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James Sales Travel Director
By James S 10 February 2022

What to do in Sossusvlei: An Adventure Through The Namib Desert

During an amazing trip to Namibia, I spent three days in Sossusvlei, and although I might have only seen the odd oryx and jackal the visit was one of the highlights of my holiday, and I wouldn’t have wanted to have spent any less time there!

"Apart from the big game of Etosha National Park and the desert-adapted species of Damaraland, Namibia is not the most wildlife-rich destination. But the country has so much more to offer than game viewing, especially if you are an active traveller who can’t sit still. During my recent trip to Namibia, I spent three days in Sossusvlei, and although I might have only seen the odd oryx and jackal the visit was one of the highlights of my holiday and I wouldn’t have wanted to have spent any less time there!"

Below, YZ James details the highlights of his adventure to Sossusvlei. If you are interested to chat with him or you'd like to know more, don't hesitate to contact us here, or give us a call on +44 (0)20 8547 2305 to discuss your travel plans today.

Climb the sand dunes in Sossusvlei

Big daddy Namib Desert
Holiday in Sossusvlei

Obviously the main attraction is the area’s enormous dunes, and spending a day in the dunescape was definitely one of the highlights of all my trips to Africa. We started early to make sure we were in the park before anyone else, heading to Big Daddy (Sossusvlei’s tallest dune) to start our climb before it got too hot. The climb typically takes an hour. It amounts to quite a tough workout, but it is worth it once you get to the top as the views are nothing short of exceptional – endless dunes and dead vlei below. For me, this was the best way to see the dunes, and nothing beats running down them at the end – you can’t not laugh the whole way down! Big Daddy is just as impressive from the ground, and the less fit can walk to the white clay pan known as Deadvlei (10–15 minutes on flat terrain) for photo opportunities that have generated screensavers on computers for years! 

Go on scenic drives and nature walks

Namib Desert Sossusvlei
Sand dunes Namib Desert

That afternoon, as we had spent most of the day at the dunes, we went on a short excursion to Sesriem Canyon. This may not have been the highlight of the three days, but the area is certainly worth a visit. The canyon formed as a result of water carving its way through the earth for millions of years. It is approximately 3 kilometres long, and walking through it reveals all the distinct geographical layers created during its formation. Still incredible scenery, but hard to beat what I’d done in the morning!

Other activities that are very commonly offered in Sossusvlei are scenic drives and nature walks. The scenery here is stunning, and the dunes look like a mountain range on Mars – you could easily spend a lot of time just walking and appreciating the beauty of this area!

Explore the desert on an e-bike

However, some of the local lodges provide other, more exciting ways to appreciate the scenery. For example, Kulala Desert Lodge has just introduced e-bikes. I wasn’t expecting anything big from this activity, as cycling a fat bike through a desert sounded like a lot of hard work, but the tiny motor on the bike really does have an impact! Very little effort got me to speeds of 40kph, and I was overtaking the hot air balloons above my head. What makes this activity so special is how quiet it is – you are exploring this incredible environment, and you don’t have the noise that comes with a car ruining it. Although you can get to fast speeds, you really can have a very peaceful experience – one that I would opt to do again in a heartbeat!

E bikes Namib Desert
 

Cover the distance on a quad bike

Kulala Desert Lodge’s more luxurious sister camp, Little Kulala, doesn’t offer the e-bikes, but it does give you the opportunity to quad bike through the reserve – I did this in the afternoon, after my e-bike. The quad bikes were the complete opposite of the e-bikes – there’s nothing peaceful about them in any way, but what fun! Noisy, fast, and dusty, they allowed us to cover huge distances, between various viewing points and through the dried-up river bed. After a short briefing and lesson, anyone can go quad biking, and the group is split up into different speeds – there is no reason not to do it at Little Kulala, and it is something you could really regret not doing!

Quad biking Namib Desert
 

What other activities are there to try in Sossusvlei?

Hot air ballooning

Another popular activity in Sossusvlei is ballooning, an extra available from pretty much every camp in the area. An early start gets you to the take-off spot in time to be in the air for sunrise, when you sail over the edge of the red dunes. The views are exceptional, and you get a full hour in the air followed by a champagne breakfast.

Stargaze at Namibia's dark skies

Finally, a real highlight for me was stargazing! Africa is known for having some of the best night skies, but nothing compares to what I saw in Namibia. Also, many of the guides are trained in astrology and they can show you the various stars, planets, and constellations. I really did learn a lot, and a 10 minute lesson quickly turned into an hour of learning the night sky with the aid of my guide and her laser pointer.

If you are interested in planning a safari to Namibia, you can call us on +44 (0)20 8547 2305 or if you’d prefer to talk to an expert like James, don’t hesitate to contact us here.

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