Visiting Sossusvlei in Namibia, has been one of my travel dreams. Somehow I never got to visit the area. I was always fascinated by photos of this orange landscape and Dune 45. The Sossusvlei area is best known for its dunes and the dunes are considered as some of the highest in the world. What makes this area so unique is orange red sands found here. This year, my husband and I made a spur of the moment decision and headed to the desert for my birthday.
We arrive at Sossusvlei and first on my list to do in the park, is Dune 45, the curved dune. Blown by wind from all directions, the dune can take many shapes and extended dune arms can form. The sands are red in colour due to their high iron oxide content.
Standing at 85 meters tall, Dune 45 is one of the most famous and popular dunes in the park. It is named Dune 45, due to its proximity to Sesriem gate. Why is it so popular? Located 45 kilometers in from the main gate, on a tarred road, it is easily accessible with all types of vehicle. It is one of the most photographed dunes in the world.
First Impressions of Dune 45:
We arrive at the dune just after 5pm, slightly earlier than when the crowds arrive, to watch the sunset. This was going to be my first proper dune climb as an adult. The sun is still quite harsh but there are no visitors yet, perfect for taking photos of the dune. It’s hard to believe these perfectly formed dunes were formed by wind and sand blown all the way from the coast.
Five minutes and a few photographs later, a bus load of tourists arrive. Gazing up at the gigantic pile of red sand in front of me, cameras in hand, we start the climb. Treading on sand that is about 5000 years old, feels like walking through time.
Mountains of red sand:
We are the first to start climbing, so there are no footprints in the sand yet. Walking up with no path ahead makes the walk more challenging. At times it can feel like hard work as with every step you take into the soft sand, it feels like you are sinking deeper into the dune and not going forward fast enough!
The sun is still beating down and the wind starting to pick up the higher we climb. Sipping water from a hydration packs helps. Every break I take climbing, I appreciate the view around me. After we pass the bottom peak, a slightly steeper climb awaits us to get to the top peak. I can see the sunset is going to be epic. Stopping to take photos helps me catch my breath, even for just a moment. With our eye on the prize, we continue up.
Golden Hour at Dune 45:
We reach the top and are rewarded with the most amazing views of sand dunes as far as the eye can see. The wind is blowing quite strong at the top peak and we sit down to take in this dune valley.
Perched on the dune ridge, everyone is quiet, watching in awe as the sun rays playfully dance on the dunes below and the landscape starts to change. The sun begins to set and that is when the magic happens. It is then that the landscape turns from orange to gold. This is what we came to see. I look down at the golden sands below my feet and think the term golden hour had to be coined here.
Stunned by the silence and mesmerised by the colours of the ever-changing landscape, for a moment I forget about the wind blowing. Watching the sunset from this dune with my husband, was breathtakingly beautiful and an experience I will never forget.
Take only memories:
We are staying inside the park so we leave the dune after 7pm. Cameras in bag, and a layer of sand stuck to our faces, we make our way down. The temperature is finally dropping and there is a chill in the air. There is still a handful of people taking in the moment and sitting lower down on the dune as we make our way down. Running down is a breeze after the steep climb.
I reach the bottom of the dune with boots filled with sand and I am walking lopsided. My left boot has more sand in it than the right. We take our boots of, shake out the sand and take only memories with us.
Just in time:
We drive back to our campsite in the dark and make it back to the internal park gate a few minutes late but fortunately it is still open. Unfortunately for some other unlucky visitors, the main external park gate closed an hour ago already, and they cannot get out of the park. Hopefully they will not have to spend the night in their car. We make our way to Sesriem park restaurant for a well-deserved meal and to chat about the magic we just experienced.
Today was adventurous, but tomorrow is going to be even better!
My next blog post features Climbing Bid Daddy Dune and experiencing DeadVlei.
Until next time. Adventure awaits.
Tips for climbing Dune 45:
If you want to watch the sunrise or sunset from a Dune, this is the best one to do so, as it is located closer to the main entrance and therefore more accessible.
Climbing Dune 45 was good preparing for climbing Big Daddy dune the next morning. The walk is not too hard and having a bottle of cold water helps making it to the top easier! Walking on the harder face of the dune makes the walk slightly easier. Walking in the footsteps of someone else on the dune also helps and is easier than creating your own path in the sand.
How to get to Sesriem Park:
Dune 45 is in the Namib-Nakluft National park, also known as Sesriem park. We drove down from Walvis Bay. It is a straightforward drive but on a gravel road. It is best to drive here with a 4-wheel drive vehicle or a higher clearance vehicle. There is a daily entrance fee to get into the park to access the dunes. Dune 45 is located along the side of the tarred road within the park. You do not need a 4 x 4 vehicle to access this dune.