5 or 6-day Fish River Canyon Mule Trail

Fish River Canyon Mule Trail
Fish River Canyon Mule Trail

The Fish River Canyon in southern Namibia is an extraordinary place. It's also rather harsh and impenetrable to all but the most avid hiker willing to lug a full backpack for 5 days over 85km of difficult terrain in extreme heat with a love for pot noodles and toe jam. Normal human beings need not apply but for the rest of us, who still want to explore this 500-million year old geological marvel, there is a way.

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5 or 6 days
Namibia, Fish River Canyon, Windhoek
transfers, accommodation, guide, camp equipment, meals and drinks while on the hike, mules and mule driver, supply team
Excludes: day packs, sleeping bag, personal insurance, tips
Hiking Duration: 3 or 2 days
Hiking Distance: 45km or 30km
Difficulty level: Moderate

Tour Brief

The Fish River Canyon Mule Trail is a fully portered, fully catered three-day hike through the northern canyon and every bit as fascinating, humbling, scenic and unique as the real deal. Without the pain.

The Fish River Canyon, depending which definition you use, is the world's second largest canyon and being in such a remote, inhospitable region of southern Namibia is mercifully free from throngs of tourists and day trippers. What's more your mule trail takes place in a private reserve so you are further guaranteed to have this entire monstrous spectacle all to yourself.

The walk, despite being fully portered, is still tough. No pain no gain as they say and your descent into the canyon requires a fair deal of fitness, balance and a head for heights. Once on the canyon floor, the going eases up a little but the terrain is rough and slow going. Just imagine doing it with a huge backpack threatening to topple you with every misstep and you'll feel much better about yourself.

The tour starts and ends in Windhoek but we recommending combining this hike with a general self-drive or guided tour of Namibia. Sossusvlei is en route home and you may as well divert to the Skeleton Coast and seeing as you've come this far, why not head up to Etosha via Damaraland and then down via the Waterberg to cover pretty much all of Namibia's amazing highlights.

The Fish River Canyon Mule Trail runs from mid-April to mid-December and groups range from 2 to a maximum of 12 so book early for this exciting adventure. We also offer a 2-day, 30km version of this hike that skips out Löwen Camp.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Windhoek

Arrive in Windhoek and transfer to your hotel or guesthouse. Explore Namibia's capital at leisure where museums, galleries, markets and shops will help you while away the hours till dinner time.

Accommodation: TBC

Day 2: Gondwana Canyon Park

You will need an early start to drive the 650km to the Gondwana Canyon Park. Your guide will collect you at the appropriate hour from your accommodation or, if you're on a self-drive, give yourself at least 8 hours to enjoy the gently unfolding landscape without rushing the journey.

Arrive at the Canyon Mule Station in Gondwana Park by 3pm where you will transfer your luggage to a mule pack and leave your vehicle in the secure parking. Transfer to the trailhead at Camp Battlesnake on a rocky outcrop with a wonderful view of the Fish River Canyon.

Enjoy a cool drink as the sun set over the canyon. You should be quite excited by now for the adventure before you.

Accommodation: Camp Battlesnake - a wooden hut and tents with communal ablutions

Day 3: Fish River Canyon

After breakfast you will load up and set off on your trail, the mules striking ahead as they do. Walk along the edge of the canyon for a while before descending via the Löwen Gorge to the canyon floor, 550m below the surface.

Your guide will point out interesting geology, flora and fauna along the way including the quivertree, tamarisk, euphorbia and hardy game like Hartmann's mountain zebra, kudu, springbok, klipspringer and duikers; birds flock to one of the few water sources for hundreds of miles including the delightful bokmakierie and the magnificent African fish eagle and other raptors.

By now the mules have long since left you behind and as you arrive at camp in the late afternoon, everything is set up and waiting. Dinner is on the go, drinks are on ice and camp chairs are just waiting to flopped into.

Löwen Camp is beneath a steep cliff on the edge of the Fish River and the scene of your first night in the canyon. Hot showers and bush toilets are set up and you can either sleep in your tent on a mattress or out under the stars, the most amazing stars you will ever see outside of the arctic circle.

Accommodation options: Camp Löwen - tents and communal ablutions
Walking Details: 12km, 6 hours, 300m descent

Day 4: Fish River Canyon

With the steep descent (and a full English breakfast) out the way, day two continues along the River with varied terrain including pebbly riverbed, rocks and boulders and sand banks.

Read the sands of Earth's time in the layers of rock and your guide will explain all that you see in great detail giving an extra dimension to your already immersive canyon experience.

Stop for a shady lunch picnic and rest the weary legs before setting off for the final stretch of the day. If the river is high you can swim often during the hike.

Your camp is set in another spectacular location at the foot of a cliff above a grove of reeds alive with birdsong.

Accommodation: Koelkrans Camp - tents and communal ablutions
Walking Details: 14km, 7 hours

Day 5: Fish River Canyon

A sunrise breakfast starts your day and then follow the Fish River crossing its path up gulleys and over plateaus stopping often to admire the scenery and catch glimpses of wildlife and birds.

Lunch on a sandbank beneath a tree and then its time for you ascent to the canyon rim to easily the most spectacular of your already spectacular camps: Horseshoe Camp.

As the name implies the camp faces a huge horseshoe bend in the canyon far below and the scale and grandeur of this setting is just mind boggling.

Accommodation: Horseshoe Camp - wooden hut with tents and communal ablutions
Walking Details: 14km, 8 hours, 200m ascent

Day 6: Windhoek or Onward Travel Plans

Another dawn start for a another big day. A short 1.5km takes you up a dry waterfall for breakfast. Transfer by vehicle to the Canyon Mule Station and the end of your amazing Fish Canyon Mule Trek.

The drive back to Windhoek is long and you need to set off promptly to catch your evening flight. Or…. We've got better ideas: combine the Fish River with a general self-drive or guided tour of Namibia and prepare to be blown away by the scenery, the wildlife and the people. Talk to your Travel Expert about the possible combinations, they are almost endless.

Just Booked!

Customers who enquire about this tour end up making many changes to the standard itinerary. Below are the most recent variations of this base tour booked by us for our clients. Have a look at their itineraries, see what changes they requested, what the final cost was and read what they have to say about their holidays.

    Whoa! Untrodden territory here. It appears nobody has booked this base tour yet so you could be the first to explore these faraway places.

Recent Reviews of This Tour

We don't have any reviews of this exact tour but here's what people have said about their holidays. If you want to read more reviews, visit our client comments section. If you would like to submit your own review please use the contact form on this page.

“Thanks for all your work putting together a holiday we truly loved”

We would like to commend the high service received from Namibian Tours and Safaris especially taking into account the short length of time you had to arrange this holiday for us. The recommendations and itinerary were ideal with the majority of our stay in each location being the right duration. The whole process of booking this holiday was hassle free and we would not hesitate in recommending your services to others.

We would specifically like to thank you, Alison, for all of your hard work which resulted in a truly fabulous holiday for us. Also, it was great to meet up with you in Solitaire where you expressed so much love for your country and this was clearly mirrored in the schedule and service you presented to us allowing us to experience this fantastic country. It will not be the case of 'if' we return to Namibia, it is more the case of 'when' we will return as we enjoyed it so much.

Nik Stevenson, UK

“Edward did a super job”

A special mention for Edward he did a super job – vouchers and maps were with our car hire agency at the airport – book presentation of whole trip was clear, easy to follow and complete. He even gave us his mobile No in case we encounter some problems. Really to recommend as Tour Operator and will use them again next time.

Road – all went well and thanks to have recommended a 4Wheel Drive Car – due to rough road conditions we appreciated – you could do it with a normal car and met tourists with B type cars but they took much longer for the journeys – had more issues with flat tyres and most admitted next time they will take a 4Wheel Drive Car.

Would like to thank you for all your time spent and hard work to find best places, difficult tasks due to budget restrictions. I will recommend you and your agency whenever I can – actually already did in Joburg – hope brings you some new customers - and of course will come to you for my next trip this time to South Africa hopefully in 2012.

Germaine Comin, Switzerland

“Thank you again for planning a perfect vacation for us”

Dear Wilmari,
Back home and I wanted to take a moment to thank you again for planning a perfect vacation for us. I was especially pleased that for the accommodation with dinner all knew about my allergies and cooked accordingly. The Cheetah experience made my daughter very happy and they were so kind to not even charge me for taking pictures.

Highlight of our trip was the stay in Onguma The Fort and we are determined to return one day.

As pointed out before, the Namib Desert Lodge I cannot recommend to anybody (fined for driving on their property and below average dinner buffet) and also the Olivia Guesthouse was a letdown when it came to the food (lunch and breakfast).

I have posted some pictures on Flickr, maybe you want to have a look and I'm always happy to read comments.

Last but not least: Could you please send us the itinerary you prepared for us and we received at arrival electronically? Some of my friends are interested to book the same trip with you.

Dr Andreas Koester, USA
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