World → Africa → Namibia
One of the best hikes in the world is
Fish River Canyon
Fish River Canyon trek is one of the most popular in southern Africa. The immense scale and rugged terrain draws visitors from all over the world.
- located in the south of Namibia
- 85km the standard route (many take a short cut walking only about 71km)
- 4-5 days hiking
- sections are rugged and challenging
- many river crossings
- canyon is 27km wide, 160km long, the largest in Africa
- May 1 to September 15 only. Too hot the rest of the year.
- up to 8 hours of walking / day
- should reserve a year in advance
- minimum 3 hikers in your group
- must carry everything: food, shelter, medical kits, etc.
- permits are difficult to get as a maximum of 30 hikers start each day. Recommended to book 12 months in advance.
Why We Like This Hike
- one of the worlds largest Canyons
- towering rock faces and deep ravines
- nearly all of the Canyon is preserved by Nature Reserves
- rich variety of bird and animal life
- malaria free
- Sulphur Springs hot pools
- plenty of unknown paths and remote bends to explore
- Namibia has many beautiful campsites en route to the trailhead. It’s the best nation in Africa for foreign visitors, in our opinion. 🙂
Fish River is one of the toughest treks in the world to get a reservation. 😦
- should reserve a year in advance
- no more than 30 people allowed to start daily
- must present a medical certificate of fitness from a doctor, from within 40 days in advance of the start, and complete NWR’s indemnity form
- children under 12 are not allowed to register
- hikes sometimes cancelled if the river is too high
- if injured on the Trail, the only evacuation is by helicopter. Or limping out on foot.
- river shoes are essential
- many river crossings. Poles recommended. If water is high, some bring inflatables to help with crossing.
- days can be very hot, nights very cold
- poisonous snakes and scorpions
- mosquitoes and midges 😦
- start of the trek the most difficult section, a steep 1-2 hour descent into the canyon
- some hikers lose toenails, from impact on descent
- you must scramble giant boulders with full pack, more difficult when water levels are high
- treat all water. Carry water with you at all times, just in case.
- there are day hikes nearby in Canyon Nature Park and Gondwana Canyon Park
- nearby Ai-Ais Hotsprings Spa gets mixed reviews
- nearby Canyon Roadhouse gets good reviews
To hike the Fish River Trail you need to reserve a spot through Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR), the Windhoek-based company that administers access to the canyon. They are not particularly friendly in our experience.
Hobas campsite, if needed, is also booked through NWR.
In 2015 cost / hiker for the Fish River Canyon trek:
- 130 Namibian dollars (US$95) – trail fee
- 30 Namibian dollars (US$22) – National Park entrance
The traditional route has you drop straight down into the canyon at the beginning.
Night 0 = most tent at Hobas Camp Site, about 10km from the main viewpoints
Night 1 = Palm Springs sulphur pools
Night 2 = Three Sisters
Night 3 = Von Trotha’s grave
Night 4 = Ai-Ais
Total Distance = 85km
That sample itinerary was recommended by Lonely Planet. You can camp where you want, in reality.
At the end of your trek, consider a soak in the /Ai /Ais Hot Springs Spa . Even more luxurious accommodation is available at Cañon Lodge, located 20km from Ai-Ais which also offers mule trekking in the canyon.
Transport is available at Ai-Ais back to the start of the trail, if you’ve left a vehicle.
- Fish River Lodge 5 days N$ 13000 pp
Cardboard Box in Windhoek organizes guided Fish River Canyon treks some years. (It was cancelled in 2014.)
It’s a hassle even finding out whether you can make a reservation. 😦
Contact Central Reservations Office in Windhoek, phone: +264 61 285 7200. Or you can try sending an inquiry via their contact form.
We had the best success emailing reservations(a)nwr.com.na.
If you find an opening even a year in advance, book it quickly. It won’t last long.
- none aside from Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR)
Best Trekking Guidebooks
There are no dedicated Fish River hiking guidebooks as of 2014.
Best Travel Guidebooks
- Lonely Planet Botswana & Namibia 2013 (be sure to get the most up-to-date edition)
- Namibia, 4th: The Bradt Travel Guide 2011
Other Recommended Books
- Insight Guide South Africa
Best Web Pages
- Lonely Planet – Hiking Namibia’s Fish River Canyon
- Hiking in the Fish River Canyon 2009
- Wikipedia – hiking Fish River Canyon
Best Trip Reports
- Astonished Eyes – Fish River Canyon 2008
- Ralph Pina – Fish River Canyon Trail
- Ian Belcher – The hottest walk on earth 2005
- RB – July 2014
Click PLAY or watch it Ralph Pina’s trek on YouTube.
- nomadawhatudo – Fish River Canyon Hike – May 2014 – GoPro Selfie Edition
- go-southernafrica: Fish River Canyon hike 2014
Check our blog for posts tagged “Fish River Canyon Namibia”.