ATLAS OBSCURA

Dead Vlei - Namibia

In the Namib-Naukluft National Park, in the central Namib Desert is a strange and alien landscape.

Found among towering red dunes is an area known as Sossusvlei. The dunes that surround the area are rich red and owe their red color to age, as over the thousands of years, the sand has literally rusted.

Sossusvlei itself is a salt/clay pan; a wide, flat, salt-covered expanse with a dense and compact layer of clay in the subsoil. When dry, Sossusvlei is hard and arid, and when wet, as it gets every 5-10 years when fed by the Tsauchab River, it becomes sticky and plastic. For the Tsauchab River the area is its final destination, and even in the wettest of years the river is simply soaked away into the salt/clay pan, giving the area its nickname, “place of no return.”

Keep reading for giant dunes and another place of no return… Dead Vlei on Atlas Obscura!