Sossusvlei is a famous desert region located in the southern part of Namibia, known for its large red sand dunes and unique landscape. While the area is known for its dry, arid conditions, it does receive some precipitation in the form of occasional rain.
The name "Sossusvlei" is a combination of two words in the Afrikaans language, "sossus" and "vlei." The word "sossus" is derived from the Nama word "sossus," which means "dead end," referring to the fact that the Tsauchab River reaches a dead end in the pan and does not flow any further. The word "vlei" is a Dutch word that means "marsh" or "pan." Together, Sossusvlei roughly means "dead end marsh" or "dead end pan."
The rainy season in Sossusvlei typically runs from January to April, with the majority of the rainfall occurring in March. However, rainfall in this region is highly variable and can vary greatly from year to year. Some years may see very little rainfall, while others may see more significant precipitation.
When it does rain in Sossusvlei, the water is often quickly absorbed by the sandy soil and evaporates quickly due to the high temperatures. However, when there is enough rainfall, the water can collect in the low-lying areas known as vleis, which are essentially salt pans. These vleis can provide a temporary source of water for plants and animals in the region, but they quickly dry up once the rainy season is over.
Sossusvlei and the surrounding desert region in Namibia are fed by the Tsauchab River, which is a seasonal river that only flows during the rainy season. The river originates in the Naukluft Mountains and flows towards the coast, passing through Sossusvlei on its way. The Tsauchab River also feeds other pans nearby such as Ostrich vlei, Oryx vlei. and Hiddenvlei. Deadvlei is a pan located near Sossusvlei and is known for its dead camel thorn trees that are estimated to be 900 years old. Due to the movement of a sand dune water no longer reaches Deadvlei via the Tsauchab River.
The lack of consistent water in Sossusvlei means that the plants and animals that live there have had to adapt to survive in this harsh environment. Many of the plants in the region are succulents, which are able to store water in their leaves and stems. Similarly, animals such as the oryx and springbok have evolved to be able to go long periods without drinking water and to subsist on the limited plant life in the area.
Despite the harsh conditions, Sossusvlei is home to a wide variety of unique and interesting species. The desert region is home to a number of different animals, including the oryx, springbok, and hyena, as well as a variety of birds and reptiles. There are also a number of unique plant species found in the area, including the Welwitschia mirabilis, a distinctive plant that can live for over 1,000 years.