft Camp. The trail is for those who love being active during their holiday in Namibia. It is a 17-kilometer-long trail winds along small creeks of the Naukluft Mountains in the Namib Naukluft Park. The trail leads through beautiful, varying landscapes. The trail offers various swimming possibilities in natural pools as well.
You will enjoy a 25-minute drive southwest of Buellsport in the Namib Naukluft National Park. Before you can start on this 17km anticlockwise circuit, you should report at campsite reception. Here you will be briefed on the safety reasons and a rough hand drawn map of the circuit.
You can comfortably hike the loop in the morning and midday sun. You can only be deterred by your fitness and not direct light and high temperatures as the canyon provide shade on long sections of the trail.
The trailhead to the Waterloof trail loop will take about take 6-7 hours. It is marked with a sign and yellow footprint. That is the trail marker to follow but oftentimes this is difficult to spot or misleading. You need to add extra time and distance to this when going off trail.
Walk Round the Olive Trail
The Olive trail is a challenging circular walk. This trail starts with sweeping views from a high ridge. It will then follow a riverbed down through a narrow gorge back to the start.
This trail in the Naukluft Mountains is recommended for all hiking eager travelers not scared of heights. You will be rewarded with breathtaking views, impressive scenery and a special kind of surprise at the end of the trail for an unforgettable experience.
The Olive Trail is a 10km hike in the Namib Naukluft National Park. This trail takes about 4-5 hours to complete. The difficulty of the trail is medium to hard. You should be free from giddiness, physically fit and trained in hiking.
The hike starts from the parking site in the Namib Naukluft Park. You will ascent up the plateau. After some few minutes of the walk you will enjoy breathtaking views across the wide plain.
You will then descend into a deep ravine formed by a periodically flowing river. Here the terrain becomes more demanding. Hikers have to jump over larger rocks every now and then.
After a few kilometers you will reach the famous pool chains. Crossing these chains is only for hikers who are free from giddiness. This is especially true in the dry season from October to December. At this time there is low water level (5-7 meters).
In the rainy season the high water levels in the gorge reduce the height of the cliff-face by some meters. Even so it takes courage to cross over the pool merely by dangling along the chains. The hike will go on across colorfully shimmering rocks. This will be via a second, easier-to-cross-over pool to a 4×4 track which leads back to the parking lot.
The Olive Trail is very well marked and well manageable without a guide. It is however important that hikers be sure to follow the white footsteps.
Take to Hot Air Ballooning
Sossusvlei area has two main balloon operators. There is the Namib Sky Balloon Safaris which has its operation from Sossusvlei. The other is the Samawati Hot Air Ballooning that operates from Solitair area. All of them include hotel pick-up and drop-off, plus a glass of champagne and a certificate after your flight.
To avoid disappointments make your booking well in advance. This is because they tend to book up fast, especially true in high season.
Fly the Sossusvlei Scenic Flight
The Sossusvlei Scenic flight allows you to experience Namibia from the skies! There are several popular scenic flights from Sossusvlei Adventure Center, located at Sossusvlei Lodge.
The highlight of the scenic flights includes the dunes of Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei. You will also enjoy the Sesriem Canyon, the diamond camps and shipwrecks of the Skeleton Coast. There is a lot of the beautiful scenery of the Namib sand sea to be savored on these scenic fights.
And now a bonus…
Attempt Sesriem Canyon
The Sesriem Canyon is also referred to as the Small canyon of the Tsauchab River. The canyon’s birth dates back between two and four million years. This is when continental upheaval resulted in the creation of most of the westward flowing rivers in the Namib Desert region.
Today the Tsauchab River only runs after good rains fall in the nearby Naukluft Mountains. However, the canyon is a testament to the rivers long-past prime. This is some 15- 18 million years ago when the gorge was created by the river’s once sweeping movement.
The canyon is up to 30 meters deep at points and is roughly about 1km long. It has a width that ranges between one and three meters wide. This flattens out as it approaches the iconic Sossusvlei.
Remember that Sesriem is the entrance gate to the Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei. This is neither a town nor village. It just consists of some accommodation facilities that include lodges and numerous campsites. They often host a great amount of guests annually.
In conclusion, Sossusvlei is just not the home of the highest sand dunes in the world. There are lots of activities to do in Sossusvlei. This range from hiking trails to scenic flights and balloon tours over the dunes, there are great unique wildlife attraction to be savored in this desert like environment. Do not close your eyes to the dunes only when it comes to Sossusvlei.