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The Sand Dunes of Sossusvlei, Namibia

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Imagine standing before a 55-million-year-old desert, its colossal sand dunes soaring 300 meters into the sky. This breathtaking sight is nestled within the Namib Desert, located in southern Namibia. The Namib Desert is renowned as one of the world's most exquisite and untouched desert landscapes, proudly holding the title of the world's oldest desert at 55 million years. In stark comparison, Africa's other great desert, the Sahara, is a mere 4.6 million years old. The Namib Desert stands as a testament to a landscape sculpted and perfected by the passage of time.

At the heart of the Namib Desert lies the captivating centrepiece: the breathtaking Sossusvlei. Accompany us as we delve into the essence of Sossusvlei, unraveling why this might just be Africa's most astonishing landscape.


The vast expanse of sand dunes in Sossusvlei extends for miles, converging with the Tsauchab River's end, which lends the region its name, "Sossusvlei," loosely translating to "dead-end marsh." The sand takes on a brilliant red or orange hue, undergoing a mesmerising transformation as dawn breaks and sunlight bathes the dunes. This captivating shift in colour owes its origin to the iron oxide content within the sand. However, the dunes' dynamism isn't confined to their colour palette; their forms are in constant flux, moulded by the ever-shifting sands propelled by the wind. These distinctive dunes, known as Star Dunes, embody the wind's artistic touch, evolving vertically into pyramid-like structures rather than sprawling horizontally.

Two dunes hold a special allure for Sossusvlei's visitors: 'Dune 45' and 'Big Daddy.' Their popularity stems from their stunning aesthetics and accessibility for climbing. These dunes, like twin sentinels, beckon travellers, inviting them to witness their beauty up close by scaling to the top of the dunes.

Aerial shot of Sossusvlei, showing Dead Vlei, Big Daddy (dune on far right) and the never ending sea of dunes off into the distance
Aerial shot of Sossusvlei, showing Dead Vlei, Big Daddy (dune on far right) and the never ending sea of dunes off into the distance. Photo Wilderness Safaris

Dune 45

Dune 45 stands proudly at a height of 80 meters and is a favored destination for early morning hikes due to its elevation and proximity to the park entrance. This strategic positioning enables climbers to reach the summit just in time for sunrise. Once atop, hikers are treated to awe-inspiring vistas, particularly during the morning hours when the desert is bathed in the warm embrace of sunlight. The softness of the sand adds a touch of challenge to the climb, yet it remains attainable for those possessing a moderate level of fitness.

Early morning climbers on Dune 45
Early morning climbers on Dune 45. Photo Untamed Safaris

Big Daddy

Big Daddy emerges from the fringes of Dead Vlei, ascending to an impressive height of 325 meters, securing its status as the loftiest dune in Sossusvlei. In a league of its own, it casts a shadow over its neighboring dunes, making it the quintessential Sossusvlei adventure for those who dare to conquer it. Remember to pack ample water, sunscreen, and a hat, as well as be prepared to break a sweat. Upon conquering the summit, a breathtaking panorama unfurls, offering a direct gaze into the remarkable Dead Vlei. The elevation magnifies the spectacle, turning the fossilized trees and fellow tourists into miniature figures akin to ants. Climbing Big Daddy demands a higher degree of fitness, yet it remains within the grasp of most individuals, provided they allocate ample time. The descent is equally thrilling; rather than tracing the dune's spine, adventurers bound down its central slope.

The winding ridge heading towards the submit of Big Daddy.  Photo Untamed Safaris
The winding ridge heading towards the submit of Big Daddy. Photo Untamed Safaris
Climbers hiking up the ridge line of Big Daddy Sand Dune
Climbers hiking up the ridge line of Big Daddy. Photo Untamed Safaris


Deadvlei, once a thriving clay pan filled with water that sustained tree life, has transformed over time. The passage of time, however, bore witness to the water's retreat, leaving the trees to wither and fade away. In a remarkable twist, the arid desert air prevented their decomposition, effectively mummifying trees. This incredible and eerie scene beckons almost every traveller to the area and is renowned as Namibia's most photogenic spot.

The remains of fossilised trees at Dead Vlei.
The remains of fossilised trees at Dead Vlei.

The Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit Sossuvlei is between June & October, Namibia’s winter months. The temperatures sit in the comfortable low 20’s and the area’s wildlife are easier to find as they are more mobile. Because this is the most popular time to visit Namibia, June – October is when the peak season rates are charged and the most expensive time to visit.

April and May are perhaps the best months as the temperatures are comfortable and high season rates (June – October) have not yet started, meaning that there are plenty of great specials to be found.

November - March are the summer months and there is no getting around it, Sossuvlei is hot. The temperature can reach high 30's. Travel throughout this time is still possible but make sure you have chosen a lodge with good air conditioning if you struggle with the heat.

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