Fish River Canyon
"its like standing at the edge of the world"
The Fish River Canyon in Namibia is the second largest canyon in the world, after the Grand Canyon in America and the largest canyon in Africa. The towering rock faces and the ravines of the canyon were formed by water erosion and the collapse of the valley due to the movements in the earth’s crust over 500 million years ago. The canyon is about 160km long and up to 27km wide, it is also approximately 550m at its deepest point. The views at the canyon are absolutely breathtaking, its like standing at the edge of the world.
The canyon is part of the Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier park, quite a mouthful to say for sure. Self-drive tourists and nature enthusiasts flock to the canyon every year to view the magnificence which is the Fish River Canyon. Depending on what time of year one goes to the canyon, you can either be greeted by a bone dry riverbed or a raging torrent in the rainy season. The northern most entrance is the gate at the Hobas Campsite and a short 10km drive would take you to the main viewpoint where you would get amazing views of the canyon. Other amazing vantage points can be found at Hell’s Corner and Sulphur Springs.
The environment found in the area brings together species of every kind including mammals, reptiles, insects and the fish that live in the fish river’s natural pools of water. The amazing hot springs that occur on the canyon’s floor and most popularly at ai-ais are always a popular attraction for people and birds alike. This is the perfect place for any bird enthusiast to do a spot of bird watching. There is an abundance of bird life at the canyon with sightings of black-headed, grey and goliath heron; olive thrush; Egyptian Goose; African black duck; flocks of Abdim’s stork; cape robin chat; reed and white-breasted cormorant and dab-chick being recorded. Along the dry Fish River bed where the temperatures are a little lower, visitors might be able to spot the African marsh warbler; great reed warbler; cape reed warbler; red bishop; masked weaver and the red-billed guelea. The Black eagle and jackal buzzard like to nest in the steep cliffs off the canyon so birders should keep an eye out for those.
The Klipspringer is one of the Fish River Canyon’s most unique critters. The hoof structure enables this ‘rock jumper’ to walk on the tip of its hoof. Other wildlife that call the canyon area home include the mountain zebra; kudu; steenbok; gemsbok and springbok which in turn attract predators like leopards; jackals, brown hyenas and bat-eared fox.
Aside from the amazingness which is the Fish River Canyon, the Fish River Canyon hiking trail is definitely something to write home about. It is one of the most popular and famous hiking trails in southern Africa spanning a distance of about 86km in the base of the canyon. The duration of this hike can be about four to five days depending on the size of the group as well as the general fitness of the hikers. There are no facilities along the way and water can be drank from the semi-permanent pools along the route. The start point of the hike is at Hobas Campsite and ends at Ai-Ais.
Accommodation in the general vicinity of the Fish River Canyon includes the Ai-Ais Resort; Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch; Canyon Roadhouse Lodge and many more.
Ai-Ais Resort is a luxurious hot springs resort located along the Fish River Canyon’s trail, it has double rooms which are equipped with en-suite bathrooms, tea/coffee stations, fridge and twin or double beds. It also has bush chalets which are equipped with en-suite bathrooms, kitchenettes, fridge, tea/coffee stations and double or queen beds as well as verandas. Facilities at the resort include a bar, restaurant, lounge area, spa, swimming pool, indoor thermal pool, tennis courts and camping sites. Activities that can be enjoyed at the resort include swimming, hiking, bird watching, hot springs, spa treatments, tennis and explorations of the cayon.
Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch is set atop the red dunes of the Kalahari. The ranch has luxury chalets and rooms that exude charm and tranquillity. There are four dune chalets set on stilts on top of the red dunes and have en-suite bathrooms with both a bath and shower, air-conditioning, coffee/tea stations and bar fridge. There are six strohbale chalets which have similar features as the dune chalets, there are also two adjoining garden court rooms each with en-suite bathroom, ceiling fans, air-conditioner and coffee/tea stations. The five individual campsites have fully tiled ablution blocks, gas fired hot water, solar lighting and paraffin lamp lighting. Activities that can be enjoyed at the ranch include guided walks, nature drives, sundowner drives, cheetah feeding as the ranch is also an ideal stop over on the way to the Fish River Canyon.
The Canyon Roadhouse Lodge is situated in the Gondwana Canyon Park and has a variety of game and birdlife for visitors to see. There are plenty of activities that guests can partake in including star gazing, bird watching, nature walks and more. The lodge is about 20km from the Fish River Canyon. Facilities at the lodge include barbeque areas, toilets, hot showers, swimming pool, sundeck, fuel station, bar, restaurant and information centre.
There are a lot more accommodation options in the area to choose from depending on visitors’ preferences and budget. However no matter the choice, a trip to Namibia’s pride and joy, the Fish River Canyon, will not be easily forgotten or surpassed.