Sossusvlei is one of Namibia’s most popular tourist destinations. The name ‘Sossusvlei’ is often used as a blanket term for the area in which Sossusvlei is located, a part of the Namib Desert situated in the Namib-Naukluft National Park, in Southern Namibia. Sossusvlei itself is actually one of the famous ‘vleis’ in the area, the others being the Deadvlei and the Hiddenvlei. The word ‘vlei’ comes from the Afrikaans word meaning ‘marsh’. The vleis are so named because they have formed after being storage basins for the Tsauchab river, with no outflow points, creating wet and marshy basins during times of rain, and drying out to form white salt pans when it is dry (which is the majority of the year). 

The gateway to the Namib Naukluft National Park, leading to Sossusvlei, is called Sesriem. About 4kms away from Sesriem, is the Sesriem Canyon. The Sesriem Canyon is a small but magnificent canyon, carved out by the Tsauchab River, stretching for about one kilometer. It gets up to 30 meters deep, and some parts of the canyon are only about 2 meters wide. The name ‘sesriem’ comes from a combination of two Afrikaans words; ‘ses’ meaning ‘six’, and ‘riem’ meaning ‘rawhide thong’. This name originated from the Dorsland Trekkers who settled in the area. They discovered that it would take the length of 6 rawhide thongs tied to a bucket to reach water at the bottom of the canyon at one specific point. This part of the canyon still has water that is enjoyed by the animals of the area. 

Just beyond the entrance into Sesriem, you will need to stop at the permit office, and purchase a permit for the number of people in your group, and for the amount of days that you will be visiting the park. The payment for this permit is important as it goes towards ensuring the upkeep of the national park facilities, as well as the conservation efforts for the landscape and the wildlife. Once you’ve acquired your permit, you will continue towards the actual gate of the national park, which opens at sunrise, and closes at sunset. The specific opening and closing times will be on display at the gate, and will vary around 7am and 7pm. Once in the park, after a 5km drive you will reach the iconic Elim Dune, which is a tall orange sand dune and is popular to climb and visit for sunsets, as it isn’t too far from the gate. Further into the park, you will find Dune 45, which is so named because it is found 45 km after the gate, and it is also a popular dune to climb. About 60 kms into the park, you will reach a parking spot where 2×4 cars will need to stop. Sossusvlei is about 6km further from this stop, but a 4-wheel drive vehicle is required to reach it because from this point onwards, the tarmac road changes to a thick sand road. The Hiddenvlei is a 4km walk from the 2×4 parking spot, and the Deadvlei is about 2km away from Sossusvlei. All the beautiful vleis are therefore in the same vicinity, making it easy and convenient to visit them all. And trust me, it would be worth it. 

Remember to always be mindful of the environment! The Namib Desert is the oldest desert in the world, and has a fragile and unique ecosystem. There is a reason that Sossusvlei is Namibia’s most visited tourist attraction: because it is an absolutely beautiful landscape, and a sight to behold like no other. However, we need to work together to keep it that way! When visiting, make sure to leave no trace by keeping your rubbish and discarding it responsibly back at your accommodation, as well as respecting the fauna and flora. No matter how tempting it is to climb the dead trees in the Deadvlei, please don’t! These trees are hundreds of years old, petrified in time, and they are integral to the beauty of the Deadvlei – a symbol of strength to withstand time, but without human interference.

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Discovering the Dead Valley Lodge

As you drive South from Windhoek, you may think that the landscape can’t get any more spectacular, and you will be surprised to discover that it gets more and more interesting along the way. You will leave Windhoek on the B1, travelling South through the mountainous Windhoek surrounding area, on tar road until you eventually turn off onto a gravel road. This is where the real fun begins. Depending on which route you have taken, you might get to the Spreetshoogte pass, which is an incredible drive through the Khomas Hochland Mountain Range. When you reach the top of the pass, you will need to stop and marvel at the view across the immense plains that stretch for hundreds of kilometers, before continuing your journey. Finally, shortly after having stopped for a coffee a slice of famous apple pie from McGregor’s Bakery in Solitaire, you arrive in Sesriem, the gateway to the famous Sossusvlei Desert.

It’ll probably be busy when you arrive at the Sesriem gate and go into the permit office. After all, Sossusvlei is Namibia’s most popular tourist attraction. However, once you’ve gotten your permit and continue towards the Dead Valley Lodge, you’ll slowly feel like you’re entering into another world. When the lodge comes into view, it doesn’t fail to amaze. The architecture is fascinating, but it doesn’t stand out like an eyesore against the serene desert background. In fact, it seems to blend in with its surroundings, as the iconic metal structure in front of the lodge is evocative of majestic shape of the desert dunes. 

Upon entering into the lodge lobby, you are greeted with the welcome sounds of cascading water from several water features, like entering into an oasis, and offered a refreshing cold-drink. You are also met with the incredible sight of the lodge interior. The word ‘interior’ may not even be the correct way to describe it, because everything is wonderfully open, so much so that there is no real barrier between the interior and exterior. If I’m making it sound like a fairytale, it’s because it is. The openness of the main lodge creates a lovely sense escape and relaxation, and looking out into the desert plains whilst sitting on a big comfy couch with a refreshing beverage is pure bliss. 

The accommodation at the Dead Valley Lodge consists of 20 luxury tented chalets. Each chalet is equipped with all the essentials; a kitchenette with fridge and coffee/tea station, air-conditioning, safe, and more. The chalets stand facing out towards the desert, and the tented walls have large ‘windows’ which can be opened to reveal the incredible view of the landscape. Each chalet is also free-standing, and feels like a private villa. The room and bathroom are spacious and impeccably decorated, and each chalet has a private patio with a table and chairs, which is the ideal spot to have a morning coffee and gaze out at the nature, and sometimes you are even greeted by the desert wildlife, such as the majestic oryx, who roam about the desert plains.

Another highlight of the Dead Valley Lodge is one thing that is important to everyone: the food. Every evening, the dinner buffet is laid out like a spread fit for royalty. You wouldn’t imagine that a lodge in the desert, in a remote part of Namibia would be able to serve such fresh and scrumptious cuisine. The starter spread is made up of a wide variety of foods including smoked salmon, prawns and calamari, fragrant soups, and fresh bread and salads. The main course is a special experience on its own; you choose your steak from a variety of meats (including ostrich and crocodile!), which is then seared to perfection, according to your preference, in front of you on one of the buffet grills. You also have a large selection of sides including vegetables and sauces. The dessert (not to be confused with Desert – both are incredible at Dead Valley) is no less spectacular, with options ranging from a warm, baked Southern African Malva pudding, to cheesecakes, chocolate mousses, and more. Lunch and breakfast are served à la carte.

If you aren’t spending your time relaxing by the idyllic pool, or reading in the lobby lounge, or unwinding in your chalet, you could go on one of the scenic drives that Dead Valley Lodge offers. You can’t go to Sossusvlei and not visit the iconic Deadvlei at sunrise, which the Dead Valley is named after. It is the most pristine and surreal desert landscape, with the fossilised trees standing in stark contrast against the bright orange dunes, rising up from the white salt pan. Or, you can go on a sunset drive and have a guided walk on the Elim dunes, where you will be able to sit and enjoy the sunset with a refreshing beverage. You can also choose to go to the Sesriem Canyon, which is like a hidden gem, lying beneath the earth’s surface. It is awe-inspiring to walk in the canyon, between the tall canyon walls and magnificent rock formations. 

Overall, my time at the Dead Valley Lodge was one that I won’t soon forget. Its location, views, services, and activities create an atmosphere and experience that can aptly be described with one word: magical. I will most certainly be going back for more. 

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Getting Around in Namibia

From far away, planning a trip to Namibia may seem daunting. But, we want to help make it easier by giving you some advice for planning your travels, and what to consider before arriving as well as during your stay. The topic for our first blog post is: Getting Around in Namibia!

Namibia is a BIG country. Fortunately, there are several options for transport when travelling around Namibia.

Getting around in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. 

First, you need to consider that Windhoek’s airport, Hosea Kutako International Airport, is about 40 kilometers outside of Windhoek itself. So, it’s important to arrange transport from the airport into town. There are numerous shuttle services available that do airport transfers to Windhoek, which makes it simpler to find and book your transfer. Otherwise, you can rent a car at the airport from one of the several car rental companies. You can easily find these and book online.

Once you’re in Windhoek, getting around isn’t too difficult. Popular international companies like Uber aren’t available in Namibia, but we have our own version called LEFA. LEFA is the Namibian Uber, and it is a very new, exciting and convenient method of transportation in and around the city. It works the same way that Uber does, you download the LEFA app from the App Store or Google Play, register with a cellphone number, and voilà, you are ready to request your lift. And, you do not need to stress about always needing WiFi connectivity to be online in Namibia, because SIM cards are easily and cheaply available, and data prices are comparatively low. But do take note, LEFA rides have to be paid in cash at the end of your trip, because the app does not yet accept cashless payment methods. Another cab company is called Dial-A-Cab, which works exactly as its name describes, you phone them and they send you a cab.

There are also a huge amount of public taxis in windhoek, and they are easily recognisable because of the large numbers on their cars, in order to identify them. These taxis are cheap and easy to come across, but it is important to have your wits about you in terms of safety, and they may not always drive very responsibly. Namibia is a safe country,  but it always helps to practise caution and be alert when travelling in a new place. 

[Sun Karros Lifestyle Safaris’ Daan Viljoen Lodge and Daan Viljoen Campsites  also offer transport services into Windhoek, to take guests to and from the most exciting and popular local spots and activities.]

Public transport in towns and cities, such as busses, are purely catered to local commuters and would not be of much service to tourists and travellers. 

And there you go! Now you know how you would get from place to place in Windhoek, whether you are dining out in one of Windhoek’s many restaurants, going to a Windhoek city market, or just generally want to get out of the hotel. You can almost always be guaranteed of good weather in Windhoek, so you might as well make the best of the visit!

Getting around the rest of Namibia.

If you are planning on travelling extensively throughout Namibia, the easiest way is to have your own rental car. However, the more remote you go, the more things you need to take into consideration and plan for. Many of the smaller, less used roads will only be accessible with a 4 wheel-drive car, either a Land Cruiser SUV or a pick-up truck (known locally as a bakkie). You would also need to be prepared with extra fuel, in case you get lost or reach a place that is too remote, and may not have fuel available. In Namibia, it’s very easy to drive for hundreds of kilometres and not reach any towns! 

If you do not want to hire a car to travel around Namibia, the other option would be to take a bus. There are several bus services, the most popular being Intercape MainLiner which has routes from Windhoek going to all of the major towns in Namibia, as well as through to Cape Town, South Africa. To get the most of a Namibian safari experience, we recommend that you gear up, rent a car, and explore this beautiful country in its entirety. The most prominent feature that you should be setting your sights on is Sossusvlei. This beautiful pan is located in the Namib Naukluft National Park, one of the biggest national parks in the world.  It is known for its majestic red dunes and vast open expanse, and you can experience this either by camping at Sesriem Oshana Campsites, or you can live it up in luxury at our Dead Valley Lodge. The Dead Valley Lodge also offers scenic drives into the national park, giving guided tours of Sossusvlei and the not-to-be-missed Deadvlei. 

Between Windhoek and Swakopmund, the easiest way to travel is a shuttle bus. There are numerous easy, reliable and inexpensive shuttle bus services that run daily between the two towns. You would definitely want to make the trip through to Swakopmund, Namibia’s picturesque coastal town. It is about a 4 hour drive away from Windhoek, and when you arrive, you will immediately notice the vast expanse of sand dunes to your left as you enter into the town. Although Swakopmund weather is slightly less predictable than Windhoek weather, with the sun shining bright on some days and the mist hanging low and thick on others, there are always things to do in this little town. 

Outdoor adventure activities include beach days, catamaran tours, visiting the iconic Swakopmund Jetty, quad biking tours through the dunes, and dining out at the locally beloved Windpomp 14 restaurant, known for its seafood and live music. Indoor activities are also numerous, such as a visit to the aquarium or museum, or browsing the quaint and quirky shops and restaurants in the Swakopmund town centre.