Sossusvlei is definitely one of Namibia’s many highlights. Knowing what to expect before going there makes the day even more enjoyable. Any basic day to Sossusvlei is as follows: (view the maps before reading, for a better understanding of places mentioned)
· Wake up early - get to Sesriem gate at sunrise (the gate is only opened at sunrise for visitors sleeping elsewhere than the Sesriem Camp site or NWR Sossus Dune Lodge – so chances of being on top of a large dune before sunrise is restricted to your accommodation),
· Buy an entry permit for the Namib Naukluft Park at Sesriem office if you do not yet have one, Permits currently cost N$80 per person for tourists outside SADC, N$60 for South Africans, and N$30 for Namibians, N$10 for cars up to 10 seats, N$40 for cars with more than 10 seats, and children under the age of 17 (0 - 16) are free. (Prices as at November 2012.)
· Drive to the park entrance gate 200m further where your permit is checked, and proceed into the park, (this is a 60km tar road, for reasons of dust, until the 2x4 Parking Area). Take care as often animals stand on or cross this road.
· Enjoy the dune scenery along the way, stopping to take photo’s where dune shadows are very prominent,
· 45km from Sesriem maybe climb Dune 45, but I rather recommend to proceed onwards to the 2x4 Parking area. If you have a 4x4, and know how to use it, then drive the last sandy 5km to the Deadvlei parking area.
· If you don’t have a 4x4, or would rather not drive in yourself, make use of the shuttles available, running at around N$110 per person return (prices may vary between companies), asking the shuttle driver to drop you either at Dead Vlei or Sossusvlei (depending on which you want to do first, Dead Vlei is recommended). Most people take about 1h50min to walk to Dead Vlei, explore and walk back to Dead Vlei Parking. To Dead Vlei is a 1.1km sandy walk with a 20m dune to climb at Dead Vlei. (Should you drive in yourself: remember the sand will be dry and much softer coming out than going in.)
· If you want to climb “Big Daddy” get to the dune as soon as possible, take no less that 2 litres of water per person, and work with about 50 minutes to climb up, 20 minutes (or longer) to sit on top of one of the tallest red dunes in the world, and admire the beauty that is Namibia, run down the steep side in less that 3 minutes in the Dead Vlei direction, and walk back through the Dead Vlei to Dead Vlei Parking. (Recommended only for very fit persons.)
· Either walk or drive the 400m to Sossusvlei (most people drive if they want to climb “Big Mama” dune at Sossusvlei). Climb “Big Mama” even if just a quarter of the way, the view up there over Sossusvlei is well worth it. The whole dune takes a person of average fitness about 15 to 20 minutes to climb. Very fit people take about 10 to 12 minutes.
· Run down the steep side for fun, taking care to put your camera into a preferably waterproof bag to protect it from sand grains.
· Empty your shoes of sand (I always say “Please leave the dunes where you find them”) and head back to the car or shuttle.
· Drive back through the 5km 4x4 Road, and the 60km road to Sesriem, buy a refreshment and head on to the 4.5km road to Sesriem Canyon.
· Enjoy the canyon view from the top, and head into the canyon to explore (takes about 40minutes for going in, exploring a bit and coming out again – it is a small, but impressive, canyon).
· Proceed onwards to accommodation.
Remember the following:
· Rather take a breakfast pack with and enjoy your meal when it suits you,
· Try to buy your permit before the day you go into Sossusvlei, this saves time of standing in the Q at the Sesriem permit office, and therefore enjoy the dune shadows for longer in the morning. Permits can be bought at NWR (Namibia Wildlife Resorts) offices.
· Take no less that 2.5 litres of water per person for the whole day, (more if you want to climb “Big Daddy”),
· Hats are very much recommended, sunscreen is not to be forgotten (sunlight is reflected off the dunes – which are around 90% Quartz, so you are exposed to more sun rays that normal),
· Early morning or late afternoon the dune shadows are more prominent, and therefore better for viewing and photography, whereas in mid day there are hardly any shadows, and strangely the dunes look further away in mid day,
· Toilets are available, 1 at Dune 45, a couple at the 2x4 Parking, and at Sossusvlei Parking, but take in mind because of water scarcity most of these are not flush toilets, but long drops. See the “Eco Friendly” page…
· The trip from Sesriem to Sossusvlei, and back to the Sesriem Canyon rarely takes less than 5 – 6½ hours, including a climb up “Big Mama”, at least 2 hour longer if you climb “Big Daddy”.
Always the best to spend at least 2 nights in Sossusvlei region, that gives you more than enough time to explore and enjoy this highlight properly. DO NOT TRY to do the dunes and afterwards drive to Swakopmund or Windhoek, you WILL have to rush, plus to Windhoek is a 5 hour drive and to Swakop at least 5 and a half hours. NEVER MAKE THE MISTAKE OF CHECKING ON THE MAP AND SEEING THAT “IT IS ONLY 260 KM TO SWAKOP, IT WILL TAKE 3 OR SO HOURS”, IT DOES NOT WORK LIKE THAT! The gravel road is mostly corrugated, full of dips, river passes and stunning scenery (and never forget that wonderful walk around opportunity given by having a flat tyre...)
ENJOY THE DUNES!