A break from our Oasis Overland ‘Accra to Cape Town’ with a road trip to Soussusvlei and Deadvlei in the Namib-Naukluft National Park
No visit to Namibia would be complete without a stop at Sossusvlei and Deadvlei. An area of huge red sand dunes, surrounding a salt/clay pan in the Namib-Naukluft National Park. We had just spent a little over 2 months travelling on the Oasis Overland Accra-Cape Town trip and were keen for a bit of extra independent adventure. When we reached Swakopmund, we had 3 full days to explore the area. Having been to Swakopmund several times before, we decided to hire a car for a road trip to the dunes!
We left around 10 am for our desert drive to our campsite in Sesriem, the gateway to the dunes. It was so nice to be able to do something on our own and to stop as and when we pleased for breaks and photos. The scenery was forever changing from a sandy desert to dramatic rocky mountains and rolling hills, which was just beautiful.
Crossing the Tropic of Capricorn along the way warranted a cheeky photo. Although surprisingly, we almost had to queue in the middle of the desert for it. Unsurprisingly every other passing vehicle stopped for the same photo!
There was also an abundance of oryx, springbok, ostrich, Mountain zebra along with the odd warthog roaming the hot, dry plains. We also drove past numerous large communal nests fashioned by the industrious sociable weaver birds. So much wildlife for a desert country.
There were a few accommodation options in Sesriem, ranging from luxury chalets to basic camping. We chose the basic camping option at Sesriem Campsite. It was located at the entry to Sossusvlei, inside the park gate. The camp groups were large with several
We watched the sunset that evening and for the first time in a while slept under the stars in our pop up net tent. We got lucky with the weather as it had rained the day before. And, had it rained that night we would have been sleeping in the car!
We woke at 5.30 am and packed up our things. We were heading out to Sossusvlei and were aiming to arrive at Dune 45, (one of the most accessible red dunes located 45 km from Sesriem), for sunrise. The gates to the campsite opened at 6 am. It was also Good Friday which meant that there were a lot of local tourists around. So, we were keen to be at the front of the queue. We got to Dune 45 in good time, although there were many other travellers there at the same time and climbed the dune for sunrise.
As usual, Chris went ‘rogue’, disappearing to explore one of the neighbouring dunes. As the sun continued to rise and the colours of the dunes constantly changed.
After a lengthy photo shoot on the top of the dunes, we drove a further 20 kms to Deadvlei. A clay pan that’s name literally translates to Dead Marsh. It was formed when the Tsauchab river flooded after heavy rainfall many years ago, creating a salt/clay pan. Shallow pools were formed which allowed camel thorn trees to grow. Over the years, the climate changed, drought dried everything up, dunes rolled in and around the pan, creating a ‘wall block’ to the river. The end result – Deadvlei. We had a great time wandering around one of Namibia’s top sights.
There were many surrounding white dunes to climb, the biggest known as Big Daddy and Big Mama Dune. But, by the time we had finished exploring Deadvlei, the morning was sun was in full force, the temperature was rising and we needed to start making our way back to Swakopmund. We had to backtrack to Dune 45, where we couldn’t resist a quick stop as by that stage, the crowds had gone.
By 11 am, we left Dune 45 and headed back to the campsite at Sesriem for lunch, before making our way back to Swakopmund. A little over 80km down the bumpy dirt road, we made a quick pit stop at Solitare. Made famous by the ‘Moose’ McGregor’s bakery and their legendary apple pie, Solitare has become a tourist site in itself! Consisting of a shop, garage, bakery, cafe and a lodge, all within the same grounds, it was the only rest stop between Sesriem and Walvis Bay.
The 260km drive from Solitare back to Swakopmund was long, but scenic, with plenty more wildlife sightings including Springbok and Chacma baboons. The latter started throwing stones at our car when we stopped to take a quick photo of them. We guess that’s one way to deal with papparazzi!!
After an awesome day in the dunes, we got back to the hotel at 7 pm, dropped our things off, returned our hire car and went out for dinner. We had a full day in Swakopmund to rest up before continuing on our overland tour down to South Africa.
Welwitschia Scenic Drive
The group left Swakopmund and headed for Windhoek, spending a night bush camping in the Namib-Naukluft National Park along the way. The National Park was very dry with interesting rock formations and trees. We drove along the Welwitschia Scenic Drive, named after the aforementioned native Welwitschia plant. Along the way, we stopped at several points of interest. These included Moon Landscape viewpoint and several information plaques about desert plants, including the largest and oldest recorded Welwitschia plant in the country at 1500 years old. These plants, although not aesthetically pleasing, are very special as they can live for so long.
In the evening, we camped in the beautiful Mount Blutkuppe area of the Namib-Naukluft National Park allowing us to explore the rugged rocky surrounds and play a bit of ‘hide and seek’ with the local Rock hyrax. We had a BBQ of game meats including Oryx, Warthog, Springbok and Kudu as a storm brewed around us and the sky threatened to open. It did briefly but only lightly.
We had a great nights sleep before arriving in Windhoek, via another beautiful drive. There wasn’t much to see and do in Windhoek so we spent our time there relaxing and catching up on life before continuing on to Luderitz.
Our Oasis Overland Expedition
We travelled with Oasis Overland on the 12 week Accra-Cape Town section of their 42 Week UK-Cairo Trans Africa expedition. Doing an Overland expedition was an epic way to travel through this big and beautiful continent. It took the hassle out of travelling independently through some of most remote parts of the world. Yet, it still provided the challenges and adventures that we as well-travelled backpackers wanted. From free-camping under the stars to sweltering in the dense jungles and driving for days along dusty desolate tracks to haggling in the busy and bustling markets, this expedition had it all. We really did get a little off track!