The strata, variety of colours, shapes and shadows make for a stunning sight which is home to many different species of animal and desert adapted, drought resistant plant life.
There is life amongst the dry stony landscape with its dolomite and quartz riddled strata that lie in horizontal layers. This impressive canyon has a few campsites and permanent lodges on its edges including the luxurious Fish River Canyon Lodge. From this and a number of other lodges, visitors can explore the surrounding reserve before embarking on a three day camping and walking trail down to the base of the canyon which is the best way to explore this area!
You will see first hand the geological forces that unfolded millions of years ago when the Fish River began to etch its way through hard quartzite creating a huge gash through the landscape.
The stony plains above are dotted with succulents like the distinctive quiver tree which has evolved through hundreds of millions of years. Views from anywhere on the rim are simply spectacular! Another notable aloe seen on the mountain sides is the Euphorbia verosa.
The trails venture into remote areas and you can even sleep under the stars on ledges and slightly higher ground – which is safer than on the beaches or alongside the river (possible flash floods occur in the summer months).
The temperatures can get very high too, so frequent dips in the river are most welcome. The river is seasonal but in drier times it leaves pools of water that are a welcoming sight to the local wildlife – leopard, baboons, rock hyrax, reptiles, birds and amphibians.
The hikes are conducted between May through September when the temperatures are best suited and you will spend several days walking and exploring the canyon with your knowledgeable guides down steep sided valleys, through boulder strewn areas and over river crossings lined with white and red sandy beaches.
A crew will go ahead and set up a simple camp for you with two man tents and comfortable bedrolls and then concentrate on preparing filling and tasty meals.
Even though the environment is strikingly beautiful it can be deceivingly harsh, therefore we would recommend that hikers are always accompanied by an experienced guide. Each day you walk around 10-15 kilometres visiting different geological areas of interest and for the real enthusiast’s - one of the longest walks stretches for 88 kilometres!
At one end of the canyon is Ai-Ais which has a sulphurous hot spring and is part of the Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. Much of the rest of the canyon actually still lies in private ownership.
The colours of the canyon change through the day starting with a violet dark chocolate and at first light changing to deep gold and pink before changing to the red and terracotta strips of mid day before the shadows close in again – it’s a changing mesmerising landscape.
By Marcela Kunova - 20th April 2017
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