Travel to Sossusvlei

Sossusvlei

The sand dunes of Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert are often referred to as the highest dunes in the world.  Located in the Namib Naukluft park, the largest conservation area in Africa, and fourth largest in the world - the sand dunes at Sossusvlei are just one excellent reason to visit Namibia.

The best time to view Sossusvlei is close to sunrise and sunset; the colors are strong and constantly changing, allowing for wonderful photographic opportunities. The midday heat is intense and best spent in the shade while sunset also offers excellent photo opportunities at Sossusvlei.

During exceptional rainy seasons, Sossusvlei may fill with water, causing Namibians to flock there to witness the grand sight, but normally it is bone dry. This particular ‘vlei’ is actually a more-or-less circular, hard-surfaced depression that is almost entirely surrounded by sharp-edged dunes, beyond which lies a formidable sea of rolling sand, stretching in unbroken immensity all the way to the coast.

The second attraction of the area is Sesriem Canyon, which is only a few miles from the campsite, the entrance gate, and main Nature Conservation office. The canyon derives its name from the fact that early Afrikaner trekkers had to use six (‘ses’) leather thongs (a thong is a ‘riem’) so that their buckets could reach the water far below. The canyon begins as an almost imperceptible but nevertheless deep cleft in level, stony ground, and then widens until it finally flattens out onto the plain. Because it is so deep and sheltered, it often holds water well into the dry season - an invigorating sight in such a barren and stark environment.

Overview

Namibia is a country of startling contrasts that straddles two great deserts: the Namib (after which it is named) is the oldest desert on the planet, and its sea of red sand lies along the Atlantic coastline, while in the eastern interior lies the Kalahari, a vast and sparsely vegetated savannah that sprawls across the border into neighboring countries.

People

Namibians are of diverse ethnic origins. The principal groups are the Ovambo, Kavango, Herero/Himba, Damara, Colored (including Rehoboth Baster), White (Afrikaner, German, English, and Portuguese), Nama, Caprivian, San, and Tswana.

The Ovambo make up about half of Namibia’s people. The Ovambo, Kavango, and East Caprivian peoples, who occupy the relatively well-watered and wooded northern part of the country, are settled farmers and herders. Historically, these groups had little contact with the Nama, Damara, and Herero, who roamed the central part of the country vying for control of sparse pastureland. German colonial rule destroyed the war-making ability of the tribes but did not erase their identities or traditional organization. People from the more populous north have settled throughout the country in recent decades as a result of urbanization, industrialization, and the demand for labor.

Language

The official language is English. German and Afrikaans are also widely used and there are numerous African languages and dialects which fall into two main groups, namely Bantu and Khoisan

History

Namibia was, due to its barren coastline, colonized by the Europeans as one of the last African countries. It was the German merchant and adventurer Adolf Luederitz from Bremen, who bought in 1883 the bay of Angra Pequeña from Nama Chief Joseph Fredericks from Bethanien. He also bought the area in a 20 mile radius around the bay. The purchase price was then 10 000 Reichsmark and 260 guns. The bay is today known as Luederitz Bay.

In 1884, the German Empire took over the “protection” of Luederitz’ possessions. A tiny corps of the “Kaiserliche Marine” landed in the bay and raised the German flag. From 1884 to 1914, Namibia was a “German Protectorate” called “Deutsch Südwestafrika”. The German Empire sent the “Deutsche Schutztruppe” (Protection Corps). It had the task to transform the area between Oranje and Kunene into a German colony. German settlers were supposed to buy land and freely and safely establish farms. For this purpose the indigenous population, mainly Nama and Herero, was to be subjugated.
 
Initially the colonization proceeded more or less peacefully. Treaties were negotiated with Nama and Herero representatives. In these “Protection Agreements” both groups were assured of military support. In return, the Nama and Herero agreed to let German settlers take possession of their land and use it agriculturally.

Eventually the Herero and the Nama realized that the German colonization threatened their subsistence and their traditional way of life as free cattle and goat herders so both population groups rose in armed rebellion. These military conflicts lasted until 1908 and resulted in the total defeat of the black population.

At the beginning of the First World War, South Africa occupied the area and in 1920, she was given the country by the League of Nations as a mandate. When this was abolished in 1966 by the UN, South Africa rebelled and the result was many years of military struggle between South Africa and the Namibian liberation movement SWAPO, which was supported by the United Nations. On March 21, 1990 the political independence of Namibia was finally granted and a democratic constitution drawn up. SWAPO won the first free elections and became the strongest party. Its leader Dr. Sam Nujoma became the first Namibian President.

Travel Guide

Currency

The currency in Namibia is the Namibian Dollar (NAM$), which is fixed to and therefore equivalent to the South African Rand (ZAR). The Namibian Dollar and South African Rand are the only legal tender in Namibia and can be used freely to purchase goods and services. The Namibian Dollar, however, is not legal tender in South Africa.

Travelers’ checks and foreign currency can be exchanged at any of the commercial banks, which are well represented throughout the country. Visitors may bring any amount of foreign currency into the country. Further information and assistance can be obtained from any commercial bank in Namibia.

Weather

The climate is typically semi-desert with hot days and cool nights. Midsummer temperatures may rise to over 40 degrees Celsius. Winter days are warm, but dawn temperatures may drop to freezing. Along the coast it is cool with low rainfall and fog prevails from late afternoon until mid-morning.

The rainy season lasts from October to April. The rest of the year is dry and cloudless. Namibia averages 300 days of sunshine a year.

Health Requirements

Malaria is prevalent only in the north of the country.  Malaria prophylaxis is not required in Windhoek, but is suggested for travel to the north.  Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/

Visa Requirements

A passport and visa are normally required.  Bearers of U.S. passports who plan to visit Namibia for tourism for less than 90 days can obtain visas at the port of entry and do not need visas prior to entering the country.  Travelers coming for work or study, whether paid or voluntary, must obtain a work or study permit prior to entering Namibia.  Passports must have at least six months of validity remaining beyond the traveler’s planned date of arrival in Namibia.
All travelers traveling to or from Namibia via South Africa are strongly encouraged to have five or more unstamped visa pages in their passport.  Travelers merely transiting South Africa (those not stopping over or exiting the international terminal in South Africa) should not require visa stamps and may require fewer blank pages for travel.  South Africa and Namibia both require at least two unstamped visa pages – one for the entry stamp and one for exit.  Visitors who do not have enough blank visa pages in their passport risk being denied entry and returned to the U.S. at their own expense.

Credit Cards

Most hotels/lodges, restaurants, travel agencies and the bigger shops will take major credit cards – Visa, MasterCard, and American Express.

Electrical Appliances

220 volts AC, 50hz. Outlets are of the round three-pin type

Water

All water from taps is purified and visitors need have no hesitation in drinking it.  Bottled water is readily available.

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