Sossusvlei - Guided Tour - is it worth it?

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Aug 4th, 2005, 03:17 AM
  #1
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Sossusvlei - Guided Tour - is it worth it?

Would be grateful for some advice from the Namibia experts on the board.

We're staying for a couple of nights at Sossusvlei Lodge (Sesriem) as part of the honeymoon and are obviously going to do the trip into Sossusvlei. I'm trying to decide whether it's worth driving ourselves to the 2wd car park then catching the shiuttle 4wd in and exploring ourselves. (with the obvious advantage of going at our own pace and being more alone) or whether to go with a guided tour (probably from Sossusvlei Lodge) which will obviously be less hassle, more expensive and i assume be a lot of people (we're there at the end of september).

Does anyone have experience of the 'logisitics' side of these tours? Do you feel like you're on a coach trip? (yuk!)

I've also noticed some tours go up 'Big Daddy' dune, others 'Dune 45'. does anyone think there's a difference? I know we'll obviously get a lot from the guide about the place but i don't really fancy traipsing up a dune with 50 other people!

Thanks in advance!

Andrew
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Aug 4th, 2005, 04:04 AM
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Hello, I don't think I qualify as a Namibia expert, but I did spend 2 weeks there this May for my honeymoon.

We stayed 2 nights at Little Kulala and visited the dunes at Sossusvlei. The trip was one of the activities offered by the lodge and included in the rates so we didn't have to weigh up the advantages of going there ourselves or with a tour.

However, I think that the main advantage of going with a guided tour would be the fact that you wouldn't have to drive the horrible potholed road through the park to Sossusvlei. It was rough and dusty to say the least and we were glad to be in a 4WD. That said, there were plenty of 2WD cars on the road and in the carparks.

When it comes to actually viewing/climbing the dunes I don't think there's any great advantage to being with a tour. We climbed one of the dunes near Deadvlei and then ran down it and walked across the pan and back to the vehicle. Took about an hour or so.

If your budget would stretch to it, I'd recommend saving on the guided tour to Sossusvlei and splurging instead on a hot air balloon trip over the dunes at sunrise. We did this (the lodge organised it) and it was one of the highlights of our honeymoon. If your budget allows it, I would strongly recommend it - and the champagne breakfast you have in the dunes afterwards!!

PS - Dune 45 isn't actually at Sossusvlei, it's a bit further back along the road. Very picturesque though. Big Daddy is at Deadvlei - if you're driving yourself there's nothing to stop you going to both dunes.
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Aug 4th, 2005, 05:44 AM
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I stayed at Sossosvlei Lodge in August 2002 and its great. I didn't have a car so I was dependent on lodge transport. but if we had our own car, we would have driven to the car park and taken the shuttle. I'm sure the guide told us lots of stuff, but its the experience that I remember, not the info, and I much prefer autonomy to collectivity.

As Hanl said, the road is not great, but if you drive slow you'll be OK. You'll also be able to stop when and where you like.

Its a great place.

Michael
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Aug 4th, 2005, 06:02 AM
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I am not sure I'd mind driving in the park, despite the state of the road but I would certainly appreciate a guide...

Instead of signing up with a group, might I suggest contacting the lodge ahead of time and asking them for costs/ help in arranging a private guide who can meet you at the lodge and either accompany you in your car or drive you in his own vehicle.

He/ she will be able to tell you about the formation of the vleis and the geological history as well as about plants and animals and also guide you to the most interesting things to see.

And this is not an area where you'd want to get lost, either!

That said, I think you could certainly do it on your own if you wanted to...
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Aug 4th, 2005, 06:07 AM
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PS We also stayed in the Sossusvlei Lodge on our 2001 visit. Whilst the accommodation was perfectly nice I have to say that the large size of the lodge made it a less intimate experience than our stays at smaller camps/ lodges.

You might want to ask for one of the chalets along the northern perimeter - that way your views will be out towards the bush rather than of other chalets. Alternatively you may want to specify one of the chalets nearer to the pool if you intend to use it.

There is a layout map on their website:

http://www.sossusvleilodge.com/

PS When I suggested asking their help in arranging an excursion I meant a PRIVATE one rather than their usual group ones.
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Aug 4th, 2005, 07:01 AM
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Kavey's point about getting the "right" room is a good one. We had room 114 o4 115 (I don't remember, but I can guess based on the layout on the website), and you look out into the desert from your veranda. Our room wouldn't have been nearly as nice in an internal room.

But still, I really liked the lodge.
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Aug 4th, 2005, 08:01 AM
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Michael, I wouldn't say we disliked the lodge but we didn't find it romantic or special as some of the other places.

What we liked:
The rooms - we really liked that they were a combination of stone-built areas and canvas areas - they are well designed, well laid out and comfortable

The pool - it's always nice to have the option of a pool to cool off in after a hot day sightseeing

The buffet dinner on the first night was very good, lots of choice, quality pretty good

What we didn't like:
The buffet dinner on the second night was incredibly disappointing - although lots of guests had checked out they were still about a third full but seemed to have decided this wasn't a sufficient number to make any effort. I could have accepted less choices but the choice was actually minimal and quality less too.

Number of rooms - we just felt there were too many but then again the price is reflective of this so it IS good value for some nice accommodation

Staff service - staff were not helpful in responding to some problems we had nor particularly service oriented. Friendly yes, but not service oriented at all.

I think I'd certainly suggest it for someone looking for a well priced and comfortable option for a Sossusvlei visit but would recommend other options for those seeking more romance (but with a higher budget).

PS How on earth do you remember your room number. Looking at their map I know we were somewhere up towards the honeymoon suite but I don't recall which chalet!!!
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Aug 4th, 2005, 11:09 AM
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I will be at the Sossusvlei Wilderness Camp next month and wonder if there are balloon rides from there. Do you remember how much the ride is? I took a balloon ride in Burgundy in France and it was wonderful, but don't know if I would take another ride unless it was really spectacular.
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Aug 4th, 2005, 04:23 PM
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bwanamitch
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Lolo12,

Here is the website of the balloon operator with rates and departure times:
http://www.namibsky.com/

Mitch
 
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Aug 4th, 2005, 09:36 PM
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Lolo, the operator bwanamitch mentions is the one that we did the balloon ride with. We paid N$ 2500 each - which seemed like a huge expense at the time (for our budget, at least), but in retrospect it was definitely worth it.
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Aug 5th, 2005, 12:49 AM
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Wow! Thanks for the many informative posts I really appreciate it. Ill contact the Lodge about private guides and see if we can request a room.

Hanl After much umming and aahing we did decide to splash out on the Balloon Ride when we booked the trip a while ago. Like you it seems a huge expense to us but hopefully it will be worth it. Lolo12 your floating above a apricot-coloured dune sea how much more spectacular do you want!
;-)

Looking at the various accommodations in the area Id agree that there are probably more luxurious private options I dont have a great deal of experience of luxury accommodation but the suites at the Sossusvlei Wilderness lodge look breathtaking. However, (unfortunately) it came down to a choice of total luxury or going for something a little lower and taking the balloon ride. I also figured Id be out and about too much in the area to really justify the expense at Sossusvlei. Instead, our luxury treats will be at the Mowani Mountain Camp and Okonjima Bush Camp.

Thanks again

Andrew
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Aug 5th, 2005, 01:06 AM
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Andrew, I'm sure you'll love Okonjima Bush Camp - we adored it - a perfect honeymoon setting.
I did post a trip report on our two weeks in Namibia, if you are interested (it's quite long): http://www.fodors.com/forums/pgMessa...4&tid=34632364

Lolo, it's funny you should say you would only do another balloon ride if really spectacular - after our balloon ride over the dunes we agreed that we'd probably never do a balloon ride again, because nothing could ever match up to the sheer beauty and excitement of gliding over the dunes as they change colour in the early morning sun.
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Aug 5th, 2005, 01:25 AM
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Sounds like a good call to me and the lodge chalets are very nice... I think that's a good compromise!
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Aug 5th, 2005, 03:42 AM
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Great decision. We didn't do the balloon ride since we hadn't pre-booked and it couldn't be arranged, but we had chartered a private plane for our trip to Windhoek and we flew over the dunefield on the way home. It was great and some excellent photos, but it made me realize that we missed something by not doing the balloon ride.

For me, like you, I'd prefer to spend on activities than on lodging. Sossosvlei Lodge is great, and made even more so if you can snag one of the perimter rooms.
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Aug 5th, 2005, 05:04 AM
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That's what we did - we had a private cessna flight from Sesriem to Damaraland (via Swakopmund) and our pilot did a wonderful aerial tour for us of the Sossusvlei areas as well as taking us along the coast and pointing out the Eduard Bolen shipwreck, the abandoned diamond mines, the seal colony, the flamingo flocks and the salt making plant.
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Aug 5th, 2005, 09:49 AM
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I think we may go for the balloon ride after all if it is offered. I'm sure my husband would have a better time than he had on our first ride in France. It's a funny story - he didn't know what to expect as far as how high the balloon would go so he fortified himself with a couple of scotches before we left (unbeknownst to me). Shortly after we climbed into the basket with the 4 other people, he whispered to me that he had to go to the bathroom. And I whispered back "you can't"...he continued to be very antsy and even whispered that he could make use of the holes where we put our feet in which were placed at a perfect level for him... I was mortified that he would even think of it. After an hour of drifting over the fields, the sun was setting and the pilot told us to wait until the basket had completed landed before anyone get out. Well, just as the basket touched down, there he went in a flash into the cornfields to relieve himself. Then on to the champagne!!!! If we go again I will make sure he has nothing to drink for at least 12 hours before!!!
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Aug 5th, 2005, 09:18 PM
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ajrbrown,

Will be interested to hear about your stay at the Mowani Mtn. Camp as it's one of the places we will stay at along with the Sossusvlei Mtn. Lodge during our trip next year. We are doing a self drive along with some fly ins to more remote camps. Should be ok with the roads etc. as we are renting a 4wd for the journey. I hope you have a fabulous time on your honeymoon.
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