Situated in the largest conservation area in Africa (the Namib-Naukluft National Park), Sossusvlei is possibly Namibia’s most spectacular and best-known African safari attraction. Characterized by the large red dunes that glow glow in the sunset that surround it, Sossusvlei is a large, white, salt and clay pan. The dunes in this area are some of the highest in the world, reaching almost 400 meters, and provide enthusiasts with unparalleled photographic opportunities in the beautiful morning and evening light.
Sossusvlei literally translates to “dead-end marsh”, as it is the place where the dunes come together preventing the Tsauchab River to flow any further, some 60km east of the Atlantic Ocean. However, due to the dry conditions in the Namib Desert the River seldom flows this far and the pan remains bone-dry most years.
During an exceptional rainy season the Tsauchab fills the pan, drawing visitors from all over the world to witness this spectacular site. The glassy “lake” holds reflections of the surrounding dunes, seemingly splitting off in an alternate reality. When the pan fills it can hold water for as long as a year.
Despite the harsh desert conditions in the area, one can find a wide variety of plants and animals that have adapted to survive. The wildlife mostly consist of small animals that can survive with little water, including a number of arthropods, small reptiles and small mammalians such as rodents or jackals. Larger animals include antelopes (mainly oryxes and springboks) and ostriches. During the flood season, several migrant bird species appear along the marshes and rivers. Much of the Sossusvlei and Namib fauna is endemic and highly adapted to the specific features of the Namib. Most notably, fog beetles such as the Namib Desert Beetle have developed a technique for collecting water from early morning fogs through the bumps in their back.
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