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Destination inspiration: Sesriem, Namibia

Why go?

Sesriem is the gateway to the sweeping wilderness of the Namib Desert. Cavernous canyons and red dunes mark the landscape, where sunsets are more vivid, the sky bigger, and the stars brighter. Sesriem itself isn’t even a town, just a cluster of camping sites, petrol stations, and lodges around the entrance to Namib-Naukluft National Park.

Deadvlei, a white clay pan inside the Namib-Naukluft Park

Deadvlei, a white clay pan inside the Namib-Naukluft Park

Through its gates you’ll find Sossusvlei, an (almost always) bone-dry salt and clay pan that’s flanked by some of the tallest dunes in the world. These mountains of sand rise nearly 400 metres, strikingly vermilion against the blue sky – providing a magnificent spectacle for trekkers and photographers.

Sesriem canyon of Tsauchab river

Sesriem canyon of Tsauchab river

Also in this wonderland is Sesriem Canyon, which was shaped by the flow of the Tsauchab River over millions of years. It got its name from the Afrikaans-speaking explorers that first traversed the region – they had to use a bucket attached to six (‘ses’) leather straps (‘riem’) tied together to fetch the water from the canyon below. Nowadays hikers can simply trek through the narrow ravine with water bottles in hand, admiring the bizarre rock formations along the way. For a more leisurely exploration, hot air balloons take off at sunrise – the dunes look like crinkled bed linen from above.

Drinking in the scenery of Sesriem is hungry work – and thankfully, Namibia is known for traditional barbeque, called braai, in which hefty portions of beef, lamb or poultry are slapped on a grill over burning camel-thorn logs. After long days hiking up and down dunes aptly named ‘Big Daddy’ or ‘Big Mama’, there’s nothing better than a sizzling braai at sunset.

Bright blue sky contrasting red dunes in Namibia

Bright blue sky contrasting red dunes in Namibia

When to go?

The dry winter months from May to October are the best time to visit. There are clear skies, plentiful wildlife, and a lowered malaria risk. Be aware that in June and July, nighttime temperatures are freezing, whereas September and October can bring daytime scorchers.

Le Mirage Resort & Spa

Le Mirage Resort & Spa

Where to stay?

Le Mirage Resort & Spa – Sesriem, Namibia

One look at this castle-like complex and you’ll understand the reason behind its name. The resort’s stone turrets rise above the endless stretch of desert like a dream – and within its walls is an oasis of water and greenery. Poolside massages and a gourmet restaurant top it all off.

Desert Quiver Camp

Desert Quiver Camp

Desert Quiver Camp – Sesriem, Namibia

These self-catering units bring the desert to your door. The tent-like huts have incredible views of granite rock formations and roaming wildlife. You can braai from your own patio or dine at the restaurant four kilometres down the road. The large on-site pool looks out on the dunes.

Desert Camp

Desert Camp

Desert Camp – Sesriem, Namibia

A tent under the stars is the best way to experience the desert. Desert Camp is more of the ‘glamping’ variety, with private bathrooms, shaded verandahs, and an outdoor pool. You can braai your own dinner and then head to the fire pit to meet other travellers.