The Namib dunes stretch unbroken from Lüderitz to Walvis Bay, but about halfway along, one river tries its best to break through and reach the sea. The Tsauchab River very rarely flows and when it does it never makes it more than 60 km before it’s completely swallowed by the surrounding dunes. The end of this drainage basin is called Sossusvlei, which loosely translates to ‘cul-de-sac marsh’. Slightly further into the dunes, the iconic Deadvlei is famous for its lifeless, skeletal trees poking up from a long-dry pan. This whole area, including the main national park campsite at Sesriem, is often referred to collectively as Sossusvlei.
Highlights of the region
The whole of Sossusvlei is beautiful, but there are four main attractions: Sesriem Canyon, Dune 45, Deadvlei, and the Big Daddy dune. Sesriem Canyon, with its beautiful rock formations, is located near Sesriem Camp and is one of very few places in the area that can retain surface water year-round. Dune 45 is 45 km from the park entrance gate and one of the biggest in the area. Big Daddy dune overlooks Deadvlei and at over 300 m is one of the highest dunes in the world. Drive in for sunrise for the most incredible views.
Practical + driving advice about the region (time needed)
The entrance to Sossusvlei is at Sesriem Campsite and you’ll need to stay here, or at one of the luxury lodges inside the park, if you want to drive into Sossusvlei for sunrise (which is a must). Guests at Sesriem get pre-dawn access to the dunes, with enough time to get to Dune 45 or Big Daddy before sunup. Those staying outside can only start their drive in once the sun has already risen. It’s 60 km from the campsite to the end of the basin. Most of this is tar, but the last 5 km are deep sand and 4x4 only. A shuttle service operates over this last section for those who don’t have a 4x4. The service is a bit irregular, however, so having your own vehicle is definitely recommended.