Fish River Canyon

Fish River Canyon, Namibia, Africa
550 meters/1,804 feet
The Fish River (Visrivier) Canyon in Namibia is absolutely magnificent and breathtaking in its immensity. It is one of the worlds largest canyons and one of Namibia's most recognized natural wonders. Rock strata of purples, pinks and grays stretch along a 100-mile (160 km) course.

Activities and Attractions
Namibia has a very poor public transportation system. It is a 300 mile journey to the Fish River Canyon from Johannesburg South Africa. Arrival at the canyon can come as somewhat of a surprise . With no warning, the canyon drops vertically 1800 feet from a flat arid plateau.

Most lodges offer hikes into the canyon and the nature park. The hikes can vary from one to five days. Horse rides are also offered.

At the northern end of the gorge are amazing viewpoints and the start of the very tough Fish River Canyon Trail, one of the most popular treks in Southern Africa. It is a 5-day, 54 mile hike, along the river in the belly of the ravine from Hobas to Ai-Ais Hot Springs. Temperatures of 40C are not uncommon on the trail and only hikers with a current medical certificate are allowed to do this walk. Groups must consist of at least 3 participants older than 12 years. The trail is closed in the summer for safety reasons. The season starts May 1 and ends September 15 (winter time in the Southern Hemisphere).

The Fish River flows intermittently, usually flooding in late summer; the rest of the year it becomes a chain of long narrow emerald pools. Swimming in these pools can be a fun activity, however the water is very cold even on hot days.

There are scenic flights from several vantage points.

The 100 mile long canyon is up to 11 miles wide in places and over 1800 feet deep. The Fish River Canyon probably formed about 500 million years ago during the pluvial times - a rainy climatic epoch - however, the gorge was not only created by water erosion, but also by the collapse of the valley bottom due to movements in the earth's crust.

The Fish River has its source in the Eastern Naukluft Mountains and, in Richtersfeld, flows into the Orange River, after traveling for more 400 miles through the desert of Southern Namibia. In its lower part it crosses a mountain range and thereby forms the Fish River Canyon. Today nearly all of the canyon is preserved by nature reserves: In the South where the deepest part is located by the Ai-Ais / Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, in the North by private nature reserves such as the Canyon Nature Park or Vogelstrausskluft.

The canyon is the habitat of some small hardy mammals such as the rock-hopping klipspringer antelope, little dassies (rock hyrax) and baboons. There are also kudu antelope, leopard and mountain zebra, whose spoor you might come across, but are unlikely to see. Birdlife is more prolific, with well over 60 species including herons, hammerkops, egyptian geese, plovers and wagtails. The riverine bush of the canyon attracts an interesting variety of colorful birds and raptors such as rock kestrels and lanner falcons that ride the thermals. The lower reaches of the canyon are densely vegetated.

Early, middle and late Stone Age sites have been found, dating as far back as 50,000 years ago.