The seemingly endless stretch of Sosssusvlei sand dunes are found in the heart of the Namib Desert and have a vlei (small marsh or pan) at their centre which occasionally fills with water after a heavy rainfall. The mud pan or vlei is created by the river that runs through the dunes after a heavy rainfall once every 5 to 10 years. However; no water from the river ever reaches the Atlantic Ocean as it is soaked up by the dunes before it ever reaches the sea.
The 60km road from Sesriem to Sossusvlei is tarred and offers wonderful views along the way so it is definitely worth taking the drive slowly in order to soak up the surroundings. The final 5km stretch is 4X4 terrain and those without a 4X4 vehicle will have to walk the final distance to the dunes or take a dune taxi which runs back and forth; and though rather over-priced, is worth using so that you can save your strength for the climb up 'Big Daddy'.
The gates to the dunes are open from sunrise to sunset and no vehicles are allowed to remain past sunset as the desert can be extremely dangerous at night. Afterall, the word Sossus means 'place of no return'.
Many guide books recommend waking up and climbing the dunes before sunrise in order to be able to watch the sunrise from the top of the main dune. This is however; no longer possible as, unless you are camping at the Namibia Wildlife Resort in the Reserve, the gates to the Reserve only open at sunrise and the drive to the dune and then the climb up it take at least another hour and a half. It is never-the-less worthwhile waking up early as it gets very hot on the dunes by midday. After a strenuous walk up the dunes, the fun way to end the experience is to slide or run down to Deadvlei - as fast as possible! Overall the climb to the top of Big Daddy and then spending time in Deadvlei takes about 3-4 hours and one will probably want most of a day to explore the area.