Sossusvlei Namibia is one of the most beautiful place I have ever visited. With its beauty comes many unexpected perils you will encounter. My goal for this guide is to help you be better prepared for your journey to Sossusvlei.
Here are some things you need to watch out for when visiting Sossusvlei:
1) The fluctuating temperature
The temperature in Namibia changes drastically from day to night. Daytime temperature can reach up to 40 degrees Celsius while night time temperature can drop to as low as 7 degrees in the month of October (when I went). In Winter, nighttime temperature can drop as low as 0 degrees Celsius making for a very cold night!
Karen and myself slept in the car when we arrived at the camp site. We barely slept because the night was so cold and we didn’t bring a blanket to keep us warm. Make sure to bring a blanket if you plan on staying on the campgrounds (which most people do) and lots of warm clothes. I can’t stress enough how cold it really gets at night.
2) The terrible road conditions
The road conditions in Namibia are horrible. Expect to drive on dirt roads, gravel, rocks and sand. Paved roads only exist in bigger cities. If you decide to rent a car in Windhoek to drive all the way to Sossusvlei, be sure to rent a 4×4 vehicle. Renting a 4×4 vehicle or one that is higher off ground will prevent any accidents when driving. I was in a car accident while my group was driving back to Windhoek from Sossusvlei. This could have been avoided if we had a higher off the ground vehicle or if the person driving the car drove very conservatively and cautiously.
3) Running out of available car rentals
Car rentals get sold out very quickly in Namibia because there are literally only two ways to reach Sossusvlei. You either rent a car or you join a tour group. Joining a tour group is quite expensive (but probably worth it in my opinion if you want to enjoy your time and not worry about logistics) so most people opt for the car rental route.
Most cars are also manual transmission so if you don’t book ahead, you might not be able to get an automatic transmission vehicle. 4×4 vehicles also sell out very quickly and you don’t want to take a risk and drive a car to Sossusvlei.
We personally made a mistake and didn’t book ahead of time and ended up with a manual transmission Toyota Corolla. The car we rented was literally the last vehicle available for rent in the entire city and we had to pay more as a result. We could have saved more money and rented a high off the ground vehicle if we had the bookings months in advance.
4) Potential car accidents
Due to the terrible road conditions, the accident rate when driving to Sossusvlei from Windhoek is quite high. My group was involved in a car crash. Thankfully we purchased insurance. Despite having issues with the other individuals not helping pay for the car damage, it could have been worst for me if we didn’t buy insurance. I still had to pay for the deductible but at least there was a cap on how much we had to pay.
How to Climb Dune 45 and Big Daddy
Dune 45 is the easier dune to climb of the two in Sossusvlei. The view is spectacular and is best summited during sunrise or sunset. When climbing the dune, it helps to climb with your bare feet or with just your socks so you can get better traction. Every time you take a step, you will slide down a little (think two steps up and one step down) and this can be prevented by not wearing footwear.
Big Daddy is the highest dune in the Sossuvlei area. The hike to the dune’s summit takes at least an hour or more so be sure to bring extra water. The desert gets really hot during the day so it’s best to do the hike before sunrise.
If you do get caught hiking it during the day just like I did, make sure to bring a hat because the sun will blind you and give you a headache. Don’t forget to hydrate yourself as you summit to the top. The sand also gets very hot and climbing with shoes might be a better idea or at the very least, with your socks.
When Karen and myself did the hike, we ran low on water. Because we were dehydrated, we immediately started feeling fatigue, weak and light headed. The sand was also very hot which burned my feet and I ended up putting my sandals back on as I climbed to the top of the dune.
Was the climb worth it? Most definitely! But we would have been spared the pain and suffering if we went very early on the day.
After you complete hiking Big Daddy (and also Dune 45), you don’t need to hike back down. Simply run down the dune! It’s quite safe and fun.
Deadvlei is the preserved dead trees that cover the hardened clay and salt pan right below Big Daddy. Because of lack of moisture in the area, the trees never decay and ended up in their preserved state. The petrified trees make for some amazing photography. Take your time when taking a picture and don’t come home regretting not taking a good photo.
Namibia is a country rich in amazing landscapes. Sossusvlei is definitely a photographer’s paradise and should not be missed. If you plan on travelling in South Africa or other neighbouring countries, do yourself a favour and don’t miss stopping by Namibia. Make sure to come prepared and book all your car rentals and accommodation ahead of time. Doing so will save yourself from un-necessary stress. And if you have the funds available, I’d even recommend joining a tour group to avoid the logistical nightmare.