Sossusvlei dune © Judith Duk
One of Namibia's highlights is the clay pans of Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert, enclosed by magnificent ochre sand dunes. The Sossusvlei dunes are among the highest in the world, reaching more than 960 feet (300m), and are a wondrous sight of endless rolling shapes and sharp wind-sculpted crests. Although they have been developed over a period of millions of years, their forms are constantly changing, rising and falling at the mercy of the wind. A climb to the top of one of these 'hills' is well worth the effort, especially at sunrise or sunset, when the view of shifting sand, stretching as far as the eye can see, is an ethereal and magnificent sight.
The most impressive pan is Dead Vlei, a vast, hollow depression of dry cracked mud scattered with ancient camel-thorn trees. The colours and contrasts here are a photographer's delight. The pans (vleis) are only ever filled with water after heavy rainfall, which happens only every couple of years, but the solid clay layers hold the water for a long time, providing a habitat for countless water birds and a drinking hole for animals. The beautiful black and white Oryx (a large, spiral-horned antelope) is occasionally spotted in the meagre shade of the thorn trees, lizards leave their tiny trails on the pristine mounds of sand, and the black 'tok tokkie' beetle is commonly seen stumbling over the sun-baked jigsaw puzzle pieces of the red clay surface. The area is also home to ostriches and springbok.
Visitors should note that the sand dunes of Sossusvlei are located roughly 37 miles (60km) from the Sesriem Gate, which is the entrance to the park. The drive from the gate takes about an hour.
Opening times: Sunrise to sunset.
Admission: NAD 80, NAD 60 (SADC residents), vehicles NAD 10