Namibia - Sossusvlei
The sand dunes of Sossusvlei
in the Namib Desert are often referred to as the
highest dunes in the world. Various arguments
are laid out to support this claim, but all miss
the point, which is that Sossusvlei is surely
one of the most spectacular sights in Namibia.
Located in the Namib Naukluft park, the largest
conservation area in Africa, and fourth largest
in the world - the sand dunes at Sossusvlei are
just one excellent reason to visit Namibia.
The best time to view Sossusvlei
is at sunrise; the colours are strong and constantly
changing, allowing for wonderful photographic
opportunities. The midday heat is intense and
best spent in the shade while sunset also offers
excellent photo opportunities at Sossusvlei.
'Vlei' is the Afrikaans word
for a shallow depression filled with water (well,
a depression that might sometimes be filled with
water!), and the name 'Sossusvlei' should strictly
only be applied to the pan that lies at the place
where the dunes close in, preventing the waters
of the Tsauchab River from flowing any further
- that is, on the rare occasions that the river
does flow as far as this. During exceptional rainy
seasons, Sossusvlei may fill with water, causing
Namibians to flock there to witness the grand
sight, but normally it is bone dry. This particular
'vlei' is actually a more-or-less circular, hard-surfaced
depression that is almost entirely surrounded
by sharp-edged dunes, beyond which lies a formidable
sea of rolling sand, stretching in unbroken immensity
all the way to the coast. However, the name 'Sossusvlei'
nowdays applies to the whole area - an area that
encompasses the great plain of the Tsauchab River
together with the red dunes that march along like
giant sentinels to south and north of the plain.
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