Your Guide to the Mighty Fish River Canyonby Danielle Terblanche on 17 May 2018
It’s not often that you’re left speechless by a hole in the ground — but your breath will definitely be taken away by the magnificent Fish River Canyon in the south of Namibia. This natural phenomenon attracts thousands of visitors daily and I recently had the privilege of visiting this remarkable landmark. Photos fail to compare to what awaits you at the edge of this cliff and that’s why you simply have to visit this beautiful area yourself. TravelGround shows you exactly what to do and where to stay while you’re exploring the second most visited tourist site in Namibia!
The Fish River Canyon is the largest canyon in the Southern Hemisphere and the second largest in the world! The impressive canyon is about 160 km long and up to 27 km wide with spectacular cliffs that create unforgettable views. It was formed 500 million years ago when the earth’s tectonic plates shifted, causing a complete change in the landscape. The mighty Fish River originated because of the erosion that chiselled its way through and created towering dolomite and granite heads. The Fish River meanders through the ravines and only flows in the rainy season from January to April.
The main viewpoint of the canyon is situated in Hobas where you have to pay a small conservation fee at the camp. A 10 km drive takes you to the edge of the canyon from where you can enjoy the spectacular views. And believe me, you will be rewarded for the long drive there! You can enjoy a picnic at one of the tables and listen to the foreign accents of visitors from all over the world. There are other viewpoints you can walk or drive to to completely take in the canyon amidst the dry plains. Without any windows, even the toilets at the main viewpoint offer you a stunning view of the canyon — and don’t worry, no one can take a peep!
Anyone who has visited the canyon will tell you that you simply have to visit the Canyon Roadhouse on your way there. Not just because it’s the only pit stop for kilometers and a wonderland of old cars and paraphernalia but, because they serve delicious lunches and something to quench your thirst at the quirky ‘pompstasie’. We recommend that you fill up your vehicle here — by now he might be thirsty too. The roadhouse is almost an oasis in this desert landscape and a visit here will let your restless legs settle before you hit the road again.
Hiking the Fish River Canyon
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous and don’t want to just look at the stunningly beautiful canyon from one of the viewpoints, you can hike it! The 90 km long Fish River Canyon hike is one of the most popular hiking trails in Southern Africa and it should definitely be on your bucket list. It’s an unforgettable adventure of boulder hopping, mountain climbing and sleeping under the stars in the middle of a canyon!
The hike, starting at Hobas and finishing at the Ai-Ais Resort further south, takes about 5 days to complete so that you’re able to properly take in the natural beauty of the canyon in this expansive environment. Once you’re in the canyon it feels as if you’re completely removed from the outside world and you’re able to fully immerse yourself in nature. The terrain changes quite often and you might see wildlife roaming the desert landscape. You have to book your hike well in advance because only 30 hikers are allowed in the canyon per day and it’s very popular.
Many hikers describe this unique trail as their favourite hike and will do it again in a heartbeat. One hiker shares his experience with us:
The diversity of geology and rock formation is fascinating! From the dolomite strata forming the canyon walls to the large boulders in the river bed of the narrow upper reaches to the sandy/gravel stretches in the wide lower reaches of the Canyon. – E. Wolf
The Fish River Lodge
The remarkable and unique Fish River Lodge is the only lodge built right on the edge of the canyon and we recommend a stay at this luxurious establishment to best enjoy the sheer beauty on the edge of eternity!
The 20 private chalets on either side of the main lodge are perched on the edge of the canyon so that guests can soak up the beautiful vistas. Fish River Lodge has been built in harmony with its surroundings, allowing guests to enjoy the natural landscape without having to sacrifice convenience. The chalets have outdoor showers and decks offering views of the canyon where guests can enjoy activities such as yoga, as well as outdoor beds where guests can sleep under the stars.
As you enter through the doors of the main lodge, you’re greeted with the dramatic landscape of the western side of the canyon — a view unlike any other! The main lodge offers a pool on the edge from where you can enjoy gorgeous sunsets over the canyon, a cosy guest lounge with a fireplace, an outdoor bar area and a craft shop. You can really unwind in comfort at this beautiful lodge.
When you’re not relaxing or sipping sundowners by the pool, you can partake in some adventurous activities. Explore the magnificent surrounds on a guided fat bike cycling tour, a 22 km morning cycling tour after breakfast or a 10 km sundowner cycling tour on top of the canyon.
If you don’t feel like doing all of the work you can join a friendly guide for a scenic sundowner drive to the various view points along the edge of the canyon. There is also an exhilarating canyon drive descending deep into the ravine. Fish River Lodge is the only lodge that has 4×4 access into the canyon and you will be in safe hands with the experienced guides. Take a dip on a warm day and enjoy lunch at one of the rock pools in the heart of the canyon, or partake in the one day hike down the canyon if you’re not up for the full hike!
Are you ready to pack your bags and head to the Fish River Canyon? We thought so! Whether you’ll be exploring the canyon on foot or relaxing in the luxurious lodge, it’s a getaway that you’ll never forget. Don’t delay it any longer and book your stay today!
Feature image: Daniëlle Terblanche