Climbing Big Daddy in the Sossusvlei Dunes

January 6th 2020  |   Namibia, Unique Experiences  |  by   Richard Smith
Climbing Big Daddy

The dust hangs in the air as we wait to make our way through the cool early morning to the gate into Sossusvlei National Park, home to Namibia’s famously huge and scenic dunes.

The sun crests a ridge behind us, though without the heat it’ll bring later in the day and we’re still wearing fleeces. “Dress like an onion,” we were told by our guide François, “that way you can stay warm but strip off as it gets hotter.”

It’s already 8 am; one of the advantages of visiting in Namibia’s winter is a later start. If this were summer we’d likely be here two hours earlier to catch the sunrise. As it is we’ve had the “luxury” of a 6 am wake up with coffee and a relatively relaxed breakfast before heading out.

Climbing Big Daddy Hiking up the dunes.

Hiking up the dunes. Sossusvlei Desert Lodge

I’ve been to Sossusvlei a couple of times before but this is the first time for my wife, daughter and son. This time, on holiday rather than working, we’re staying longer in the area than I have previously which means we’ve time to climb 380m to the top of Big Daddy, the spectacular dune that overlooks the equally picturesque Dead Vlei.

I’ve only ever looked up at it in the past from alongside the petrified trees on the salt pan below. Back then it was impressive. This morning, as we make our way towards it across flat sand, it seems bigger than it did before and I’m confident it’ll take at least the 40 minutes François has estimated.

Climbing Big Daddy Richard and his family at the top of Big Daddy

Richard and his family at the top of Big Daddy

It does. Despite my long legged son reaching the top in 31 minutes, my wife and I finally reach the summit just over three quarters of an hour from starting. A couple of photos and straight down towards the vlei below, laughing as we descend, amazed at the noise from the sand and struggling to keep a sensible balance between speed and staying upright.

Fun in Dead Vlei

Fun in Dead Vlei

The dunes and the two vleis (Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei) are every bit as photogenic as I remember. We’ve now got hundreds of photos to sort through from just one morning, a fair few from our climb and the souvenir family pictures of us all on Big Daddy’s summit.

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