Fish River Canyon Hike
Fish River Canyon, Windhoek
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Or take a look at all of our recently booked tours and make your own dream holiday. Just drop us an enquiry and we'll do the rest.