"A jolly useful mud map of Sesriem/Sossusvlei" Top 5 Page for this destination Namib-Naukluft Park Things to Do Tip by CatherineReichardt
Namib-Naukluft Park Things to Do: 81 reviews and 169 photos
I have always found this little sketch plan (what the Aussies endearingly call a 'mud map') extremely useful in planning my visits to the Sesriem/Sossusvlei section of the Namib Naukluft park, and I hope it will be equally useful to others.
The key point to note is the significant distances involved: from the main gate, the parking area for 2 wheel drive (2WD) vehicles at Sossusvlei is 60km, which should take you about an hour to drive as 60kph is the speed limit. Unless you're staying within the park (either at the Sesriem camping site or the very pricey hotel accommodation in and adjacent to the park), this means that in order to avoid the midday sun, you need to get a very early start. This is advisable anyway, as not only is it cooler, but the light conditions are far more suitable for good photography.
The next challenge is which bit to do first, since most moderately athletic types will probably want to hike into Sossusvlei and also climb Dune 45. Neither offer any shade to speak of, and especially in the summer months, the heat is punishing and the risk of dehydration and serious sunburn is commensurately high. So come armed with a hat, high factor sunscreen and preferably a long sleeved top made of a lightweight natural fabric, as well as plenty of water.
I personally would do Sossusvlei first - remembering that if you only have 2WD, it's a 5km hike each way over often soft sand, so the round trip (complete with photo opportunities) will probably take you at least two hours. So in summer, even if you enter the park when the gate opens at 06:00, it will already be 09:00 by the time you're finished at Sossusvlei and about another half hour back to Dune 45.
Climbing Dune 45 is fun - and I would highly recommend it - but like all dune climbing, the 'two steps forward, one step back' routine make it hard going and I wouldn't recommend it for younger children or the unfit. By contrast, the descent is an absolute doddle!
Whichever order you decide to do the other attractions in, I would recommend leaving the beautiful - and much underrated - Sesriem gorge for last, as this is the only place that offers any shade whatsoever. It's not massive compared to other gorges, but it an enchantingly atmospheric place, and well worth an hour or two of your time. The size of the rocks in some of the boulder beds exposed in the gorge walls provides you with a wonderful opportunity to appreciate the power of the occasional flash floods that wash through the Namib's ephemeral rivers. After summer rain there may be water in some hollows in the gorge - some lucky people visiting after storms even get to swim - but don't count on there being any water at other times of the year.
Visiting Sossusvlei in the late afternoon when it's cooler and the light is less harsh is theoretically an option, but not such an attractive one given the driving distances involved. Bear in mind that you need to be out of the park by the time that the gate closes at sunset, so working backwards, that mean starting the hike into Sossusvlei about 14:00, which is pretty well the hottest time of the day.
At the time of writing in November 2011, the park gates open and close at 'sunrise and sunset', which isn't awfully helpful from a planning point of view. As a rule of thumb, factor on them opening at 06:00 in summer and 06:45 in winter and closing about 18:00 in winter and 18:30 in summer (the actual times should be signposted at the gate - if not, then ask).
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