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Fish River Canyon: the largest canyon in Africa

Located in the south of Namibia, the Fish River Canyon National Park is one of the (many) places that make it particularly fascinating and interesting a trip to Namibia. The canyon can be reached from Keetmanshoop along a beautiful dirt road, which can sometimes be impractical during the rainy season (November-May). From the entrance gate of the Hobas restcamp a not paved road about 10 km leads to some scenic point of view at the edge of the canyon, the lookout is equipped with toilets, picnic tables and grills to cook meat.

The river that forms the canyon, the Fish River with its 650 km is the longest river inside Namibia, it rises from the eastern Naukluft mountains and flows in the Orange river south of Ai-Ais. The canyon, partly due to erosion of water, probably evolved 500 million years ago during a time when this part of Africa received much more rain than today.

The erosion of that period along with the tectonic movements of the earth’s crust that caused the sinking of the valley where the river flowed, have caused the formation of this canyon which is the largest in Africa and one of the largest in the world: the Fish River Canyon is 161 km long, has a maximum width of 27 km and reaches a depth of 549 meters.

Most visitors admire the canyon by some scenic points which are near the main lookout, very interesting is the observation of vegetation that grows along the rim of the canyon, are present specimens of the poisonous Euphorbia, and Aloe dichotoma or Quiver Tree (Kokerboom), which is the national tree of Namibia, also you can see different species of succulent, all plants perfectly adapted to the desert.

Fish River Canyon, Namibia. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini

Fish River Canyon, Namibia. Author Marco Ramerini

The best time to see the canyon is a half day when the sun is able to illuminate all sides of the gorge, I also suggest visiting the canyon in the hours before sunset, but remember that the park closes at sunset and you will need to be out before closure.

The Fish River Canyon in recent years has become a popular destination for trekking lovers, there is a 86-kilometer track (duration of 5 days) along much of the canyon, to do that you must be in the dry season (between May and September ), be in good physical shape and have obtained prior permission from the Namibia Wildlife Resorts in Windhoek. You can even make the descent on the bottom of the canyon, which lasts approximately 2.5 hours/r, but in this case also, you must obtain approval authorization.

The canyon is home to small mammals such as Antelope Klipspringer and Dassies, there are also Steenbok, Springbok, Mountain Zebra (Hartman Zebra), Baboons, Kudu and Leopard. More than 60 species of birds live in the canyon, among these Heron, Eagles and Ostriches. The reptiles and insects are among the most common species, are abundant lizards, geckoes, snakes including poisonous snakes as the Cape Cobra (Naja nivea), the Black Spitting Cobra (Naja woodi), Puff adder (Bitis Puff) and the Horned adder (Bitis caudalis).

Climate: The climate is semi-desert, during the summer months, between October and March, daytime temperatures can reach 48°C. This is also the period when rain occasionally occur, brief but intense storms, the average annual rainfall is only 100 mm. The best time to visit it is during the short winter, between May and September, in these months the temperatures fall to below zero during the night, but during the day the temperatures are between 20°C and 28°C.

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