Event: Canyon Hike

Location: Fish River Canyon

Namibia Africa


550m deep, 27km wide and 160km long with a challanging 85km hiking trail right through the heart of the canyon following the Fish River, welcome to the second largest canyon in the world.
An unforgettable journey among billion year old rock formations, asccessible only from May to mid September because of the soaring temperatures down in the canyon for the rest of the year.


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Hobas Camping SiteFish River Canyon

'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 campFish River Canyon

Night One

Location: Hobas Camp North (high) end of Fish River Canyon
Accommodation: Camp site among shady trees, with light, water, power point, braai/barbecue, tent with mattress
Facilities: Swimming Pool, snack shop, toilets, showers.

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 pointFish River Canyon


Which is where you startFish River Canyon

'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 the camp.


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.

Night Two

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 us.
' 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'

Enjoy the cool riverFish River Canyon

and follow the trailFish River Canyon

Night fireFish River Canyon


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 the day.

More heat, beautiful scenery, cooling river and lots of sunshine were on the menu for the day.

Fish River Canyon

Fish River Canyon

Fish River Canyon

Night Three.

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.

Night 4

Location; Close to the southern end of Fish River Canyon
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.

Fish River Canyon

Fish River Canyon

Ai Ais camping siteFish River Canyon

Room at Ai AisFish River Canyon

Night 5.

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.

More Photographs

Start of the trail...

..heading here..

..down this way

Fish River Canyon
Fish River Canyon
Fish River Canyon

Real food..

..well sort of

Indoor thermal pool

Fish River Canyon
Fish River Canyon
Fish River Canyon

Practical information:
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 are recommended.

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 are recommended.
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 year.
A maximum of 30 persons per day are allowed into the canyon for hiking.
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 trip.
Foot care is important, before, during and after the hike


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