We want to escape the frenzied city life of Windhoek and decide to take a short trip to the Namib Desert over the weekend. Let me share our amazing trip to the Namib Naukluft National Park and the world-famous Sossusvlei with you.
From Gondwana's Namib Desert Lodge, we set off at around 6.30 a.m. We need an hour to the entrance gate of the Namib Naukluft National Park. The park opens at 7.30 am (rule of thumb: sunrise), and from the Sesriem entrance we still have to drive about 60 kilometres to the Big Daddy Dune and Deadvlei. We want to avoid the intense midday heat when we climb one of the highest dunes in the world at Sossusvlei.
The Namib Naukluft National Park is an impressive nature reserve covering an area of almost 50,000 km². The park consists of the four regions Namib, Naukluft, Sesriem/Sossusvlei and Sandwich Harbour. Most of the Namib Naukluft Park is inaccessible to people. Only the area north of the Kuiseb River, the Naukluft Mountains and Sossusvlei areas are open to visitors. The huge dune landscape, which covers about 64% of the total park area, may only be explored here.
Fascinating drive towards the dune world
Driving in the national park is already an immense experience. On the way to the 2x4 parking area, we see majestic Oryx antelopes in front of an impressive mountain rangen which slowly transforms into high sand dunes. From there, we continue our journey by shuttle (N$180 per person). It might be advisable to use the shuttle for several reasons:
- Difficult terrain: The route from the 2x4 parking lot to Sossusvlei is a sandy track and difficult to negotiate. If you don’t have a four-wheel drive vehicle or are not an experienced driver, it is advisable to use the shuttle service that offers a reliable means of transport.
- Environmental protection: The Namib Naukluft National Park is a protected ecosystem; therefore, it is important to minimise the impact on the environment. By using the shuttle, the number of vehicles in the park is reduced, resulting in less soil compaction and erosion.
- Relaxed experience: By taking the shuttle, you can enjoy the journey to Sossusvlei stress-free. An experienced shuttle driver safely navigates the terrain while you can sit back and admire the scenery.
- Local knowledge: Usually, experienced guides drive the shuttles; they gladly share their extensive knowledge of the area with you, offering valuable information and interesting facts about the sights and wildlife.
Our first stop is the impressive Big Daddy Dune and the fascinating Deadvlei, before we proceed to the Big Mama Dune, which is slightly smaller but magnificent non the less. Afterwards, the shuttle will take us back to the 2x4 car park.
Breathtaking: Sossusvlei, Deadvlei and Big Daddy
Sossusvlei and Deadvlei are some of the main attractions in the Namib Naukluft National Park. Sossusvlei is a salt-clay pan surrounded by majestic dunes and about 60 km away from the Sesriem entrance. Since 2013, Sossusvlei has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the Namib Sand Sea.
One of the dunes surrounding the salt-clay pan is the Big Daddy, also known as Crazy Dune. Located west of the Sossusvlei on the edge of the Deadvlei, it is considered the highest dune in the region and one of the highest in the world. With an estimated height of up to 380 metres, it is part of the Namib Sand Sea World Heritage Site.
The climb up Big Daddy is a challenging but unforgettable experience. The steep climb through the soft sand requires stamina. But the breathtaking views as the endless dune landscape stretches out before you, as well as the fun descent down into the valley, reward perseverance.
After a walk over smaller dunes a true wonderland opens before my eyes. The dead dark tree skeletons in the dried salt pan form a stark contrast to the bright white ground. The surreal sight captivates me. I quickly begin my descent into Deadvlei to get a closer look. Finally, I reach the bottom and stand among the weathered trees. The silence is overwhelming, only the wind whispers softly.
I take my time to soak up the unique atmosphere and admire Deadvlei in all its beauty. The sun is high in the sky and casts a warm light on the scenery. The contours of the dunes and the play of shadows create a fascinating backdrop.
Only a few kilometres away from Big Daddy and Deadvlei is the somewhat smaller, but no less impressive Big Mama. We enjoyed the climb up the Big Daddy, but because of the midday heat, we decide to enjoy the sight of the impressive dune from below.
Deep cut: Sesriem Canyon
The last item on our agenda is a visit to the Sesriem Canyon. Here the Tsauchab River has carved a canyon of about 1 km long and up to 30 m deep in places. It is in the immediate vicinity of the Sesriem entrance to the National Park. Simply turn left after entering the park and then drive straight on for about 4 km to reach it.
The Sesriem Canyon offered us a fascinating sight and a pleasant change of scenery after being surrounded by sand before.
Looking back, the visit to the Namib Naukluft National Park was an unforgettable experience. This breathtaking desert landscape is a must for nature lovers and adventure seekers.
Would you now like to see these natural spectacles with your own eyes? And do you need accommodation? We can highly recommend the Namib Desert Collection by Gondwana Collection Namibia. It offers something to suit every budget and preference: : Desert Whisper, The Desert Grace, Namib Dune Star Camp, Namib Desert Lodge, Namib Desert Camping2Go, Namib Desert Campsite.
Author and photos: Nina Braun