Sossusvlei was one of the anchor points of the trip, a destination we had built our itinerary around and had been looking forward to for months.
The evening prior we talked with the gate guard and found out that for Sossusvlei you pay the park fees when you leave – not when you arrive – so our plan was to go to breakfast around 7am, then head straight to the dunes after the early crush of tour buses.
We got to the park gate around 8am and registered as car #50. To beat the sun, we decide to drive straight to the 2×4 car park, only stopping a briefly along the way for photos with the beautiful morning light. As you can see in the photo below, the road in the park is paved, which was a nice reprieve after two days on gravel roads.
To get all the way to Deadvlei you must traverse ~5km of soft sand. There are three options:
- park in the lot and hike the 5km to the main dunes
- reduce the air in our tires and attempt the deep sand in our rental truck
- pay for the 4×4 shuttle – 170N$ (~$12 USD) return, so rather pricey.
We chose #3. The shuttle dropped everyone off at Deadvlei but I asked if we could go further on to Big Mamma and our driver obliged. We were dropped off at 9:30am and enjoyed the hike immensely. There was a group about ten minutes ahead of us (you can see them at the top of the ridge in the next photo) so we barely saw them and essentially had the dune to ourselves. Amazing and easily one of the highlights of this trip!
Although we did pretty well walking up the dune, coming down our shoes were completely full of sand! So we found some shade near the pick-up spot and emptied (most) the sand out of our shoes. After a few minutes a truck came and picked us up – by 10:45am we were at Deadvlei (dead-flay).
It’s about a 1km walk from the 4×4 parking area to the pan and the views were stunning. With the sun directly overhead it was HOT, 38 degrees C, so we decided not to hike up Big Daddy and just enjoy the pan.
By 11:45am we were just about out of water, so we grabbed the next shuttle back to the 2×4 lot and finished off a peanut butter sandwich each in the car.
After paying our park fees and stopping at the Sesriem gas station for a few beverages, we went back to the room for a much needed shower and relaxed for a few hours.
Around 5pm we returned to the park (passes are good for 24 hours) to make a quick visit to Sesriem Canyon. Just a few kilometers from the gate, it’s a nice short hike through a surprisingly deep canyon. As a bonus, it is several degrees cooler and shady in the late afternoon.
We were only in the canyon for about 45 minutes but if you have the time it is definitely worth a stop.
Sesriem was everything we hoped it would be, and making the trek to this wonderfully photogenic desert was well worth it.