23 May 2023
After the off-road orgy of reckless drivers in Sossusvlei, the park authority of the Namib Naukluft National Park is under criticism. Namibia's main attraction in the middle of the Namib Dune Sea World Heritage Site should be more strictly controlled and violators of the rules should be punished more severely, it was said on social media.
The debate was triggered by a Facebook post by freelance tour guide and pilot Hellmut von Seydlitz: The aerial photo of a Namibia holidaymaker shows circular and crescent-shaped ruts in a clay pan, similar to the tyre tracks that teenage drivers draw with spinning wheels on car parks. The photo was taken on 15 May, according to the post. Driving in the area beyond the barriers is strictly prohibited, as stated in the parking rules and on signs at the site.
In the course of his research, Namibian photographer Dirk Heinrich, who has been heavily involved in conservation for decades, learned of an incident that happened weeks ago, on 17 May. He reported on 19 May on his Facebook page, three four-wheel drive vehicles had been driving in the dunes beyond the barriers at Deadvlei and Sossusvlei. As can be seen in the posted photos, they had Kuwaiti number plates. Tour guides reported this incident to a police officer at the park entrance at Sesriem. Whether these drivers were responsible for the circular tracks in Sossusvlei was not established, according to the Facebook report.
In a press statement on 17 May, the Ministry of Environment had denied accusations that the area was not regularly controlled. "... unfortunately the area is huge, it is impossible to be everywhere at all times". At the same time, it was claimed that the tracks came from motorbikes and were left in a small side pan of Deadvlei. Upon enquiry, Namibian.org News learnt that the incident is still under investigation.
Sossusvlei is surrounded by the highest dunes in the world and forms the end of the Tsauchab Rivier (dry river) on its way to the Atlantic Ocean. It lies in the middle of the Namib Sand Sea, which was declared a World Heritage Site in 2013.
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