FISH RIVER CANYON AND AIS-AIS, NAMIBIA
depth guide to the seasons, animals, birds and wildlife
habitats of Fish River Canyon, Namibia
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Fish River Canyon in southern Namibia
is second only in grandeur to the USA’s
Grand Canyon in Arizona. It is absolutely magnificent
and breathtaking in its immensity. Rock stratas
of purples, pinks and greys stretch along a
100-mile (161km) course. Yet it comes as something
of a shock when you arrive at the canyon, as
you have no idea it is there. It drops vertically
by 1,800ft (550m) out of a flat arid plateau
without any warning, even though at some points
it is 17 miles (27km) wide!
to the San Bushmen the twists and curves were
carved by the serpent, Kouteign Kooru, in
an attempt to escape capture. However, geologists
say it was initially created by a fracture
in the earth's crust 500 million years ago.
Erosion and the action of glaciers then further
deepened the canyon.
the base of the canyon only remnants of the
great Fish River remain and all you can see
from the viewpoints are distant emerald pools.
After rains the energetic stream tries to muster
up enough energy to be called a river. It is
down here in the canyon floor here that hikers
pit themselves against the elements on one Southern
Africa’s most famous and popular hiking
trails. The hike covers a distance of 54 miles
(86km) over 5 days in the base of the canyon,
with absolutely no facilities whatsoever. You
have only what you carry on your back and whatever
water you can find in semi-permanent pools.
Because of its arduous nature, the National
Park's office insists on a certificate of fitness
before you are allowed to commence the walk.
The reason for never turning back, is that your
hike ends at Ai-Ais Hot Springs, where you can
dip your sore feet and weary body in therapeutic
Ai-Ais is the Nama word meaning ‘burning
water’ and you can expect water temperatures
of around 60ºC. The sulphurous springs
originate deep underground and are rich in minerals
which are reputedly beneficial for those with
rheumatic or nervous disorders. Ais-Ais falls
within the Fish River Canyon conservation area
and the hot springs are a public facility. It
is perhaps for this reason that they are not
in the least exotic apart from a few alluring
palm trees. The spring-water swimming pools
are rather unimaginative, but there is an indoors
spa with jacuzzi and spa bath to help takes
the knots out of tired muscles.
landscape is desolate, dusty and rock strewn,
but the hills and chasms are enticing. These
are wonderful to explore, especially on a horse
in the cooler early morning or late afternoon.
This barren area is just too hot during the
summer so the resort is closed from November
to mid March.
Opportunities for game
watching is limited but springbok and steenbok
are sometimes seen on the plains at Hobas. Klipspringer
and troops of Chacma baboons are happy on rocky
slopes and mountain zebra favour the rugged
ravines but are rarely seen. Some kudu inhabit
the densely vegetated lower reaches of the canyon.
The riverine bush of the canyon attracts an
interesting variety of colourful birds and raptors
such as rock kestrals and lanner falcons ride
Summer: November to April are
the hottest months with average mid-summer temperatures
ranging between 97°F and 100°F (36°C-38°C)
and reaching in excess of 104°F (40°C)
by midday in the canyon.
Winter: May to September are
cooler but you can still expect daytime sunshine
and pleasantly warm to hot temperatures. At
night it can get very cold with a mid-winter
July minimum of 44.5°F (7°C) or less,
especially in the canyon.
Rainy Season: The annual rainfall
is highly variable and erratic and varies between
2 inches (50mm) and 4 inches (10mm) per year.
RIVER CANYON SPECIALITIES
· 54 miles (86km) Fish
River Canyon hike
· Magnificent views
of the canyon
· Exquisite photographic
· Floating in therapeutic
· Unique desert environment
Ais Ais Hot Springs is closed from November
to mid-March as it is just too hot.
This is not a malarial area.
Follow the links below to Namibia's premier wildlife regions
and game reserves.
Reserve Index | Wildlife