FISH RIVER CANYON
The Fish River Canyon hiking trail is unique among trails in Africa. The Canyon itself is the second largest in the world, only being surpassed by the famous Grand Canyon in Colorado. It is approximately 180kms long and stretches south from Seeheim down to the Orange river which forms the border between Namibia and South Africa. The trail itself, follows 90kms of this amazing wonder of nature, from the view site at Hobas to finish at the hot water spa resort of Ai-Ais.
On the above map you can see the position of the Fish River Canyon. It is situated to the right of 'Namib Desert' in the area outlined in orange.
The trail starts from the view site situated on the lip of the Canyon about 12kms from the Namibia wildlife Resorts camping site at Hobas. From the view site, the hikers descend steeply down the side of the Canyon for between one and two hours dependant partly on how one's knees can take the pressure. Some sections at the beginning of this downhill have chains to help. This descent is considered by most to be the toughest part of the whole trail.
Usually we try to arrive at Hobas in time to go down into the Canyon in the late afternoon of the day prior to the start of the trail. This enables us to get a good start the following morning. At the bottom of the descent, there is a large sandbank that makes an ideal campsite for the first night of the trail.
The first part of the trail to Palm (sulphur) Springs
To take two days to accomplish the first leg of the trail to Palm Springs is considered in line with completing the trail to Ai-Ais in five days. It is important to realize that this is the most rugged part of the trail and takes time to negotiate. There is plenty of boulder hopping to be done and pools of water to find ones way around.
Palm Springs is the site of a sulphur spring that gushes out of the earth at a constant temperature of 57 degrees. There are Date palms that grow around the spring which give rise to the place name. This is an ideal place for a break but we normally don't camp here due to the stench of the sulphur. It is better to walk on for an hour or two before looking for a suitable place to spend the night.
Palm Springs to the Causeway
From Palm Springs, the walk down Canyon starts becoming easier. The Canyon becomes wider with less major obstacles to overcome. Indeed, rock-hopping gives way to sand trudging and crossing 'to and fro' across the pebble strewn river bed to take the inside curve of the bends. From here on, 20-30 kms a day can be achieved, especially if the recognized shortcuts are taken. Just before reaching the causeway, hikers pass the grave of Lieutenant Thilo von Trotha, a German officer killed in a skirmish between the Germans and the local Nama people in 1905.
The Causeway to Ai-Ais
This last part of the trail takes about four to five hours to accomplished. At this stage of the trail, all the hiker wants to do is to reach the end of the hike. Ice-cold beer, real food and the thought of being clean again is enough to squeeze the last effort out of weary and sore legs.
There are no facilities provided for the hiker in the Canyon. Although there are no shelters provided, tents are not necessary as the area is classed as desert and it rarely rains in southern Namibia during the winter months (the only time that hiking in the Canyon is permitted). Water can be taken from the pools to be found along the route but should be sterilised. A medical certificate is required from hikers by the Parks Board.
Hiking The Fish River Canyon is an amazing experience. It should not be attempted by inexperienced hikers as the area is very rugged and a certain amount of skill is needed, especially should an emergency arise.
Bookings for the Fish River Canyon can be made through
Namibia Wildlife Resorts
Cape Town Office
Telephone +27 (0) 21 422 3761
Jacana Travel Marketing and Reservations
Telephone 0861Jacana (0861 522262)
Direct phone: Port Elizabeth 041 378 1439
Pretoria: 012 803 9109
Direct fax: PE 041 378 2548
Pretoria: 012 803 4144
PE e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Pretoria e-mail: email@example.com
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