Self Guided Only: Unless you are on a tour with a
private company, you will have to find your own way around the
various dunes and vleis as there are no guides at the site.
Enough Drinking Water for the hike. Budget 1½ - 2 hours
of the surface sand on a hot summer's day can reach 70°c
Timing of Your Visit: To avoid the mid-day heat and for the best lighting
for photographs the time
that you have to get out of your bed will depend on as to where you
over-night. Visitors staying at Sesriem should plan to arise about one
and a half hours before sunrise.
Winter months are preferred by most visitors as the daytime temperatures
are usually below 30C. (unless the east wind is blowing). However,
during winter the night time temperatures can go below freezing. The
Temperatures in the summer months are often in excess of 35C.
On a cloudless day in the desert you will be
subjected to 90% of the sun's radiation. In humid areas you would only
experience 40%. You
can become sunburned very quickly, even during the winter months. The
sun also reflects upwards from the sands. Wear sensible head covering and a
high factor sun-block. This is not the time or the place to be trying
to improve your tan. You can buy 100 factor in
Equipment: Ideally, you
should wear good quality hiking or trail boots. If
you intend hiking to Hiddenvlei cross trainer or running type
shoes are not really suitable and will take in a lot of sand. On a hot
day the sand temperature can be 70°c plus.
Please be advised that you should be reasonably fit to
take the hiking trails to either Hiddenvlei or Deadvlei. Walking
through soft sand is tiring. The best times for these hikes is in the
winter months. During the summer months try to complete your visits
before 10h00 by which time the temperatures are getting quite high.
Following rains in the nearby Naukluft
Mountains the waters run into the Tsauchab River and begins its
journey with a relatively high volume rate of flow which can wash
deep cuts through the C19 road. If visiting Namibia during the rainy
season you must always be careful not get caught in a river-bed in
the path of a flash-flood. The results could be fatal. Only 2 years
ago the Sesriem Camp was flooded as the river banks are shallow in
that area. The wide and shallow deluge carried with it light
coloured silt the 60km plus to Sossusvlei before being completely
consumed by the desert.
The word 'Sossus' is
from Bushman and Nama origin
and is thought to mean, 'A gathering place of
water'. The word Vlei is Afrikaans meaning a
shallow lake, or a shallow area that becomes flooded during the rainy
season. Following a good inflow, the vleis can hold water for some
months. There is 4 x 4 parking area at Sossusvlei where you can get
some shade sitting under some of the enormous camel thorn trees, of
which the area has plenty.
There's a lot to see in
the area and sadly most people just drive in have a quick look
around, make a bee-line for the Dead- Vlei and leave, after which
they'll blithely inform you, "Been there, seen it". But they missed so much.
On your visit you'll also see plenty of Nara plants. These have no leaves and
bear a round spiky fruit once a year that grow to the size of a
grapefruit. It serves as a food source for certain birds, gemsbok
(Oryx), hyenas, jackals, mice, porcupines and even humans.
Camel thorn Tree
The Dead Vlei:
There's a 4 x 4 car parking area on the route to the Sossusvlei marked Deadvlei. It's a good 1km hike to the Deadvlei
marked with wooden poles. The vlei
is a favorite with photographers owing to it's almost surrealistic nature.
The large dead Camel Thorn trees have been dated between 600 and 700
years old. If one were to take into consideration the live period of
these trees, then most of what you see would be over 1000 years old. The
dry atmosphere and lack of wood boring insects help with the survival
of these skeletons.
Some 2 km south of the
car park behind
the dunes is The Hiddenvlei.
The route is marked with wooden poles.
The first part of the journey
takes you over a clay pan. Note the changing shades of the dunes as
the sun moves higher in the sky. You'll see plenty of Springbok and
Gemsbok (Oryx) tracks. The vlei is possibly the
least visited of all and offers you an opportunity to enjoy some
solitude surrounded by a unique and impressive scene of desert beauty.
About Sand Dunes:
About 90 to 95 percent of the dune sand is silica (quartz). You will
notice that many dunes have dark streaked areas. Feldspar with
magnatite and iliminite shows as blackish stripes, while streaks of
garnet sand show as a reddish maroon.
The sands in the Sossusvlei area
were not carried there by ancient floods, but have been transported by
east winds from the central eastern area of Namibia, where you can
also see the red colored sands. The grains of sand have a thin
coating of iron oxide giving them their
In several of the areas around
Sossusvlei you can see dual-colored dunes having the upper dune of red
and the foot section a buff-grey. The latter color being calcerous
silts caused by the weathering of limestone debris that the Tsauchab
River long ago carried from the Naukluft and Zaris Mountains to the
area. The floors of the vleis are, in areas, attractively patterned
with the cracked clayey-silt.
The dunes in the Sossusvlei region are referred to as being Star
Dunes. The winds that blow across this area are subject to seasonal
change blowing from the north-west, the south-west, the south-east and
the north-east. These multi-directional winds appear to be responsible
for the stability of the dunes as there appears to be little, if any
directional movement of the dunes around Sossusvlei.
Dune-Slope: When airborne sand is caused to settle it forms
a slope on the windward side (the dune-slope) between 0 - 20 degrees.
An angle of about 14 degrees seems to be the
average. The windward side of the dune retains an amount of water
which helps with stability and it is on the dune-slope that plant-life
can take hold.
Dune Slip-Face: Particles of dry
sand begin to slide down the leeward side of the dune structure when
the angle becomes greater than 32 degrees. The soft dry sand on the
slip-face is better aerated than the sand of the dune-slope and it is
on the slip-face that you will find the sand dwelling insects,
reptiles and small mammals. The crest of the dune can be pointed, or
with varying wind conditions become elongated thus forming a flattened
section of the dune-crest. Such as with Dune 45.
The Massive Dunes of the Hidden-Vlei