Have the perfect day in Sossusvlei

Posted on 4 September 2018

Situated just over 300km south-west of Windhoek and 345km south-east of Swakopmund you’ll find Seisriem on the C27. Melanie van Zyl headed here after a stay in 1 of 12 of the world’s Dark Sky Reserves, at NamibRand. Here is her take on Seisriem.

It’s an easy and beautiful hour-long drive from NamibRand to Sesriem on the C27, which cuts through the unfenced Namib-Naukluft National Park. On these seemingly infinite plains, you’ll see jagged purple mountains and, very likely, game such as giraffe and zebra. Many people don’t realise that you can’t actually stay at Sossusvlei.

Sesriem is the closest ‘town’ (really just a cluster of lodges, campsites and a fuel station) and is outside the park gates. It gets busy with overlanders and self-drive 4x4s, whose rooftop tents look almost ready to hatch. But there is a way to get peace and quiet – and a head start on all the other visitors.

Big Daddy (350 metres high is a popular climb at dawn). Image by Melanie van Zyl

Staying at Namibia Wildlife Resorts’ Sesriem Camping, which is just inside the park gate, gives you the advantage of access: campers are allowed to enter the park an hour before dawn and stay an hour after sunset. If you arrive in the afternoon, take a drive to Dune 45 (so named as it’s 45 kilometres from the gate) to watch the sunset burnish the dune, and climb to the top to get incredible panoramic photographs of the desert.

Early the next morning, engage your 4×4 or hop on a transfer (R170 per person) and travel the 71 kilometres direct to Deadvlei. Other tourists (many on organised trips) tend to stop to climb Big Daddy and Dune 45 first, using the cooler morning to their advantage, before heading to Deadvlei.

Camel-thorn trees line the road of Sossusvlei. Image by Melanie van Zyl

It’s a kilometre-long walk over small sand dunes to get into the dry vlei (not everyone is fit enough for this trek, especially in peak sunshine) but in mid-March I had this magical place all to myself at sunrise. From Deadvlei, drive the short sandy stretch to actual Sossusvlei (which may or may not have water in it). There are many shaded picnic sites here to eat breakfast and work up enough energy to walk the spine of the Big Mama dune. From the top, the scale and extent of the Namib Desert is evident and you can see where the Tsauchab River gave up its journey to the sea, enveloped by the dunes.

On your way out of the park, take a turn into the Sesriem Canyon just before the gate. It’s not as impressive, perhaps, as the giant dunes, but the high walls of the canyon provide shade in the midday sun and there are plenty of good photo opportunities that will add some variety to your image collection.

Dust created by its many visitors settles over the route to Deadsvlei

If you’re continuing on a road trip, aim to leave the park around lunchtime, making sure to stock up on fuel and firewood at the Sossus Oasis fuel station in Sesriem.


Entry fee to the Namib-Naukluft National Park is R60 per person. Sesriem Camping is basic, but ablutions are decent and there’s a pool. R220 per person.

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