Appropriate for this vast country with its epic landscapes (its number-one tourist attraction) Sossusvlei still manages to feel isolated. The dunes, appearing other-worldly at times, especially when the light hits them just so near sunrise, are part of the 32,000-sq-km sand sea that covers much of the region. The dunes reach as high as 325m, and are part of one of the oldest and driest ecosystems on earth. However, the landscape here is constantly changing – wind forever alters the shape of the dunes, while colours shift with the changing light, reaching the peak of their brilliance just after sunrise.
The gateway to Sossusvlei is Sesriem (Six Thongs), which was the number of joined leather ox-wagon thongs necessary to draw water from the bottom of the nearby gorge. Sesriem remains a lonely and far-flung outpost, home to little more than a petrol station and a handful of tourist hotels and lodges.