The Sossusvlei Sand Dunes are composed of a number of red sand dunes surrounding a mud and clay pan in the southern part of the Namib Desert. The pan itself is created by the river which flows through the desert once every 5 to 10 years, pushing through the sand and creating furrows and natural hills. Many of these forbidding sand dunes are over 200 m (~656 ft) tall and the largest, nicknamed ‘Big Daddy’ is 380 m (~1,247 ft) in height.
Humidity from the morning fogs which roll in from the Atlantic Ocean, underground water and seasonal rivers all provide moisture allowing plants to grow on the more stable dunes. Animal life has adapted to survive the harsh conditions in a variety of ingenious ways. The shovel-snouted lizard can store water in its body for up to a month and the gemsbok can simply stop sweating when it needs to conserve water.
Despite desert conditions being incredibly harsh, the dunes are a popular destination for many tourists, offering a number of thrilling sights and with many tours and shuttles in and out of the area available. One of the best sights to see is the Sesriem Canyon, a huge canyon which manages to hold onto its reserve of water well into the dry season, meaning that water can still be spotted in the middle of this desert environment.
Another spectacular sight which many tourists enjoy is watching the sunrise from Big Daddy. Tours will generally start out at night and climb to the top of the dune to watch the sunrise, but tourists should be aware that the contrast in temperature between night and day in the desert requires a little forward planning.