Hobas Camping Site
'There are no hills/mountains to climb?'
I asked once again ... and I was told that it was a simple flat
ish walk following a river through a canyon from a place called
Hobas to some hot springs at Ai Ais ..
'and no wild water riding or extreme rock scrambling?'
I pressed and was once again reassured that no such things were
part of a regular Fish River Canyon hike.
'So why do I need a medical certificate saying I am fit, healthy
and have no heart problems?'
The answer it turns out is not because of any extreme or difficult
obstacles on the walk but because of the extreme heat that builds
up in the canyon and the fact that once you start the hike the only
way out of the canyon is to walk!
Happily my doctor confirmed I was of sound healthy body though
he did say he could not say the same for my mind!
Pool at Hobas camp
Location: Hobas Camp North (high) end of Fish
Accommodation: Camp site among shady trees, with
light, water, power point, braai/barbecue, tent with mattress
Facilities: Swimming Pool, snack shop, toilets,
A very relaxing start having set up camp in the afternoon, bought
some homebakes from the small shop by the reception desk then eaten
them all with my feet dangling in the small swimming pool, it was
a great start to a hike.
Now I was cooking steaks on the barbecue over a lovely fire while
the other members of the hike sipped beers and swapped stories of
previous journeys from around the world.
Our guide whom I had been drilling with questions about the hike
previously stood quietly in the glow of the fire watching the group
she was going to lead through Fish River Canyon from our current
location at Hobas camp to Ai Ais.
The steak sizzled nicely as the juices oozed out (sorry vegetarians)
and I was looking forward to a good solid meal because for the next
few days meals were going to consist of rehydrated food. I tossed
the steaks onto a big plate and took them over to the table for
everyone to help themselves, as I did an eerie wolf like howl echoed
through the trees ... everyone went quiet.
Now i know there are no wild wolves in Namibia but there are lots
of other wild animals - lions, leopards, hyena, cheetah and I had
heard baboons had bigger teeth than lions.....!
' No need to worry, it's just Jackals and they wont eat you they
only want some of your supper' our guide assured us.
Everyone shrugged and dug into our supper but the howling came again,
definitely closer than before, we all moved our chairs closer around
the fire and glanced into the dark surrounding our camping site.
Suddenly the relaxing ca7mping area with its shady trees, swimming
pool and chirping birds had become a scary dark hunting ground full
of wild animals.
Steak, baked potatoes, corn on the cob and beer were all rapidly
consumed as we all decided to get an early night to prepare for
our predawn departure.
Hells Bend from view point
Which is where you start
'Zip up your tent and put everything inside, you
don't want unwanted visitors in the tent or your shoes being eaten
in the night' the guide instructed us as we went to our tents.
I zipped up my tent securely and wondered what sort of animal would
go anywhere near my shoes.
The howling continued as I lay down to sleep, as did other noises
of the night, crackling of branches, crunching of gravel, clicking,
whistling, grunts ..
My imagination cooked up every type of animal wandering through
A wake up shake of the tent disturbed me from my dreams, a quick
check confirmed I still had all my limbs and two walking boots and
I was out into the cool of the very early morning to a breakfast
of scrambled egg, bread and coffee.
Then it was time to break camp and load everything we didn't want
to carry with us into the van which would be driven to Ai Ais to
meet us there in four days, this included the tents...
'Are there huts to sleep in on the hike?' I ventured hopefully
'No we just sleep on the ground beside the river, don't worry its
lovely and soft on the sandy patches' the grinning guide told me
Soft ground ... that was not what was worrying me, no walls no tent
sleep on the ground outside with all the howling, wailing, clicking,
crunching animals that was what was worrying me!
There was no time for concern or more questions it was time to shoulder
our backpacks, tighten boot laces and climb down into the canyon
to start the hike at what is comfortingly called .... Hells Bend.
Location: North end of Fish river canyon
Accommodation: Sand bed with large boulder
Facilities: Open skies
By contrast to the first night rest the preceding day to night two
was not lazy or relaxing, first we had descended a steep but well
marked path down into the canyon floor before trekking over a large
flat pebbled area that looked like a land locked beach and just
after midday we got our first glimpse of the river after which the
canyon is named - Fish River. At the times of year you are allowed
to hike through the canyon the river is a gentle, shallow and a
very welcome event as it is the source of drinking water (with purification
tablets) washing and cooling off.
From the river we turned left and trekked between the canyon walls
that towered either side of our path.
The sun shone down mercilessly and hot from a clear blue, blue sky,
I can't imagine how hot it would be in summer as this was the 'cool'
winter time, I gratefully tugged down my hat and tied a wet towel
around my neck.
The walking was fairly easy you just had to watch your footing as
there are lots of loose stones and rocks along the way sprained
ankles are the most common injury.
So I had enjoyed the views sweated several gallons and listened
to the cry of the Fish Eagle echo down the canyon, completely forgetting
about the nights sleeping arrangements until late afternoon the
sun disappeared from the canyon floor over the cliffs edge above
' We should find a suitable place for the night because it will
get dark quickly now' our wise guide advised.
We found a group of boulders and settled in amongst them, I selected
a nice big boulder and put my sleeping mat close up to it, at least
I would be protected on one side of my bed.
Supper of rehydrated 'stuff' was stodgy and flavourless but the
packet promised that it contained all the essential nutrition to
sustain a human .. it was only the first night and already I was
imagining a big plate of tasty food.
The mood around the fire was slightly tired but jovial lots of foot
rubbing, blister checking and massaging of aching legs.
As the guide had said darkness slide down the canyon quickly and
suddenly it was dark and I mean really dark and I mean really dark,
aside from the glow of the fire there was not a single light visible
... then the howling started.
'Just Jackals, no need to worry' our guide reassured us 'I am going
to douse the fire so not to draw attention and remember to put everything
inside your pack tonight'
Put OUT the fire?? shouldn't we build it bigger to keep wild
animals away? Apparently not so, it seem animals are drawn towards
the fire, so we all snuggled into our sleeping bags as she covered
the fire with sand. Then it was dark, I waved my hand in front of
my face and couldn't see a thing.
I laid down on my nice soft protected on one side sand bed and a
most amazing thing happened, the night sky started twinkling and
the most stunning vista of stars glowed down from the heavens above,
I gazed up in admiration at so many stars and fell asleep.
'Hey where's my left boot?' roused me from my slumber.
Indeed one member of the party had not put their boots inside the
backpack but tied them on the outside by the laces, now in the early
morning dark (two hours before dawn) he only had one boot left....
' Not to worry, put a second sock on and we shall all go look for
your left boot' the trusty guide told him, and sure enough as we
headed out down the path only a few metres from the camp was his
boot, albeit a little chewed but still usable, suspiciously checking
inside first he returned the boot to his foot and we set off for
More heat, beautiful scenery, cooling river and lots of sunshine
were on the menu for the day.
Location: Middle of Fish River Canyon
Accommodation: Sandy bed
Facilities: Camp Fire, cool river
Talking of menus the rehydrated food is starting to taste better
or maybe I am just hungry?
Everyone was tired tonight after a long hot trek we had covered
a good distance and after we found a good spot for the night it
was a quiet group around the fire, with a couple of people having
blisters to attend to. The night time blanket slipped over us and
of course it was howling time, tonight I had no rock to snuggle
against but weariness overcame any concern for being eaten or nibbled
in my sleep but a new sound changed this - a gurgling whooping call
emerged from the darkness.
Questioningly we look at the guide for the normal reassurances ....
she smiled ran her hand through her hair and suggested we all slept
a little closer together tonight!
What? the whooping sound came again closer than before, someone
plucked up the courage to ask the question .. what was that?
'aaaaah sounds like a hyena, probably just a lone one'
Hyena ! bone crunching mean carnivores, I saw the Lion King movie..
So we all become a lot more friendly that night as all the sleeping
bags were shuffled together for protection, no need for personal
space or privacy.
I lay down and tried to enjoy my nightly display of beauty spread
across the sky above me but the wails, whoops, howls and barks of
the night were a bit of a distraction...
No-one left anything out and I am not sure anybody slept that well
and as soon as someone made the suggestion for an early start everyone
leapt up grabbed our packs and marched off down the canyon...
Rehydrated breakfast was served as sunrise peeked over the canyons
edge bringing light and comfort to all, soon followed the heat and
sweat of another days hiking under the clear blue sky.
Location; Close to the southern end of Fish River
Accommodation: Larger flat open sandbank
Facilities: Camp Fire, river
The final night in the canyon and I have to admit my feet were
aching, thankfully no blisters due to a very experienced pair of
boots but I knew I had been hiking for the past 3 days.
During that time I had grown to love the stark slight desolateness
of the canyon, the peace and quiet of human development just nature
and the burble of the river, the heat had been the biggest issue
but bathing in the river each afternoon had been wonderful, I was
still dreaming of good solid non rehydrated food though.
The final nights sleeping place was more open and flatter than
any of the previous two nights as the canyon gets wider and flatter
as you head towards the southern end but we still all settled down
close together after our evening spread of rehydrated stodge.
On cue the howling and barking commenced but thankfully no hyena
whooping tonight and my roll mat seemed so extra comfy spread out
on the sandy banks beside the river.
We all slept soundly because we were woken by the suns rays peeking
into the canyon and after a quick breakfast it was time to enjoy
the final day in the peace and protection of the canyon.
Ai Ais camping site
Room at Ai Ais
Location: Ai Ais Resort
Accommodation: Room with double bed, en suite shower,
walls and roof
Facilities: Two Swimming pools, bar, restaurant,
shop, toilets, spa, fuel station
Arriving at Ai Ais had been a bit of a surprise as we didn't see
the camp until we stumbled into the camping area and realized we
had made it.
It was a little anti climatic to suddenly be there and the hike
was over, a trip to the bar sorted that out as we sat and told stories
of near death with hungry hyenas in the desolate canyon to tourists
who had more sensibly (but less adventurously) driven to the camp.
Then it was time to go to the restaurant and eat some real food
before sgtripping off and watching the sunset from the outdoor swimming
pool as we floated around easing our throbbing feet and aching limbs,
while gazing up at the starry night sky that had been our ceiling
for the last few nights.
It had been an awesome experience and all concerns of being nibbled
by wild beasts in the night faded away as we all solemnly agreed
to do it again, same time next year - but with better food.
To hike the Fish River Trail you need to reserve a spot through
Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR), the Windhoek-based company that
administer access to the canyon. This costs 130 Namibian dollars
per hiker. Park entrance only is 30 Namibian dollars per person.
The Hobas campsite and accommodation at Ai-Ais Hot Springs Spa must
also be booked in advance through Namibia Wildlife Resorts.
Hikers must present a medical certificate of fitness from their
doctor, valid within 40 days, and complete NWR’s indemnity
form prior to commencing the trail.
A good level of fitness is essential. Expect seven to eight hours
of walking per day.
No facilities are available en-route and hikers must carry all necessary
equipment, medical kits, food and water.
Water is normally available in the canyon, but purification tablets
Hiking The Fish River Canyon is an amazing experience, however
it should not be attempted by inexperienced hikers as the area is
very rugged. Please note:
Once you are in the canyon it is impossible to get out - and in
the case of a serious emergency, hikers have to be airlifted out
of the canyon. This is one of the reasons why hikers must present
a recent medical certificate of fitness no older than 40 days and
complete an indemnity form, prior to commencing the trail.
Hikers are required to be entirely self-sufficient on this hike,
and a medical kit is also recommended.
Water is normally available in the canyon, but purification tablets
A minimum 3 people is required to book the Fish River Hike - if
there are only 1 or 2 of you wanting to complete the hike, you should
consider joining the guided Fish River Hiking Trail. (This guided
hike is also an excellent option for less experienced hikers - as
the equipment needed to complete the hike is included and the services
of an experienced guide make the hike a more enjoyable experience.)
The walk is approximately 85km long, and usually takes between 4-5
days to complete.
A decent level of fitness is essential.
You will have to carry your own equipment every day, including food
and water (all together approximately 12–15 kg per person.)
The park is open for these trails from May 1 to September 15 each
A maximum of 30 persons per day are allowed into the canyon for
Children under the age of 12 are not permitted.
Demand is high, so reservations should be made well in advance.
No facilities are available and hikers sleep outdoors for the entire
Foot care is important, before, during and after the hike