The Fish River is, at 650 km, the longest river in Namibia. Its source lies in the eastern Naukluft Mountains and flows south-west of Ai-Ais into the Oranje. The Fish River canyon is situated along the lower reaches of the Fish River, one of the most impressive natural beauties in the southern part of Namibia. It developed predominantly during the pluvial times, many millions of years ago. With a depth of up to 550m, the Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world, before the Grand Canyon in America. The enormous gorge meanders along a distance of approximately 160 km through the fissured Koubis massif all the way down to Ai-Ais. The canyon starts near Seeheim, is 161 km long and ends at Ai-Ais.
The Fish River Canyon probably formed about 500 million years ago. However, the gorge was not only created by water erosion, but also through the collapse of the valley bottom due to movements in the earth's crust. Because the Fish River is being dammed in Hardap near Mariental, it only contains a small amount of running water. In winter, during the dry season, the river bed is often completely dry or reduced to only the occasional puddle. However, after rainfalls in summer the river can become a raging torrent. The canyon is part of a Nature Conservation Park. The gate is situated at the restcamp Hobas. From there, you have to drive another 10km to the actual Canyon which offers a stunning view of "Hell's Bend".
The Fish River Canyon has become a popular hiking destination. However, hikes require good physical health and should only be undertaken during the cooler winter months (between May and September). A permit from Namibia Wildlife Resorts in Windhoek must be obtained. The hike is 86 km in length and takes about 5 days. Opportunities for game watching are limited but springbok and steenbok are sometimes seen on the plains at Hobas. Klipspringer and troops of Chacma baboons are happy on rocky slopes and mountain zebra favour the rugged ravines but are rarely seen. Some kudu inhabit the densely vegetated lower reaches of the canyon. The riverine bush of the canyon attracts an interesting variety of colourful birds and raptors such as rock kestrals and lanner falcons ride the thermals.
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