Sossusvlei

Characterised by stark red-gold dunes dissipating into the horizon, Sossusvlei is a remarkable salt and clay pan situated in the southern Namib Desert region, in the Namib-Naukluft National Park. With its name translating to ‘dead-end marsh’ the region acts as an endorheic drainage basin for the transient Tsauchab River.

The landscape is a photographer’s dream – picture desolate dunes painted in dusky pink and vivid orange hues and uniquely patterned by the wind. A lone gemsbok treads intrepidly across the sloping precipice of the dune, leaving solitary footsteps in the sand. Sossusvlei is a place of haunting beauty that resonates with the soul. Here, an alluring silence presides and the ancient dunes seem unchanging and otherworldly – a land cloaked in myth.

The dunes colouration is due to the oxidation of iron in the sand – the redder the sandbanks are, the older their existence. In Sossusvlei, many of the dunes tower above 200 metres in height, ranking them amongst the tallest in the world. Big Daddy is the highest of these, reaching an astonishing height of 380 metres.

Despite the harsh conditions of the desert, life still manages to thrive and many of the dunes are partially adorned with rich vegetation, particularly when the vlei receives its seasonal floods. The Sossusvlei Pans are white in colour, due to the high concentration of salt contained in their crust. The area surprisingly supports an abundance of fauna, including antelope, jackals, ostriches, small reptiles and birds. The Namib Desert Beetle is a particularly enterprising species, which uses a bump in its back to gather moisture from early morning fogs.

Keep an eye out for petrified dunes – billion year old sandbanks that have solidified into rock over the years. No luxury train trip to Namibia is complete without a visit to the Sossusvlei salt and clay pans – this remarkable spectacle presents an unforgettable visage.