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mistybleu Fish River Canyon - A travel report by Amanda
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Fish River Canyon,  Namibia - flag Namibia -  Hardap
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mistybleu's travel reports

The Beauty of Southern Namibia

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The difference in landscape as you leave South Africa is dramatic; from the green hills, abundant orchards, flowing rivers, you enter the arid land of Namibia.

Fish River Canyon
Fish River Canyon
Namibia was one of the last African nations to be colonised back in the 1800s (by Germany). By the first World War South Africa occupied the county then known as South West Africa. It wasn't until 1990 it gained independence and Namibia was born.


The country is the size of the state Texas and is sparsely occupied, amounting to 2.2 people per sq km. It is 1500km long from north to south and in the southern region only 600 km at its widest point. The majority of the country is desert or semi desert; this occurs as only the border areas tend to have rivers. In the south the Orange, Fish and Kunene Rivers; in the North the Okavango and Zambezi; the rest of the rivers (ie Riviere) are seasonal, flowing only in heavy rain.


A third of the GNP is from mining (including diamonds, gold, silver, lead, and marble etc), then agriculture, fishing, and finally tourism.


Only 30% of the population (1.9m) live in the central regions around the capital Windhoek, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. Southern inhabitants represent only 7% and they tend to be the Nama people (who came from the Cape) plus the German decedents and Afrikaans. The indigenous tribe is the nomadic San people or Bushmen; their history dates back some 20,000 years and was forced to adapt to the desert conditions after being pushed further north.


On average Namibia has 300 days of sunshine a year and rain only falls from November to February during summer. The average temperature varies from 20°C to 34°C in the summer, but at night it can fall between 0°C to 10°C in winter.


Namibia’s rainy season last for 3 months and that is when the plains become green and painted with wild flowers.

Trees are scarce and are mainly the Acacia and Kokerboom or Quivertree (known by this name as the bushmen with use it to make arrows).

Favourite spots:
Hell's Bend
Hell's Bend
It is said that Fish River Canyon is over 500 million years old and was excavated by the Fish River as well as a result of a collapse of a valley owing to movement in the earth's crust, which is why there is a sulphur hot spring in Ai Ais. It is one of the most astonishing canyons in the world, second only to the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

It is part of the Nature Conservation Park and vehicular access to the canyon where the huge gorges and splendid rock formation makes way to the floor if from Vogelstrausskluft.

The Canyon of itself is only about 150 km long however the Fish River, the longest river in Namibia (around 650km), flows through until it reaches the Oranje in the south. The main entrance is in Hobas and there is a further 10km drive to reach the rim.

The river is being dammed so at most times of the year only trickles flows, but in the winter between May and September torrents of water can found as the water from the plains makes it way to the ocean.

What's really great:
The Vegetation
The Vegetation
The Grand Canyon of Africa

The canyon trail is a 5-day hike that covers just less than 90km and I'm told that the sights are magnificent. Access to the canyon floor is restricted as so many people have hurt themselves by not preparing properly, underestimating the temperatures, or bringing enough water, or wearing a hat or even applying sunscreen. Now a permit has to be obtained prior to entrance to the park (in Windhoek) and a doctor's certificate is needed.

The less strenuous walks are of the canyon rim, but even this walk can be rewarding as the amount of plants, flowers, birds and animals that can be seen makes it all the more worthwhile.

I enjoy spotting with wildlife: kudu, Orynx, ostrich, squirrels, birds, insects, butterflies, grasshoppers; also looking at the different types of flowers growing. It just astonishing to see Mother Nature thriving in this inhospitable place.

Sunset at Orange River
Sunset at Orange River
At the main entrance is the Hobas Campground in the Canyon, at the southern end is Ais-Ais Hot Spring resort and is a perfect place to unwind after exploring the canyon.

Also located fairly close is the Orange or Gariep River. On the Namibian side is dry and the rolling hills comes alive. It is there is the Fish River ends. (

Along the river are a few perfect spots for a barbeque or just to relax. It is possible to do a little a rock climbing or just amble along the riverbank is perfect Many of the lodges/campsite off some sort of water sport, like canoeing rafting etc.

Heading further south, across the border into South Africa there is Springbok and Namaqua Kop where in summer the wilderness comes alive with wonderful flowers. (

In the other direction, further north along the C27 is Sesriem and the perfect sand dunes of Sossusvlei. (

Orange River Lodge
Orange River Lodge
The Fish River flows into the Gariep River and on it’s banks are a few Lodges/campsites like the Orange River Lodge; situated in an ideal spot with lovely green grassed areas (which is unusual to see in Namibia) that provides a perfect bed for the night.

Sleeping under the stars is one of its greatest selling points, as well as the individual air-conditioned cabanas. They had good facilities, including hot and cold water, showers and flushing toilets etc. We were told that the further north in Africa you travel the more you appreciate such luxuries of life.

From here the sunsets are magical and best enjoy from the banks as the sun dips beyond the hills. It is so enjoyable taking a walk upstream, it’s also possible to look for semi precious stones here (well maybe just cat's eyes).

The other bar
The other bar
The nightlife is all about the bar; either at the lodge or at one of the other campsites along the river. Then there is just sitting around the campfire and exchanging stories, it's the perfect way to get to know your fellow travellers.

However I must confess, what with rising before dawn, there is little chance of having too many late nights and all of a sudden 9pm seems like midnight.

Picnic and Viewing Area
Picnic and Viewing Area
The beauty of camping and enjoying a carefree life is stopping anywhere and having lunch.

Most times they have picnic table and chairs which are unusually sheltered, like at one of the viewing points in the Fish River Canyon, right opposite Hell's Bend.

There are other lodges around where you could eat, but building a fire and cooking some barbeque epitomises camping. The whole idea of being in the wilderness - being at one and enjoying the outdoor experience. The biggest decision is what to pick up at the nearest 'pick n pay' supermarket to have for dinner.

Other recommendations:
Quad biking in the desert
Quad biking in the desert
Swakopmund (the second largest city) was not my favourite place but a place to visit nonetheless. It has a very interesting German heritage, with a lot of the old colonial buildings still standing proudly.

Swakopmund sees itself as an adventure capital and nearly everything is available from quad-biking, parachuting, camel rides, sand-boarding, sea kayaking, paragliding hot air ballooning; you name it, they can find someone who offers it.

One of the largest companies is Orange Outback - they provided a wonderful service and the evening quad-bike ride is highly recommended as the scenery over the coast in the setting sun makes it entirely better.

Published on Wednesday November 1th, 2006

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Sat, Nov 04 2006 - 03:29 AM rating by gloriajames

well written as usual! thanks for sharing this destination !

Thu, Nov 02 2006 - 10:45 PM rating by rangutan

A colourful report for an arid place, the desert "lives"!

Thu, Nov 02 2006 - 12:00 PM rating by frenchfrog

Very nice report, lots of info, well done, I know the feeling of being in bed by 9Pm!

Thu, Nov 02 2006 - 11:39 AM rating by marianne

Did you do the 5-day hike?

Wed, Nov 01 2006 - 10:28 PM rating by quikflikchiq

brilliant report - really interesting and i love the photo of the sunset and the quad bikes!

Wed, Nov 01 2006 - 10:00 PM rating by eirekay

Amanda, marvelous report full of great info and terrific photos! I love the idea of quad biking!

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