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Trip Ideas

Fish River Canyon hike – all it’s essential to know

Mountaineering Fish River Canyon, the second largest canyon on this planet is sort of thrilling, isn’t it? This hike was on our bucket listing for a few years and at last, we did it! Some information books say that is the hardest hike in Africa. I’m undecided about it we haven’t accomplished many hikes in Africa a few routes in South Africa together with the well-known Otter Path and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. When you like climbing Fish River Canyon is certainly the hike so as to add to your bucket listing. Even if you happen to’re not planning to hike it the canyon remains to be price visiting; it’s one of the vital lovely locations n Namibia.

The full distance of the path is 86 km, the river itself is longer however attributable to many shortcuts, your strolling distance is about 14 km much less. This submit is a step-by-step climbing information; Fish River Canyon route map, finances, reserving particulars, lodging choices, shuttle, packing listing, and extra.

Fish River Canyon from the lookout point at the start of the hike
Fish Rive canyon from the perspective subsequent to the start line of the hike

Fish River Canyon hike route overview

  • Distance – 86 km
  • Variety of days – 4-5
  • Finest time – Might to mid-September
  • Start line – Hobas
  • Ending level – Ai-Ais Scorching Springs

The perfect time for climbing Fish River Canyon

The canyon is open for climbing between the first of Might and the fifteenth of September. Exterior this era hikers should not allowed within the canyon attributable to excessive temperatures. We walked Fish River Canyon at the start of Might and it nonetheless was highly regarded through the day. If you wish to get extra comfy temperatures it’s higher to do the hike in June – July. The nights within the canyon are fairly chilly even in the summertime. In June – July evening temperatures go down to five°C and even under. It’s extremely really useful to deliver heat garments for sleeping and a superb sleeping bag.

The price of the hike

  • The hike itself prices NAD500/US$35 per individual.
  • Park entrance payment – NAD160/US$11 per individual.
  • Shuttle Ai-Ais – Hobas NAD300/US$20 pp.

Complete: NAD960/US$67 pp.

The Namibian Greenback (NAD$) is the same as the South African Rand (ZAR). The present alternate fee with USD you will discover right here.

The way to guide the Fish River Canyon hike?

Reserving is obligatory. First, you cellphone one of many numbers offered to inquire about availability. In Windhoek, Namibia (+264 61) 285 7333 In Cape City (+27 21) 422 3761 If any appropriate to your dates can be found you guide them over the cellphone. After that, you will have 48 hours to pay a deposit (10%) to substantiate your reserving. Then you definitely ship an e-mail with a affirmation of the fee. The full quantity have to be paid 30 days previous to the hike.

Consideration! In response to the foundations you need to be a minimal of three individuals to make a reservation. You possibly can at all times guide for 3 and present up solely two with some excuses that your climbing buddy acquired sick and attempt to hook up with different hikers initially after you’ll be able to stroll by yourself.  

The sign at the beginning of the Fish River Canyon hike
The place to begin of the Fish River Canyon hike at Hobas

How lengthy beforehand do you need to guide the path?

We booked at the start of April for the second week in Might, after we phoned there have been nonetheless 4 or 5 days with 5 or so spots in Might open so it’s potential to guide only a month earlier than. However when you have particular dates we’d recommend reserving the hike two or three months beforehand. Solely 30 individuals per day are allowed to begin the hike. A French couple we met climbing booked it simply 5 days earlier than they usually nonetheless may get a spot.

You can begin coaching for the hike a few months prematurely to ensure it gained’t be too robust. When you stay in Cape City or close by there are various wonderful climbing trails within the metropolis that you are able to do over weekends. Begin with strolling with a day pack and after a few routes add extra weight and attempt to stroll with a heavier backpack just like the one that you simply’re planning to tackle the Fish River Canyon hike. The hardest a part of the route is a steep and lengthy ascent to the underside of the canyon on the primary day. You possibly can stroll down one of many Desk Mountain climbing trails (Platteklip Gorge, Kasteelspootr, or Skeleton Gorge) to see the way you’re doing strolling down with a backpack.

Medical certificates for the trek

Essential to deliver a medical certificates proving you don’t have any well being issues. The certificates should not be older than 40 days. A kind will likely be despatched to you after you make a fee for the hike or you’ll be able to obtain it HERE. This way have to be stuffed in by a health care provider. We don’t know what can occur if you happen to arrive with out it very possible you gained’t be allowed to stroll. At Hobas the very first thing they requested us was our certificates however they didn’t actually look by simply took them and put them in a folder. We thought it was ridiculous however really yearly there are individuals rescued by helicopter or park rangers (from emergency exit) as a result of they’ll’t proceed the hike. We met a person who spent 2 days ready for the rangers to get to him he acquired a warmth stroke and couldn’t stroll anymore.

Campsite at Ai Ais Hot Springs near Fish River Canyon
Good grassy and shadowed campsite at Ai Ais, an incredible place to remain earlier than and after the hike

The way to get to Fish River Canyon?

The canyon is located close to the border between Namibia and South Africa, about 200 km north of Noordoewer border management. We drove from Cape City to Ai-Ais, 800 km, in sooner or later with a few brief stops for lunch and snacks. It took us about 9 hours. When you have extra time on the best way from Cape City to Namibia you’ll be able to spend a few days on the West Coast particularly if you happen to do the journey in August – September when you’ll be able to see wildflowers in Namaqualand. One other vacation choice is to mix the hike with a Cape City to Namibia highway journey.

When you’re coming from Windhoek, Ai-Ais is 700 km south of the capital, an 8-hours drive.

Border crossing course of

The border management Vioolsdrift/Noordoewer is open 24 hours although we’ve heard they may not help you undergo after the sundown so ensure that to reach earlier than the darkish. The border crossing course of is fast, it takes about 20-Half-hour. In spite of everything formal procedures and passport stamps, they search your automotive and allow you to by.

To enter Namibia along with your automotive you’ll need:

  • legitimate passports for all passengers
  • Legitimate driver’s license
  • automotive registration papers
  • In case your automotive remains to be being financed, deliver a letter of authority from the financial institution (should embody dates of journey) with the car license papers. They may not ask for it however it’s higher to have it with you.
  • ZA sticker in your automotive, you should purchase it at any outside retailer or some petrol stations
  • a stuffed kind that you simply get on the border, deliver a black pen with you to fill it
  • N$320/US$21 payment that you simply pay to enter Namibia along with your automotive.

After the border management there are two petrol stations, each settle for playing cards, a small store and Wimpy. You possibly can fill your cat at Ai-Ais however they settle for solely money.

The Moos in Fish River Canyon at night
The Moon may be very vibrant within the canyon at nights

Locations to remain earlier than the hike

Mainly, you will have two choices; staying at Hobas Campsite (NAD400/US$28 per campsite as much as 8 individuals) or Ai-Ais Scorching Springs (NAD400/US$28 per web site as much as 4 individuals). Most individuals together with ourselves keep at Ai-Ais for a superb motive the campsite there’s nicer; a inexperienced grassy space with timber for shadow, many bogs and showers, electrical stoves for cooking, and naturally the spotlight the recent springs. You possibly can’t think about how good it’s after the hike to chill out in scorching springs!

Ai-Ais campsite services

  • Scorching bathe – Sure
  • Flushing bogs – Sure
  • Electrical energy – Sure
  • Retailers – Sure
  • Operating water – Sure
  • Wi-fi – No
  • Braai place – Sure
  • Consuming water – Sure
  • Different – electrical stoves, lined space for cooking, indoor swimming pools.

When you’re planning a Namibia highway journey and like tenting take a look at our submit on the perfect campsites in Namibia. We visited many campsites throughout our 2-months journey throughout the nation.

The place to depart your automotive?

You possibly can park your automotive at no cost both at Ai-Ais (scorching springs) or at Hobas (start line). Each locations look equally secure which one to decide on is as much as you. We left our automotive at Ai-Ais and took a shuttle to Hobas within the morning earlier than the hike. That labored out rather well. After we lastly arrived at Ai-Ais on the final day our automotive with all of the stuff was right here. Imagine me, you’ll be drained after 4-5 days of strolling and gained’t really feel like driving for an hour to Hobas to get your automotive. Our French pals parked their automotive at Hobas and needed to look ahead to the shuttle until 5pm.

The way to get from Ai-Ais to Hobas?

The path begins at Hobas, you will have two choices; to take a shuttle earlier than the hike or after the hike relying on the place you permit your automotive. There’s at all times a shuttle going to Hobas within the morning at any time after 6am. You don’t have to guide it beforehand we organized it when arrived at Ai-Ais. The shuttle can take 11 passengers without delay.

A shuttle jeep from Ai Ais to the start of the Fish River Canyon hike
A shuttle jeep from Ai Ais to the start line of the Fish River Canyon hike

What to anticipate from the Fish River Canyon hike?

The hike may be very totally different from many of the hikes we’ve accomplished. The path just isn’t very simple to stroll; sand, rocks, river crossing and so on.

The climate; it will get highly regarded through the day and really chilly at evening so that you want each solar safety and heat clothes/sleeping bag.

Solar, you stroll within the solar all day you get a little bit of shade right here and there early within the morning and late night however essentially the most a part of the day there’s nowhere to cover.

Consuming water on the path

Water is at all times out there because you stroll alongside the river however it’s really useful to take some purifying capsules or water filters. You don’t wish to get sick or have abdomen issues within the canyon. We at all times use our LifeStraw Water Bottles when climbing. Their membrane microfilter system removes 99,9% of micro organism and parasites. One filter can be utilized to scrub 4000l of water. It’s very simple to make use of you’ll be able to drink from a bottle or straight from a water supply. You should buy LifeStraw by Take A Lot or at Cape Union Mart.

An alternative choice is to make use of chlorine capsules however you need to look ahead to about Half-hour earlier than it’s able to drink and it tastes like swimming pool water, not the most suitable choice contemplating you drink rather a lot on the hike.

A map of the Fish River Canyon hike
A map of the climbing route in Fish River Canyon

The Fish River Canyon hike – our full 4-day itinerary

Day 1. The place to begin – Palm Sulphur Springs, 5 hours

We began the trek at 10am. The descent to the underside of the canyon took us a bit lower than 1 hour. It was fairly steep however not as robust as we thought. As soon as on the backside in 2km you attain the river and for the following 4-5 days, you’ll simply observe it. We walked about 20km on the primary day it took roughly 7 hours together with a lunch break. If you wish to take it simple you’ll be able to camp proper after the descent, on the river, there’s a good sandy seaside.

At the present time we didn’t see any indicators exhibiting the space or instructions however it’s unattainable to get misplaced you simply observe the river. There aren’t any ups and downs on the route however you stroll on sand and rocks on a regular basis so it’s not very quick strolling. You possibly can camp wherever you need, simply discover a good sandy spot subsequent to the river. We camped someplace between the primary emergency exit and Palm sulfur springs.

Fish River Canyon at the sunset
Surroundings on the finish of the primary climbing day in Fish River Canyon

Day 2. Palm Sulphur Springs – Three Sisters, 6 hours

We began at 8.30 and walked for about an hour earlier than we reached the Scorching springs. Really, if you’re a superb walker and begin your first climbing day early sufficient you can also make all of it the best way and camp right here the primary evening. The new spring is, actually, is a stream that goes into the river and water in there’s highly regarded you need to combine it with chilly river water. We spent about 40min. swimming and chilling right here it was very nice.

On the second day the path goes by tough terrain; sand and rocks so that you make gradual progress plus we made two lengthy swimming/resting stops. By 4pm we fairly drained and my ft have been destroyed so we determined to camp on a small seaside subsequent to the river. We had a unbelievable evening sky and the complete moon didn’t even want our headlamps. For my part, the canyon at evening time is the perfect! At the present time once more we didn’t see any indicators or distance marks.

Sulphur Springs on the Fish River Canyon hike
Palm Sulphur springs at the start of the second day of the Fish River hike

Day 3. Three Sisters – Von Trotha’s Grave, 6 hours

An early begin at 7.30 or so and perhaps the longest climbing day for us, we walked for 8 hours however in a method, it was our personal fault we missed one shortcut. The third day is the principle shortcut day on the hike. There are three important shortcuts; we missed the primary one the place you climb over the mountain, the second at 50km was simple to identify from far there’s a huge phrase “Brief reduce” written on the rocks, the third one comes proper after that whenever you attain the river. For the terrain the third day was most likely essentially the most tough as effectively some river crossing, rock leaping and sand strolling.

By 4pm all of us have been fairly drained and my ft have been fairly destroyed. We discovered a pleasant spot on the seaside not removed from the emergency exit and camped there. This evening was the coldest of three we spent within the canyon, it was freezing! All of us wakened a few occasions through the evening to placed on increasingly garments. By the following morning, I and Campbell have been sporting all the things we had in our backpacks. However the sleeping luggage that we took with us have been very skinny for 11C min. So when you have hotter sleeping luggage a minimum of for 5C or decrease you’ll be okay.

Scenery on the Fish River Canyon hike
A typical surroundings on the third and fourth day of the hike

Day 4. Von Trotha’s Grave – Ai-Ais, 5 hours

The surroundings on the final day was the least spectacular, the canyon reduces considerably it reminds a rocky valley greater than a canyon. As a result of a really chilly evening, all of us wakened fairly early at 5am packing didn’t take lengthy and in 30min. we have been able to roll. It was the simplest and the shortest day for us; within the first half you stroll on a 4×4 path, then some sand and rocks, and at last a pleasant simple path all the best way to Ai-Ais. We arrived there at 1pm and have been completely pleased to take off our footwear and to get a chilly Ginger beer for me and a few beers for guys.

After 4 days in mud, warmth and chilly drained and with blisters we have been completely pleased to chill out within the scorching springs and to eat some steaks! Our mission was accomplished! We walked it in 4 days with none explicit motive however I’d advocate do it in 5 days you’ll have extra time to take pleasure in, relaxation, take photographs, swim, and so on.

A Cold Beer sign at the end of the Fish River canyon hike
Chilly Beer signal a few kilometers earlier than Ai-Ais Scorching Springs

What to pack for the Fish River Canyon hike?

Don’t pack an excessive amount of the extra you pack the extra you carry!


Our most important situation on the hike have been footwear, each I and Campbell have been sporting climbing boots and each had horrible blisters throughout our ft and we had hiked in them rather a lot earlier than. In truth, I couldn’t stroll in my boots on the second day and placed on sneakers. Our French pals that we met had precisely the identical downside and a lady ended up strolling in her flip-flops with thick socks. Our third hiker was sporting path trainers and had no points in any respect, they have been very comfy for strolling on sand and leaping over rocks. We are likely to blame the warmth it was highly regarded within the boots they usually have been stuffed with sand on a regular basis.


We’d advocate sporting lengthy pants and an extended sleeve shirt it’s the perfect safety from the solar and also you’ll be scorching and sweating anyway even if you happen to stroll bare. 

A hat, sun shades, sunscreen – all must-haves, Namibian solar is extraordinarily sturdy. 

Comfy garments (e.g. fleece, pants, flip flops) to vary, at all times good to sleep in clear garments.

A towel, there will likely be a chance for “showering” within the river every single day, sooner or later you even get scorching sulfur springs.

Underwear, socks, what number of pairs to take as much as you.

Campbell and Alya with an old scooter on the Fish River Canyon hike
Campbell & Alya with an outdated scooter of the underside of Fish River Canyon

Mountaineering gear

Most individuals don’t carry a tent neither did we. It provides 2-4kg to your baggage which is rather a lot, it’s positively hotter to sleep in a tent however a correct sleeping bag solves this downside. Furthermore, the evening sky within the canyon is unbelievable it’s good to go to sleep below it.

A mattress, we had self-inflatable small mattresses and have been very pleased with them however if you happen to take foam rolled up one you’ll be okay you camp on sand so it’s already smooth sufficient.

A sleeping bag, take a superb one, we had our summer time bag for 11C min and one evening have been freezing in them we needed to placed on all our garments to final until morning. And we hiked in Might if you happen to do in In June/July it’ll be even colder. We’d say take a sleeping bag that may go to 0C.

Mountaineering poles, we by no means use them however many individuals do for me they take advantage of sense for steep downs and river crossings, right here you’ll have each so it’s as much as you to take them or not, they aren’t actually heavy.

A water bottle with a filter or purification capsules

A headlamp/torch.

A route map, you should purchase it at Ai-Ais or Hobas. When you hike Fish River Canyon for the primary time it’s essential.

Cooking gear

Range, we’ve a small moveable gasoline range that we at all times take climbing, it’s ok to boil water, prepare dinner pasta or oats. Fuel relies on what number of you’re and the way a lot cooking you wish to do however we’d say take 500ml it’ll final for 4-5 days for positive.

Pots, we had a set of two; one for meals one for boiling water if you happen to can handle with one solely a bit extra uncomfortable. Swiss knife, we love this factor many practical; opens cans, cuts, slices and so on.

Cutlery, take plastic or bamboo forks and spoons. Cups, we had two very mild plastic cups. Lighter/matches to your range, no fireplace allowed within the canyon.


It’s as much as you what and the way a lot meals to tackle the hike relying in your weight loss plan, preferences, and so on. Right here is our meals listing;

  • Breakfast – instantaneous flavored oat sachets (3 for 2 individuals), espresso.
  • Snack – vitality bar/nut combine.
  • Lunch – biltong/droewors (we at all times take it when climbing), crackers. Don’t reduce biltong it would get moldy within the warmth moderately deliver an enormous piece and reduce it as you eat.
  • Dinner – a can of tuna, 250g of pasta, one tomato sauce sachet (for 2 individuals).

First-aid package

You can also make your personal first-aid package or purchase a preassembled one at any outside outlets.

  • Platers
  • Bandages
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Cleaning soap
  • Tablets: Ibuprofen and an antidiarrheal
  • Scissors
  • Antiseptic wipes

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