The sand dunes of Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert are often referred to as the highest dunes in the world.
Located in the Namib Naukluft park, the largest conservation area in Africa, and fourth largest in the world - the sand dunes at Sossusvlei are just one excellent reason to visit Namibia.
The best time to view Sossusvlei is close to sunrise and sunset; the colours are strong and constantly changing, allowing for wonderful photographic opportunities. The midday heat is intense and best spent in the shade while sunset also offers excellent photo opportunities at Sossusvlei.
'Vlei' is the Afrikaans word for a shallow depression filled with water (well, a depression that might sometimes be filled with water!), and the name 'Sossusvlei' should strictly only be applied to the pan that lies at the place where the dunes close in, preventing the waters of the Tsauchab River from flowing any further - that is, on the rare occasions that the river does flow as far as this. During exceptional rainy seasons, Sossusvlei may fill with water, causing Namibians to flock there to witness the grand sight, but normally it is bone dry. This particular 'vlei' is actually a more-or-less circular, hard-surfaced depression that is almost entirely surrounded by sharp-edged dunes, beyond which lies a formidable sea of rolling sand, stretching in unbroken immensity all the way to the coast. However, the name 'Sossusvlei' nowdays applies to the whole area - an area that encompasses the great plain of the Tsauchab River together with the red dunes that march along like giant sentinels to south and north of the plain.
The second attraction of the area is Sesriem Canyon, which is only a few kilometres from the campsite, the entrance gate, and main Nature Conservation office. The canyon derives its name from the fact that early Afrikaner trekkers had to use six ('ses') leather thongs (a thong is a 'riem') so that their buckets could reach the water far below. The canyon begins as an almost imperceptible but nevertheless deep cleft in level, stony ground, and then widens until it finally flattens out onto the plain. Because it is so deep and sheltered, it often holds water well into the dry season - an invigorating sight in such a barren and stark environment.