Fish River Canyon

In my recent research for the trails and expeditions to go on I have heard of a canyon embedded with magic, ancient legends and rewards so great that only a few every year enjoy it. The place is old and I mean very old. It is called Fish River Canyon and it is based in Namibia. The route, the trail, and the rocks that you will walk on are at least as old as 1.8 billion years. Thus researching and finding key information is thus the harder. The ancient tomes are few that survived, mostly there are stories told by the locals that have been passed on from generation to generation. Some of it reaching even the corners of the new world.

By collecting them all in one place I have prepared this itinerarius (itinerary). For me and potential future adventurers who would like to explore this mystical place.

Throughout this scroll, you shall find a budget estimation for the exploration of Fish River Canyon (the year is 2019), possible contacts to arrange safe camping spots and lodgings, possible caravans for transportation, what to take and the route map that you will be able to easily copy. And hopefully, at the end of the trip, you will find that legendary tooth of the snake. 

Fish River Canyon Legend

According to the indigenous Nama people, the story on how the valley was created goes like this. Once upon a time, a giant snake delved in southern Namibia. Every so often it devoured the people’s sheep and goats and so finally they decided to kill the snake. Armed with spears and accompanied by their dogs the men set out for the hunt. They encircled the snake, keeping it at bay with fiery torches, shooting arrows at it and thrusting spears into its body. Even though it was a giant snake it stood no chance against their superior numbers. In its death throes, the snake tossed and turned, tearing deep furrows into the ground creating the Legendary Namibian Fish River Canyon. 

Cost

There are some costs involved outside getting to the location. These are some of the essential costs required to appease the locals. 

  • To hike the canyon NAD 330 per person.
  • Park entrance fee NAD 80 per person.
  • Shuttle Ai Ais – Hobas NAD 270 per person.

Getting In

The easiest way and the best way be it you arrive to Cape Town or coming from any point from Namibia is by renting a local carriage and driving yourself to the point. I have added a map here to show where it is. Just to ensure you do not get lost searching for this hidden canyon. 

Essentials

From what I gather it is at least 5 days of hiking. With no villages on the way throughout the whole Fish River Canyon trail. Meaning that the lighter you pack the easier it will be for you to finish this endeavor. Of course you can try and higher a caravan but in my opinion, it is not needed.

The key point here is to carry just enough food with as little residual waste left. Meaning – try not to take any tin food since you will have to carry it all the way. 

You won’t need more than 2 sets of shirts and pants. Since you will have an option to wash it in the river every day.

Key points being mentioned here is a list of all essentials:

  1. A warm sleeping bag. Nights tend to get cold.
  2. Strong, reliable footwear (that you have hiked in before)
  3. A satellite phone. There are no cellular signal and exits are at the start of the hike or at the end. 
  4. A Slingsby Fish River Canyon Map
  5. A camping stove 
  6. Matches/Lighter
  7. A medium-sized camping pot
  8. A trekking pole
  9. A First Aid Kit 
  10. A warm jacket/fleece top
  11. Two water bottles (750 ml each, at a minimum) or a hydration bladder
  12. Water purification filter or drops or tablets
  13. Sun hat
  14. Sunscreen
  15. Quick-dry towel
  16. Tent if you don’t want scorpions and spiders crawling on you.
  17. Headlamp with spare batteries
  18. GPS handheld device/watch (for at least one member of the party)
  19. Digital camera/phone for photos
  20. Power Bank (for charging phones/watches)

The Route

Fish River Canyon Map

The trail is packed with challenges and plenty of cosmic beauty as I am told. It is not that hard to follow it. If you at any of the points feel lost well as far as I understand just follow the river. It will be longer but this way you won’t stray from the water and at some point, you will find the village. It took me a while to compile the stories of many gossips, old texts in this itinerary. The fang should be somewhere along the way. As I am told if you are meant you will find it. 

Camp 1 The descent 

The starting point of the trail is 12km south from the Hobas campsite. It takes around one or two hours to go down and is the toughest part of the whole trek. It is best to start the trail either early in the morning or later in the evening. To avoid going during the hottest period of the day. At the bottom, if you still have enough energy you could hike for a bit more to shave off a few kilometers from the next day. 

Camp 2 Hot Springs

It is suggested to hike 13km here and enjoy the startlingly dramatic scenery the upper canyon provides. Or so I am told. Along the way, you will see giant boulders, shaded rock pools that are great for launch break or a swim. The best place to sleep is near the Palm Springs sulfur pools. For a potential hot bath in the evening. 

Camp 3 Three Sisters

This is a fairly easy day. Possible to walk over 16km if you feel like crisscrossing the gravel riverbed (for which trekking sandals are essential) and wading through reed-fringed pools. If lucky you might even see some wildlife near these pools such as tiny klipspringer antelope, hyrax and even the rare Hartmann’s mountain zebra. Along the route look for strange rock sculptures such as mini ‘Table Mountain’ and the Three sister rock towers, which turn a lurid orange in the setting sun and act as a good spot for making camp. 

Camp 4 Von Trotha’s grave

It is a day for strange geological formations. Backtrack slightly from the Three Sisters and take the well-worn track uphill on the left-hand side of the river while hiking back up the canyon. From here the hike will take around 20km through interesting and strange flora and fauna such as the spiky desert-adapted quiver tree, Namibia’s national tree. And if lucky, glimpses of Namibia’s wild horses. Believed to be left by the German colonists. One such colonist was Second Lieutenant Thilo von Trotha, who was killed in 1905 during a confrontation between German soldiers and the local Nama people. Near whose burial is the campsite. 

Camp 5 & 6 The Straight To Ai-Ais

This is the last stretch 30km. In my opinion, it is best to separate this hike into two-day hike. The route, along the alluvial river plain of Fish River, is flat and easy going all the way to Ai-Ais springs. Where you will find hot-springs awaiting you.

Additional key information

  • The hike must be booked in advance through Namibia Wildlife Resort (NWR) – https://www.nwr.com.na/.  At-least a month before.
  • Hobas campsite and accommodation at Ai-Ais Hot Springs Spa must be booked in advance through Namibia Wildlife Resort.
  • To hike a medical certificate of fitness from their doctor is required, valid within 40 days, and complete NWR’s indemnity form before commencing the trail.
  • Minimum 3 people are required to book the hike.
  • The trail is open from May 1 to September 15.
  • Up to 8 hours of walking per day.
  • Poisonous snakes and scorpions are a possibility.
  • Mosquitoes and midges definitely.
  • Treat all water. And have clean water with you all the time.
  • Purchase a map at Ai-Ais or Hobas.
  • When you poo either burn the paper or carry it with you.

Download Trail GPX Map

www.plotaroute.com/route/980718

Authors

Simonas Radkevicius – https://www.instagram.com/sim_rad/