Deep down in the south of the country, this incredible wonder of nature has carved through the bedrock of Namibia for centuries! In terms of sheer size and magnificence, Fish River Canyon can probably only be rivalled by the Grand Canyon in the USA. Rocky outcrops and spectacular cliff faces spring up throughout the whole area, with the seasonal river flowing between January and April each year, beginning high up in the centre of Namibia and winding its way down towards the South African border.
There are a number of interesting aspects to the Fish River Canyon area that make it a must-see part of a holiday for many visitors to Namibia! Often, small groups stay in this area for a few days, as part of a wider self-driving holiday. Due to the arid climate, vegetation is quite sparse on top of the canyon and on the slopes, but look harder in the base, especially where the water is found all year round, and you will discover palm trees by the sulphur hot springs as well as increasing quantities of camelthorn and ebony trees the farther south you travel.
You also need to look closely to spot the birdlife and animal life on show – both are not obvious, but they are beautiful when discovered! Animals in the canyon include leopard and mountain zebra, antelope or kudu. There is even a good chance of hearing and seeing a baboon! There are only about 60 species of bird in the area, but the count does include the majestic black eagle and the yellow-rumped eremomela, in addition to ostrich on the plains above the Canyon. The region is not a vibrant hub of bird activity, but when linked with other sightseeing tours it can be very fulfilling, even for the keenest birders!
Fish River Canyon is a magnet for hikers, with enthusiasts recognising it as one of the toughest areas to navigate in the whole of Africa. Whether you are with a guide or within a small group, a hike here will really test your navigational skills and endurance over the course of a few days! There are also less demanding hiking trails for those with less experience – such is the grand scale of the canyon, there are plenty of options here. A number of lodges and camps provide a comfortable stay in the region along walking routes, with places to pitch up and sleep under the stars for a night. Hiking has become a focal point and the amount of people visiting just for this activity led to the creation of the Fish River Canyon Ultra Marathon, which takes place in August each year. The name says it all – with competitors being tested to the limit, it is not for the faint hearted!
While you are in the area, why not check out Ai-Ais National Park, which was deemed a conservation area back in 1969? Since then, it has become a hub of activity to preserve the natural surroundings and find the right balance with tourism, which plays an active role in the prosperity of Namibia. During the last few years there has even been a move to link Ai-Ais with a national park in South Africa, Richtersveld, which has a similar environment. This has helped form the first Transfrontier Park in Namibia’s history and is a great coup for tourists to visit cross border!
However, if you prefer to focus on Fish River Canyon, you will not be disappointed. With its sheer vastness and beauty, Fish River Canyon attacks the senses from all angles and is a fantastic area to visit as part of a wider safari or holiday in Namibia!