Greetings from Sossusvlei, probably Namibia’s most spectacular and best-known attraction. It is a salt and clay pan surrounded by high red dunes, located in the southern part of the Namib Desert, in the Namib-Naukluft National Park of Namibia. The word Sossusvlei originates from two languages, Nama and Afrikaans. It literally translates to “dead-end” (from the Nama word “Sossus”) “marsh” (from the Afrikaans word “Vlei”).

Walk of one of the dunes in the Sossusvlei. Photo: DIVA007/Flickr

Sossusvlei is created by the Tsauchab river that flows through the Sesriem Canyon every 5 to 10 years. Even in very wet years it does not reach the Atlantic Ocean but drains away between the dunes of Sossusvlei. This is the place where the dunes come together preventing the Tsauchab River to flow any further, some 60km east of the Atlantic Ocean.  However, due to the dry conditions in the Namib Desert the River seldom flows this far and the pan remains bone-dry most years.

Read: Lake Retba: Africa’s Pink Lake

The area extends between rivers Koichab and Kuiseb. It is characterized by high sand dunes of vivid pink-to-orange color, an indication of a high concentration of iron. The oldest dunes are those of a more intense reddish colour. These dunes have developed over many millions of years. The red sand that form the dunes was deposited into the Atlantic Ocean from the Orange River. These dunes are mostly above 200 metres and among the highest in the world. The highest has been nicknamed Big Daddy and is about 325 metres high, however the highest dune in the Namib Desert, Dune 7, is about 388 metres high.

Sand dune. Photo: Olivier Peyre/ Flickr

Some of the landmarks in the Sossusvlei include the Sesriem where access to the Namib-Naukluft National Park is from. The area also has the Elim Dune, a relatively isolated dune located about 5 km past the Sesriem gate and Deadvlei is another clay pan, about 2 km from Sossusvlei. Lastly Petrified dunes which are sand dunes that have solidified to rock and are found in several places in the area.

Sand dunes in Namibia. Photo: Eric Bauer (520)/Flickr
The Sossusvlei pan Photo: Ikiwaner/wikimedia
Sossusvlei, Namibia. Photo: dconvertini/Flickr
Sossusvlei, Namibia. Photo: dconvertini/Flickr