We all hear about the Grand Canyon often in movies, postcards and even friends seeing the site, I was surprised myself to hear that Namibia had the world’s second largest canyon and Africa’s largest, especially when it’s practically on my doorstep!
I had no idea what to expect the first time I saw the canyon, I remember stepping out from an African ‘air conditioned’ truck (open windows for 100% fresh air) into temperatures into the 40°C’s with a heat haze along the horizon, being in a much cooler place the day before on the Orange river didn’t help. This was my first Namibian trip and heard the driver say, “I will meet you along the edge of the canyon further up”, I thought to myself no way is a few kilometres walk in this possible. One step at a time I found that Namibia’s heat is very pleasant, yes it was very hot and my hiking boots seemed to want to melt, but the dry heat helps cool you down not making you feel sticky and sweaty, once the initial shock of it all settled I looked over the far canyon and what a sight it was. Over the other side miles away you could see the rains coming, like fire beating down on the earth with the morning pinks and unsettled dust.
It’s a very baron part of the country, not quite desert sands, but rocky unsettled gravel with a few common sites to be seen like gemsbok, ostriches and many others. The canyon itself is approximately 160 kilometres long, with the widest part being 27 kilometres wide and 550 kilometres deep, that has been carved out by the Fish River over the past 500 million years, it is very hard to imagine the size with these figures but trust me when you see it in person it’s a jaw dropping big gap in the earth.
There is a well-known hiking trails within the canyon, but it is carefully monitored. You need a permit to walk in the canyon and they are given out for only 5 months of the year with other restrictions that need to be considered. The dangers are too great outside these months with flash floods, extreme heat and high winds. The canyon has no facilities therefore carrying everything you need and sleeping outdoors is a common event, with walks lasting around 5 days depending on your pace.
There are many ways to enjoy the canyon from sitting and admiring it for hours, small walks and longer hikes, but definitely one for the bucket list.