Sossusvlei is a salt and clay pan surrounded by high red dunes, located in the southern part of the Namib Desert, in the Namib-Naukluft National Park of Namibia. The name “Sossusvlei” is often used in an extended meaning to refer to the surrounding area, which is one of the major visitor attractions of Namibia.
It was created by the Tsauchab river that flows through the Sesriem Canyon every 5 to 10 years. Even in very wet years it does not reach the Atlantic Ocean but drains away between the dunes of Sossusvlei. Sossus means “place of no return”.
The Sossusvlei area belongs to a wider region of southern Namib with homogeneous features extending between rivers Koichab and Kuiseb. This area of Sossusvlei is characterized by high sand dunes of vivid pink-to-orange color, an indication of a high concentration of iron in the sand and consequent oxidation processes. These dunes are among the highest in the world; many of them are above 200 meters.
Interesting Facts About Sossusvlei
- Sossusvlei is a salt and clay pan created by the Tsauchab river that flows through the Sesriem Canyon every 5 to 10 years.
- The word Sossusvlei originates from two languages, Nama and Afrikaans. It literally translates to “dead-end” (from the Nama word “Sossus”) “marsh” (from the Afrikaans word “Vlei”).
- Located in the Namib Naukluft park, the largest conservation area in Africa, and fourth largest in the world – the sand dunes at Sossusvlei are just one excellent reason to visit Namibia.
- The best time to view this area is close to sunrise and sunset; the colors are strong and constantly changing, allowing for wonderful photographic opportunities. The midday heat is intense and best spent in the shade.
- The dunes around the Sossusvlei area are known as “star dunes” due to the wind shaping them from all directions.
- Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei in two valleys side-by-side in the Namib. One has living trees, and on rare occasions gets snow or rain. The other is completely cut off from all water sources and the trees are just dead stumps.
- The belief that nothing could survive in temperatures that surpass 40ºC during the day and fall to below freezing at night is a real one. Water is scarce but life still manages to exist under the sand.
- The pan has been shaped over time by the Tsauchab river, the actual flooding of the pan is a relatively rare event, and sometimes several years pass between one flood and the next one.
- The river is dry most of the year, and even when it is not, it carries relatively little water to the vlei.
- As a consequence of its fascinating and surrealistic landscapes, It is one of the most photographed places in Subsaharan Africa.