The Fish River Canyon: Unveiling World’s Second Largest Canyon

Africa is a continent known for its stunning natural landscapes, and one of its hidden gems is the Fish River Canyon. Located in Namibia, this majestic canyon is the second largest in size to the Grand Canyon and offers breathtaking scenery that will leave visitors in awe. From its towering cliffs to its winding river, the Fish River Canyon is a must-see destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.

Stretching over 160km in length and up to 27km in width and 550m deep, the Fish River Canyon is a canyon in a canyon, it’s a geological wonder that resulted from tectonic plate shifts and has been carved out by the Fish River over 650 million of years – that’s before the dinosaurs. The canyon’s rugged terrain is home to a variety of flora and fauna, making it a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Visitors can expect to see eagles soaring overhead, baboons playing in the rocky outcrops, ostriches and their young and even the occasional glimpse of a mountain zebra or kudu.

One of the main attractions of the Fish River Canyon is its hiking opportunities. The canyon is home to one of the most popular hiking trails in Namibia, the Fish River Canyon Hiking Trail. This five day trail takes hikers through some of the most stunning scenery in the canyon, including panoramic viewpoints, natural rock pools, and ancient rock formations. Hiking the Fish River Canyon Trail is a challenging but rewarding experience that will test both your physical endurance and your sense of adventure.

Image by Paul Kolb

When embarking on a journey to the impressive Fish River Canyon, it is essential to be well-prepared for the diverse weather conditions you may encounter. While rain levels can be high during certain seasons, dry air and heat dominate when it is not the rainy season. Make sure to have your hat and water readily available at all times.

As responsible environmental enthusiasts, it is crucial to follow the principle of “leave no trace.” This means leaving behind nothing but footprints and taking nothing but photographs. It is important to respect the delicate ecosystems of the canyon and refrain from removing any natural elements, such as dry wood – and using them to braai, as they serve as homes and habitats for the local fauna and flora.

The hiking trail ends at Ai Ai Resort, nearby it boasts springs that can reach 65°C (149°F). Alongside its hospitality and natural scenic views is a spa, hot spring chalet and campsites. 

View of the river at the bottom of the canyon (image by Randell Maree)

In addition to its natural beauty and hiking opportunities, the Fish River Canyon also holds significant economic value for Namibia. The canyon attracts thousands of tourists each year, who come to marvel at its grandeur and explore its many wonders. These tourists contribute to the local economy by supporting hotels, restaurants, and tour operators in the region. The Fish River Canyon has become a key driver of tourism in Namibia, helping to create jobs and stimulate economic growth in the area.

Overall, the Fish River Canyon is a true natural wonder that showcases the beauty and diversity of Africa’s landscapes. Whether you’re an avid hiker, a wildlife enthusiast, or simply someone who appreciates the splendor of nature, the Fish River Canyon has something to offer everyone. So pack your bags, lace up your hiking boots, and get ready to uncover the magic of the world’s second largest canyon.

Here’s a look at what the experience may be like:

Credits: Arno Pouwels