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Fish River Canyon

Learn About the Famous Fish River Canyon and its Attractions

Fish River Canyon | Namibian Safari

Not just another hole in the ground. Located in Southern Namibia, is the world’s second-largest canyon, after the well-known Grand Canyon situated in Arizona, United States.

Fish River Canyon is a popular terrain where thousands of hikers, bikers, and all-round travellers journey through daily. It’s the second most visited tourist attraction in Nambia, after the Namib Desert, which is the oldest desert found on the globe.

Let’s explore why so many tourists flock to this destination year after year.

Quick Facts

Location

Southern Namibia

Length

160 km

Area

5,900  km2

Top Acitivities

hiking, biking, marathons

How Big is the Canyon?

As mentioned, the canyon is the largest canyon in the Southern Hemisphere. It features a gigantic ravine, reaching a length of approximately 160 km and a width up to 27 km. The ravine can reach a depth of 550 metres in some places.

Canyon’s Geology

Fish River Canyon is made up of an upper- and lower canyon. The upper canyon consists of river erosion inhibited by gneiss bedrocks (metamorphosis of granite) and the lower canyon was formed after erosion wore through the hard rocks. Both the upper- and lower canyon was declared a national monument in 1962.

The canyon’s river runs through metamorphic rocks called horizontal dolomite strata, forming part of the canyon.

Around 650 million years ago, tectonic plate movement formed a lowered area which allowed the Fish River to flow through it. This eventually created a flat plain, via erosion, which formed the upper canyon.

Glaciation during the Karoo Ice Age, around 300 Mya, caused the canyon to become deeper. Around 60 Mya, Africa and South America separated due to continental drift, which allowed Africa to rose remarkably. Because of this, the water formed the deeply twisting system of the river because of erosion.

fish river satellite image
Satellite image of Fish River Canyon

Hiking

One of the many things tourists do at this magnificent canyon is hiking. The Fish River Canyon hiking trail is a highly popular trail in Southern Africa. The large scale, rugged terrain allows hikers of all levels to explore its trails.

The trail generally follows the Fish River for around 88 kilometres and travellers usually finish it within 5 days, if all goes well.

Hikers taking on this warm and uncertain terrain, need to ensure they have all their necessities with them as there are no resources along the way.

If you want to make sure you have your hiking permits in time for your trip to the big canyon, plan ahead. Due to the extremely hot temperatures in the summer, as well as some flooding here and there, permits are only issued between 1 May and 15 September.

Before hikers arrive at Hobas, they must obtain a permit from Namibia Wildlife Resorts for groups no smaller than three. In order to hike there, hikers must also be older than 12 years and have a certificate of fitness.

For more information about obtaining a permit, click here.

Now we take a look at the Fish River Canyon’s popular trail.

The canyon’s trail officially starts from the car park approximately 13 kilometres west from Hobas. Just a head’s up, the first 100 metres of the trail are steep and chains are provided for hikers to make the descent.

For those not interested in following the path “most travelled by”, there are three trail sections for you to choose from.

  • Sulphur Springs – Also known as Palm Springs, the way down to Sulphur Springs will take hikers through a narrow section of the canyon where you’ll find rocks, deep sand, and big boulders which will result in a slower hiking speed.
  • Sulphur Springs to Three Sisters Rocks – This route follows a trail on firmer ground with numerous river crossings and river stones.
  • Three Sisters to Ai Ais Resort – From Three Sisters Rocks to the Ai Ais resort, the canyon becomes wider allowing 4×4 vehicles to pass through it.

For those interested in accessing short cuts to cut some time from the long trip, the canyon provides a few popular shortcuts:

  • Just before Three Sisters Rock at the 50-kilometre mark. This shortcut will take you through to Barble Pools
  • From Barble Pools. This shortcut will take you through to the German Soldier’s grave.
  • At Bandage pass. This pass can be found between Fool’s Gold Corner and Causeway.

Documentation for running through the canyon started in 1990. Two hikers, Ronnie Muhl and Bruce Matthews, completed the 90-kilometre journey within 11 hours and 42 minutes on 13 July 1990. On 16 August 2003, Russel Paschke, Charlie du Toit, Coenraad Pool, and Tommy van Wyk completed the trail in 10 hours 54 minutes. Thereafter on 3 August 2012, Ryan Sandes broke the previous record by running the trail within 6 hours 57 minutes. Finally on 18 June 2016, AJ Calitz broke all previous records by running the trail within 6 hours 39 minutes and 52 seconds.

AJ Calitz and Friends taking on the Fish River Canyon

The Fish River

One of the many things tourists do at this magnificent canyon is hiking. The Fish River Canyon hiking trail is a highly popular trail in Southern Africa. The large scale, rugged terrain allows hikers of all levels to explore its trails.

The trail generally follows the Fish River for around 88 kilometres and travellers usually finish it within 5 days, if all goes well.

Hikers taking on this warm and uncertain terrain, need to ensure they have all their necessities with them as there are no resources along the way.

Would you like to explore Namibia?

Would you like to explore Namibia and it’s popular attractions? Africa Travel Co offers various tours which allow you to experience Namibia first-hand. Make a booking today and find your adventure safari in Namibia.

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