Photo by RudiBosbouer – Wikimedia

Top 9 facts about the Fish River Canyon, Namibia


The Fish River Canyon is a very popular natural landmark in southern Namibia. Namibia is a country in Southern Africa, on the west is the Atlantic Ocean.

This Canyon has a vast rugged terrain that may seem intimidating to some due to the heat.

Despite that, the hiking trails on Fish River Canyon are loved by many visitors from all over the world who go every year.

Having been around for millions of years, the Fish River Canyon has morphed. The Canyon is much deeper than it was millions of years ago due to water and wind erosion.

As the biggest canyon in Africa, everything about it is impressive and deserving the UNESCO World Heritage site.

One fascinating fact about this canyon is that while hiking you can refill your bottle from the water springs in the valley.

Hiking here, as you will learn later, is limited to a few months a year and you will need a doctors’ note to show proof of fitness.   

You will not be disappointed when you visit the Fish River Canyon. Here are the top 9 facts about the Fish River Canyon.

1. Most hiking trails in Fish River Canyon get closed when temperatures are too high

Photo by Rudi Bosbouer – Wikimedia

The temperatures at this canyon can be unforgiving especially during summer, they can rise to 50 degrees. For this reason, the hiking trails are closed for safety reasons.

To fully enjoy the hike, the recommended time to visit is between April and September. Since the canyon is prone to flooding, the authorities close the trails to avoid accidents

This hike takes between 4 to five days to complete and it is 85km. It is important to know that the hiking trail is only accessible to those willing to camp.

Daytime visitors are not allowed to climb the canyon. There is a lot to see during the day too.

For one to take part in the hike, you are required to show a certificate of fitness from a certified doctor.

This is required because the trails are strenuous and there is only one evacuation point, through airlifting, in case of an emergency.

2. The hiking trails at Fish River Canyon are the most popular in Namibia

The trails in this Canyon are the most popular in Namibia because of how challenging they are.

It is not only popular in Namibia but also in the southern Africa region. Outdoor lovers always have the ultimate hiking experience when they visit Fish River Canyon.

The permitted hiking trail in this canyon is a rugged stretch of 53 miles. Visitors from all over the world come to Namibia for this exciting experience.  

While here one will notice that some of the trails are marked while others are not. There are also no amenities available here; just you and mother nature.

One secret about the canyon is there are random pools that one can take a swim to cool off.

3. Fish River Canyon is the longest river in Namibia

Photo by Hp.Baumeler – Wikimedia

The river flowing through this canyon goes by the same name, Fish River. This river is 800 km long and is said to be the longest river in the country.

Its source is in the eastern parts of the Naukluft Mountains at Seeheim. Some of the water from the Fish River is stored in the Hardap Dam, the largest water reservoir in the country.

Although it is the longest river, it dries out during hot summer but it has little pools of water that provides water for the animals. It is only during the heavy rains that this river floods.

Fish River ends at the Ais Ais region before joining the Orange River at the border of South Africa.  

4. Fish River Canyon is the largest in Africa and the second-largest in the world

The size of Fish River Canyon is humongous. It is vast and deep and goes beyond the horizon.

This is the second-largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon in the United States. Subsequently, it is the largest canyon in Africa.

Its main ravine is 100 miles long and 16 miles wide.

Located in the driest part of Namibia, the canyon is defined by other incredible landmarks such as the Fish River flowing through it and gigantic rocks.

It is also part of the Ais-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. One must enter the park to access the canyon which is 7 miles inside the park.

5. The Fish River Canyon hosts an annual marathon

Photo by RudiBosbouer – Wikimedia

This next fact might seem impossible but it’s true. Despite the heat and the ruggedness of the terrain, there is an annual marathon that is held in this canyon.

There are two marathons; the ultra marathon covers a distance of 62 miles and takes 8 hours to finish while the lite marathon covers a distance of 40 miles and takes 5 hours to complete.

It has to be said that this is one of the toughest marathons in the world. Although there are marked trails to follow, some of the trails have no solid footpaths.

One of the requirements for this marathon, other than a doctor’s note, is the participant needs to be self-sufficient throughout the race by bringing their energy bars and other supplies you may need.

There are freshwater pools where one can refill their water bottles.    

6. Fish River Canyon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Fish River Canyon is managed by the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism.

The lower Canyons have been a Namibian national monument since 1962.

It is not only one of the most preserved and fascinating tourist icons, but also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

7. This canyon is almost a billion years old

Photo by RudiBosbouer – Wikimedia

Some of the rocks found in the River Fish Canyon are among the oldest rocks in Namibia.

The rocks were cut by the Fish River as it flowed through the Canyon more than a billion years ago.

Before the canyon was formed, geologists believe that the region was a mountainous range. This mountain range was then eroded after continuous floods from the ocean more than 650 million years ago.

Fish River formed 350 million years ago, therefore ass it flowed south, its waters cut through the mountain range. The deep canyon was formed after an old tectonic plate shifted.    

8.  There are excellent accommodation options at the Fish River Canyon

While there are backcountry camping options available for hikers, there are also modern facilities available for those that seek comfort.

As one of the most visited tourist locations in Namibia, the Fish River Canyon has several lodges to choose from that are luxurious and air-conditioned.

This is one of the most magnificent locations in Namibia and its natural beauty is immense.  

There are also plenty of activities to do when you choose to stay here. An early morning stroll, scenic drives of the breath-taking landscape as well as animal spotting and bird watching.  

9.  One can enjoy thermal baths at Fish River Canyon

As mentioned earlier, the main activity at Fish River Canyon is hiking. If you are not the athletic type, then you can opt to relax in one of the natural thermal pools in the Canyon.

The Ai-Ais natural hot springs are said to be healing and are found at the southern end of the canyon. This particular hot spring is surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery.

There are also options for indoors or outdoors thermal baths in some of the resorts at the canyon.