The Fish River Canyon is located in Namibia. It
is the second largest canyon in the world and the largest in Africa.
It features a gigantic ravine, in total about 100 miles (160 km)
long, up to 27 km wide and in places almost 550 metres deep.
The Fish River is, at 650 kilometres, the longest
river in Namibia. Its source lies in the eastern Naukluft Mountains
and flows south-west of Ai-Ais into the Orange River.
The river flows intermittently, usually flooding in late summer;
and when it ceases to flow it becomes a chain of long narrow pools
on the sandy rock-strewn floor of the chasm. At the lower end of
the Fish River Canyon, the hot springs resort of Ai-Ais provides
an oasis in the desolate rocky wastes
The Fish River canyon, situated along the lower reaches of the
Fish River, is one of the most impressive natural beauties in the
southern part of Namibia. It developed predominantly during the
pluvial times - a rainy climatic epoch - many millions of years
ago. With a depth of up to 550 metres, the Fish River Canyon is
the second largest canyon in the world, before the Grand Canyon
in America. The enormous gorge meanders along a distance of approx.
160 kilometres through the fissured Koubis massif all the way down
to Ai-Ais. The canyon starts near Seeheim, is 161 kilometres long
and ends at Ai-Ais.
Fish River is absolutely magnificent and breathtaking in its immensity.
The Fish River Canyon probably formed about 500 million years ago.
However was not only created by water erosion, but through the collapse
of the valley bottom due to movements in the earth's crust.
The canyon is part of a Nature Conservation Park. The gate is situated
at the restcamp Hobas. From there, you have to drive another 10 kilometres
to the actual Canyon which offers a stunning view of "Hell's
The canyon is part of a nature conservation park. The gate to this
park is at Hobas campsite and from here it is a further 10 kilometres
to the main viewpoint for the canyon which offers a stunning views.
When you arrive at the canyon, as you have no idea it is there.
It drops vertically by half a kilometre, out of a flat arid plateau
without any warning. As with most rivers in Namibia the Fish River
is generally dry however in the raining season (January to April)
the river can become a raging torrent
The Fish River Canyon has become a popular
hiking destination. However, hikes require good physical
health and should only be undertaken during the cooler winter months
(between May and September).
A permit must be obtained. The hike is 86 km in length and takes
about 5 days.
Other shorter day and half day hikes, are offered by several surrounding
lodges to various parts of the canyon, please note though the hike
down into the canyon into Hells bend from Hobas is only available
as part of the 5 day hike
The Fish River Hiking trail is one of the most
famous hikes in Southern Africa. The 86 km hike through the Fish
River Canyon takes 5 days and can only be untertaken by physically
fit people, it takes 5 days with absolutely no facilities, hikers
are required to carry everything and find whatever water you can
in semi-permanent pools.
You have to book well in advance and be able to produce a doctor's
certificate. It is always a group hike.
A hike through the Canyon can and may only be done in winter, between
April 15 and September 15. In summer, the temperatures in the gorge
are extreme; even in winter, conditions get quite hot. In the past,
many accidents and even fatalities have occurred, mainly due to
heat stroke and heart failure. The rescue facilities are limited;
no helicopters are stationed nearby and there is no cell phone reception
in the Canyon.
The descent starts at Hiker's View, about 3 km north of the Main
Viewpoint and takes almost an hour. Only one "emergency exit"
leads out of the gorge near "Palm Springs", to which one
usually arrives at on the third day. It is a very steep path and
once you get to the top, you literally stand in the desert. The
trail ends in Ai-Ais.
The Fish River Canyon area has a typical semi-desert climate. During
the hot summer months (October - March) temperatures can rise to
48°C during the day and cool to about 30°C at night. Relief
from the heat comes in short spells with occasional thunderstorms.
The average annual rainfall in the canyon area is 100mm. During
the short winters, temperatures can go below zero at night, but
quickly pick up during the day to a moderate 20 to 28°C.
In the canyon you may encounter several species of mammals, such
as wild horses, Mountain Zebra (Hartman zebra), Kudu, Klipspringer,
Leopard, Steenbok, Baboon and Springbok. The most common rodents
include mice, rats, dassies, and dassie rats. Bird life includes
surprises like Pelicans, Black Eagles, Fish Eagles, Kingfishers,
Lovebirds, Wild Ostrich and various species of waterfowl and wading
birds, such as Herons.
Reptiles and insects are in abundance and you may come across huge
Leguan lizards; snakes (such as Cape Cobra, Black Spitting Cobra,
Puff adder and Horned adder) as well as Geckos. Various locusts,
butterflies and moths are also present. In the natural pools of
the Fish River are found an abundance of fish, such as Barbled catfish
and Yellow fish.
Namibia's national tree, the Aloe dichotoma or Quiver Tree is mostly
found in the south of the country. There are beautiful examples
of these in the Fish River Canyon. The trees can reach an age of
about 300 years, and flowering occurs during wintertime from May
Other plants include various species of succulents, such as the
very poisonous Melkbos. All plants are well adapted to the semi-desert
environment and can survive severe droughts of up to 5 years.
Accommodation for Fish River Canyon