Many places within the most easily visited of the Namib-Naukluft National Park, and walking through the Sesriem entrance, have in their name the word "vlei" that in Afrikaans language means swamp or morass.
The "vlei" suffix indicates that these places are the bottom of lakes that are almost always dry; they are characterized by a light color, due to the salinity of the soil, that creates great contrasts with the orange dunes usually surrounding them.
These ephemeral lakes very rarely receive water from rivers and are therefore mostly dry with the bottom of the dry lake that has the typical splits due to aridity; when they receive the water instead they turn into spectacular locations that can hold water for several months and that are home to numerous species of birds and animals who drink in their waters and who are attracted by the vegetation that, miraculously, is reborn and flourishes.
The most famous and most visited of these is undoubtedly the Sossusvlei that gives its name to the surrounding area, sossus in nama means "dead end" and joined to vlei, that means swamp, indicates the point where the Tsauchab river meets the dunes and ends its run, failing to reach the ocean.
The dunes in this area are in fact impassable by the river that then ends its course here, creating a seasonal lake when precipitation is sufficiently abundant.
The Sossusvlei landscape is fantastic, white, tall orange or red dunes and blue sky create the conditions to achieve the perfect shot.
Not far from the Sossusvlei there is another amazing place, it's the Deadvlei, this plain was once a seasonal lake surrounded by numerous erioloba acacia trees but, over the centuries, the movement of the dunes closed the passage to the river and this area has not received water that fed it and then dried up and the acacia trees, no longer able to obtain the necessary water for their survival, died.
What makes this place unique is the fact that there is not sufficient moisture so that the decomposition of plant material can take place, the result is that the trunks and branches of dead trees for centuries are still perfectly preserved, creating a surreal landscape.
All this makes the Deadvlei, that literally means "dead vlei", a favorite of photography lovers playing with contrasts of light and color.
Always in this area there is also the Hiddenvlei, that means "hidden vlei", this is the least visited because it is located in a place a bit hard to reach.
To reach the Deadvlei one must climb the dune that separates it from the parking lot of 4x4, while the Hiddenvlei is a bit more difficult, it is 2 km from the 4x4 parking and requires an hour and a half walk on the sand between going and returning, it is necessary to remember a good supply of water, both are still well marked with wooden signs.
The fact that it is less frequented allows those who manage to come unto this far, to immerse themselves in silence and contemplate the dunes, listening to the wind and searching on the sand the footsteps of some antelopes and lizards.
To achieve the vlei one needs to travel the road from the Sesriem entrance; for the first 60 km the road is in good condition, and it can be traveled by all vehicles; where the road ends there is a parking lot for 2x4 vehicles, from this point on you can continue only with a 4x4 vehicle as the road gives way to sand.
For those who leave the vehicle at the 2x4 parking, there is a shuttle bus, or you can take a walk, even if during the middle of the day, temperatures can be high and you need to hydrate yourself properly.