Sossusvlei Dunes, Namibia
Pictures and videos of the Sossusvlei Dunes are everywhere and these images are synonymous with Namibia. This specific location has become iconic and Namibia tourism has vastly increased, even just over the last five years.
Traveling to the Sossusvlei Dunes
Like anywhere in Southern Africa, Sossusvlei is quite a distance from any other activity in the region. The only entrance to the dunes is through Sesriem along the C27. There will be signs for Sesriem, but not for Sossusvlei.
To enter the dune field, there is a conservation fee per car of N$330.
From Sesriem, it is about a 30 minute drive to Dune 45. This dune is famous because of its proximity to the road. This is not the highest dune and any pictures from this dune have a lot of traffic on the other side.
Continue on the same (only) road until you get to Sossusvlei which will be about an hour from Sesriem. This is the point where you will need a car with 4×4 capabilities and prior driving experience. The sand is deep and hard to traverse. There are dune buggies that transport visitors from this point into the dune field. It will cost you N$200 each person for a round trip ride.
*Please note that they added Road D826 for easier access from larger cities like Swakopmund. We did not know this so we added about an hour on to our driving time for the day.
Camping and Accommodation at the Sossusvlei Dunes
Camping and Accommodation at the Sossusvlei Dunes is limited. I cannot stress this enough, it is limited. There is no accommodation or camping actually in Sossusvlei, but rather in Sesriem. There is the Sesriem Campsite, Sossusvlei Lodge, Sossusveli Oasis Campsite and the Desert campsite all at the same intersection. You will need to book months in advance to get any of these .
We stayed at The Sesriem Campsite both times we have gone. The first time we had a reservation, but for this most recent trip, we did not have a reservation. We had attempted to make a reservation here three months in advance, and much to our surprise, that was not sufficient as they said they were fully booked. They also claimed to not have any overflow camping, despite us knowing that they in fact do from our previous trip. The overflow lot holds six more groups of campers. They do not advertise this, but know that it is an option if you mention it to a worker. These overflow sites are first come, first served so they will go quickly. Despite arriving quite early in the morning, we got the last spot, a stark contrast from our first visit.
The ablutions are basic and there is no source of fresh water for drinking, so all water must be purchased. There is a nice pool area which Oryx often walk by. There is also a restaurant and bar that is something special. It looks exactly like what an African Lodge should look like; thatched roof, paddle fans, and all wood. Please note that the service is slow…very slow. If you are there for a meal, be prepared for at least an hour wait.
On this specific trip, it was extremely hot (48C/118F) and we arrived early to get an overflow campsite. We stayed in the lodge most of the day and played cards while drinking bottles and bottles of water. The pool felt like bathwater and we could only be in the sun for so long. Be prepared for extreme weather!
Activities at the Sossusvlei Dunes
Depending on the season you visit, some activities will change. We went in the Spring which had extreme heat. We woke up around 4:45am to be in the line at 5:30am to drive to the dunes. In Spring, Summer, and Fall, I would recommend getting up as early as possible to enter when the dune field opens. The dunes get unbearably hot to walk on and for safety concerns, it is best to be off of the dunes early in the day.
There are two main areas that people hike; Dune 45 and Big Daddy. As described above, Dune 45 in part of the way into the dune field and directly off of the road. It is not the highest, so it is quick to hike up.
Big Daddy is the highest sand dune in the world and I cannot recommend it enough. This is past the point that you will need either a 4×4 or to hitch a ride on the dune buggy.
This hike takes about 2-3 hours up and 10 minutes down, depending on your fitness level.
We started hiking the dunes at sunrise which was around 6:15am. By the time we left the dune area, it was 10:00am and 35C/95F.
Bring a lot of water, some snacks, sunscreen, hats, and shoes.
Where is Deadvlei?
Deadvlei has gained popularity on Social Media and for good reason- it is beautiful. This dried up lake adds to the ruggedness of this region. There are two ways to get to Deadvlei, easy and hard.
Easy Access: You will need to take the 4×4 or dune buggy ride to the dune field where you would enter to hike Big Daddy. You will stop in a dried lake and you can hike two ways. Big Daddy will be to the left and a small wall of sand will be to the right. From there, it will be about a 20-25 minute walk to get to the small sand wall, but after you cross it, Deadvlei will be on the other side.
Hard Access: If you want to hike Big Daddy anyway, after you hike it, you will have access to Deadvlei. Once you get to the top, you will be able to look down the steepest side and see Deadvlei at the bottom. Run down the steep side of the dune (10 minutes) and you will be entering Deadvlei from behind.
I recommend the Hard Access way as you get to see the full scale of Deadvlei rather than just some of the dead trees. You will be able to take more pictures without other people from the hard access way as well. All of our pictures with no people in the background are due to entering via the hard access way.
Be prepared, Deadvlei will be busy.
Overall Thoughts on the Sossusvlei Dunes
If you are traveling to Namibia, the dunes are a must see. Nothing can quite describe the dunes at sunrise. If you are physically able to, please take the time to hike a dune. Once you get to the top, the dune field spreads as far as the eye can see. The Namib desert is the oldest desert in the world and you truly feel like you are in a different time.
The tourism drastically increased from 2013 to 2017, but was still worth fighting through to get this experience.
This particular trip to Namibia was completed with our two friends, Courtney and Tyler. It was both of their first times in South Africa/Namibia so it was an obvious choice to do our 10 day trip with both of them!
This was night 3 of 9 nights on the itinerary. This day was Betta Campsite to Sesriem.
Courtney is a blogger as well- check her website out: https://awanderingbroadabroad.wordpress.com/
Pictures from our 2013 trip: