Dare you Hike the Big Fish?

The seasonal Fish River canyon hike is the longest inland watercourse in Africa and Namibia’s most popular tourist attraction. If you want to visit it the lazy way, look down on the canyon at Hobas 70 kilometres north of Ai-Ai Spa (you guessed it, the name means ‘ouch, that’s hot’ in the indigenous language. Back at the Spa the cooler outdoor family pool  is a magnet for hikers who jump straight in when they finally make it out the canyon.

Fish River Canyon Hike
Looking down Fish River Canyon from Hobas (Damien du Toit) CC 2.0

The Fish River Canyon Hike

This baby is not an easy one to chance with. When I was in my twenties (it was a long time ago) my mate and I decided to climb down the steep 550 metre / 1,800 foot slope towards the 160 kilometre / 100 mile long river that snakes its way in average daytime temperatures as high as 45°C / 112°F at the height of summer.

Fish River Canyon Hike: Early Morning
Early Morning in Fish River Canyon RudiBosbouer Public Domain

We made it out because it dawned on us that we were crazy and we forgot the beers in the car. These days things are better regulated and there is a fence. If you want to enjoy the pristine beauty and return to talk about it, please be smart and follow the rules. Unless, that is, you want a thirst that seems to want to close your throat forever.

The trailhead is at Hobas. The easiest way to get there if you are backpacking is to take the shuttle service from Ai-Ai. Hobas has the usual government offices and a tiny shop with the basics. The descent to the sulphur pools is steep and there are chains near the summit. Follow the gravel trail at the bottom to a sandy beach. Big boulders and rocks make the going slow. Fish is seasonal. Choose your month.

Fish River Canyon Hike
Home Sweet Home (Shark Safaris)

After a distance the trail widens out and the going is easier with numerous crossing points. Average hiking speed is 25 to 35 kilometres per day. Expect to see the odd idiot in a 4×4 because incredibly this is legal. The water is safe, but stagnant in dry season. There is no mobile phone reception and evacuation is by chopper or stretcher.

This baby is not an easy one to chance with, but time out in spectacular nature makes it an enduring challenge. Take a guided hike or travel in a party of at least four experienced hikers, one of whom should be a local. Fish takes few prisoners.

Fish River Canyon Hike, stones in water course
Dry Season: Photo by Rudi Bosbouer CC 3.0

About Richard Farrell

Richard Farrell

I tripped over a shrinking bank balance and fell into the writing gig unintentionally. This was after I escaped the corporate world and searched in vain for ways to become rich on the internet by doing nothing. Despite the fact that writing is no recipe for wealth, I rather enjoy it. I will deny I am obsessed with it when I have the time.

My base is Umtentweni in South Africa on the Kwazulu-Natal South Coast (30.7167° S, 30.4667° E). I work from home where I ponder on the future of the planet, and what lies beyond in the great hereafter. Sometimes I step out of my computer into the silent riverine forests, and empty golden beaches for which the area is renowned.

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