But a small portion of the massive (11 million acre) Namib-Naukluft National Park, Sossusvlei is a parched and cracked white salt pan and is to be found where an old river was cut off from the sea by the relentless northward march of giant sand dunes.
The water was dammed up, drowning the Camel Thorn trees in the area and as the water evaporated after each subsequent flood, the salt precipitate was left as a remnant of where the water had been.
In the vicinity and within easy walking distance of Sossusvlei are a number of other isolated salt pans that can be explored by crossing the dunes – each pan surrounded by an amphitheatre of startling red sand. Dead Vlei is particularly impressive with its collection of dead trees.
It is an enchanted place, particularly early in the morning when the silence is deafening.
A few highly adapted plants and animals cling to a tenuous existence here, an almost inconceivable thought given that the nearest surface water is at least 45 miles away!
Climbing the massive dunes in the area (some in excess of 1000 ft) is an excellent way of appreciating the scale of this sea of sand that stretches eastwards all the way to the Atlantic Ocean!