Driving in sand is one of those things that sounds way easier than it is. Though we were cautioned repeatedly about how hard (and dangerous) it can be, we remained swaggeringly confident that it couldn’t be that hard. So it should surprise no one that within thirty seconds of hurtling off the tar round into the sand on the way to the Sossusvlei marsh, we heard a loud grinding noise and slowed to a stop. Lucky for us, we had our new-found friend, Memba—a park ranger—in the car to show us how to drive like professionals. Given that the park rangers are the ones responsible for retrieving stuck tourists, we figured he was a pro, and his tips did not disappoint. With his help, we drove all over the end of the park, skipping the tourist hordes by doing it ourselves.
Tips for Driving in Sand at Sossusvlei
Before You Get to the Park:
- Deflate your tires to 1.8
- Make sure you have at least 2 liters of water per person (3-4 liters of water pp if you want to do any of the hiking)
Once You Get Off the Tar Road:
- Put in high 4 wheel drive (H4)
- Drive between 30-50 km/hr. Going too slow will definitely get you stuck!
- Try to follow the tire tracks already made by other cars
- When the wheels are slipping, constantly jiggle the wheel back and forth to get more grip.
- Stay straight, turning is the enemy!
If You Get Stuck:
- Turn off TRC (back axle differential)
- Extremely move the wheel back and forth while applying the gas
Your Last Bullet:
- Your first move might be to shift into Low 4wHD. But Memba cautioned us to save it as a last resort for when you get stuck. “You always need one last bullet.”
Rest assured, if you do get stuck, someone will be sent to get you out—but there is a fee. If you can self-drive, we highly recommend it. Going unguided meant that we had Deadvlei completely to ourselves, and got to explore Sossusvlei (the furthest area of the park) and Big Daddy at our own pace. These are epic and beautiful places—so don’t visit the park and miss out!