Next Fish River Canyon Expedition: 26 July - 3 August, 2018
The Fish River Canyon, situated in Namibia, is reputed to be the second largest canyon in the world, only being surpassed by the Grand Canyon, USA. This can be debated regarding how you chose to measure the size, but it is magnificent nevertheless, and one of the most iconic hikes in Africa. The Fish River Canyon is approximately 180 km long and stretches south from Seeheim to the Orange River, which forms the border between Namibia and South Africa. The Fish River hiking trail follows 90 km of the canyon. The canyon is massive, 500 m deep and over 25 km wide in some places.
Hiking Fish River Canyon is nothing but an amazing experience and phenomenal nature experience. In fact it's one of the most epic hiking trails you can do on the African continent, however it should not be attempted by inexperienced hikers as the area is very rugged and without facilities. This multi-day hike requires that each one is entirely self-sufficient on this trail and that we carry along all we need for the next few days and sleep in the open. When you speak to someone who has already done the hike, chances are he or she will be quick to point out that this is an expedition.
Of course, one of the most important aspects of a hiking trail is that you don't constantly bump into other people, and the only way to ensure that is to limit numbers, so that means you have to book. Demand is high and often it is fully booked a year in advance due to the limited number of people permitted in the canyon on any given day during the season when it is open to the qualified public. This ensures that it never gets crowded. Our group is limited to ten participants.
The route covers approximately 80 km if the various shortcuts are followed or 90 km if the course of the river is adhered to and usually takes four to five days to complete. Access to the canyon is only permitted between May and September because of the extremely high summer temperatures and the danger of flash floods at other times.
Day-time temperatures during the winter months when the trail is actually open for hiking are generally pleasant, fluctuating between 20-25 Celsius. The temperature combined with the dry atmosphere, create ideal hiking conditions. Temperatures of up to 40 Celsius are not uncommon and that’s when we stop frequently on our path to find shade and take a refreshing swim in the river. Evenings are usually mild and pleasant, while at night-time the temperature can sometimes drop to around 5 Celsius so bring a warm sleeping bag.
We are very particular about safety. The guide is trained in first aid and we bring a satellite phone along for safety should there be an emergency and we need to get hold of the outside world for help and consultation with medical professionals. On this trip we will stay near each other so if there is an unforeseen situation we should be quickly on site to assist.
Itinerary for the July, 2018 trip, starting from Cape Town
We meet at the V&A Waterfront for meet & greet together in the afternoon.
Early morning start from Cape Town. We drive in minibus to Springbok with a few stops on the way to stretch legs and eat lunch. Hotel/guesthouse in Springbok included.
Crossing the border to Namibia and on we go to Fish River Canyon and check in at the canyon office. We start the slow descent into the canyon and find a spot for camping and perhaps swimming. The descent is possibly the hardest part of the trip although it isn't really that bad unless your backpack is too heavy. It takes about an hour and a half to reach the bottom. This is the time to eat any perishable food and drinks other than water that you brought along. We sleep under the stars as the chances of rain is minimal. Other options is either a tent, if you don't mind carrying the extra weight, or a bug bivy.
This is perhaps the hardest day in terms of terrain. Sand and boulders to conquer. After breakfast we walk at our own tempo until lunch where we reconvene, eat lunch and have a swim in the river. Palm Springs bubbles up hot, sulphuric-smelling water and is too hot to bathe in, but mixes with the cooler river water to a lovely temperature to soak in. After that we walk until sunset, settle in a suitable spot for rolling out the sleeping bags and begin marveling the night sky and stars.
Although we walk for most of the day and cover ground, it's fairly easy terrain to navigate as it is flat, but the sand is dispersed with small rocks you need to negotiate. One cannot really get lost in Fish River Canyon. A map, or a GPS, will be fun to measure the pace with and also works as a good motivator. Animals found here include baboon, rock dassie, springbok, steenbok, klipspringer, kudu and squirrel. Leopard and zebra also inhabit the area, as well as wild horses.
Along this winding hike there are a couple of optional shortcuts over the hills. These takes us away from the river a little bit so we stack up with water before leaving the only source of hydration. The shortcuts leads us up to an elevation with a change in scenery of the canyon.
We walk at our own pace and there is no pressure to hurry up. Some hikers like to revel the nature in solitude while others need continuous company. Either is fine. We meet at certain points during the day to ensure everyone is fine and camp together as a group at night. There is no fixed schedule or planned places for overnighting. When the sun starts setting we start looking for a suitable place to spend the night. Can it possibly get more relaxed and enjoyable?
For some reason we tend to get into a brisk walk this last stretch of the hike. Could it be the thought of that cold beer or ice cream awaiting us in Ai-Ais? Arriving at Ai-Ais Hotspring Resort. Back to civilization, fresh food and other human beings apart from ourselves. Hotel included.
Full day of driving back to Cape Town.
Cost: R9756 (ZAR) per person sharing.
Single supplement: R1290 (ZAR).
A 50% non-refundable deposit by bank transfer secures your spot on the trip. Upon payment of the deposit you will receive an extensive suggested packing list and other useful information to prepare for the hike. Signed liability release and remaining balance due 30 days before trip commences. If canceling within 7 days of departure there will be a 100% cancellation fee.
Accommodation as mentioned in itinerary: 2 nights in hotel and/or guesthouse.
Our own private transport with driver Cape Town to Fish River Canyon and back.
Access to park and park fees.
Breakfasts in hotels/guesthouses.
Any meals except where breakfast is included with accommodation.
Travel insurance or cancellation insurance. Each hiker is responsible for their own travel/evacuation insurance.
Border crossing fees (if any, depending on which passport you hold).
Visa to Namibia or South Africa.
Medical certificate needed for access to FRC. The form can be downloaded here.
Any personal expenses.
DIFFICULTY AND LEVEL OF FITNESS REQUIRED
Covering 90 km on five days is ambitious, but absolutely doable. Expect seven to eight hours of walking per day. Experienced hikers are preferred, so please tell us a little bit about your hiking experience when you contact us. The trail is not technically difficult, but endurance and being able to handle both high and low temperatures is needed. We expect normal health, patience and easy to get along with other people.
It is very beneficial if you are used to being in nature and have some experience with some mountaineering. Ideally you are used to carrying a 60 - 80 liter backpack, sleeping outdoors and of normal fitness. We stress the importance of enjoying being in the great outdoors. Try to carry all your gear you intend to bring a few weeks ahead of the trip and get comfortable with how it works and feels.