Fish River Canyon

Looking directly at Fish River Lodge from the public access point on the other side of the canyon

Fish River Lodge is set in 45,000ha of ancient Kokerbome (or Quiver) trees, in the Canyon Nature Park. It is the only lodge perched directly on the rim of Fish River Canyon, claimed to be the world's second largest canyon (or third or fourth, depending on how you measure it, and who you believe) , and includes 60kms of river frontage.It is a gigantic ravine, whatever way you want to measure it, in total about 150 miles long, up to 25  km wide and in places almost 550 metres deep.

The Fish River is the longest interior river in Namibia. It cuts deep into the plateau which is today dry, stony and sparsely covered with hardy drought-resistant plants. The river flows intermittently, usually flooding in late summer; the rest of the year it becomes a chain of long narrow pools. Public view points are near Hobas, a camp site 70 km north of Ai-Ais. This part of the canyon is part of the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. The other 90 km of this canyon are privately owned.

The canyon is truly breathtaking. The towering rock faces and deep ravines were formed by water erosion and the collapse of the valley due to movements in the earth's crust over 500 million years ago. It is fair to say that until you get to the canyon rim, you have no idea that it is there as the 500m vertical drop from the flat dry plateau is completely out of view. You can go down to the river by 4*4, or, if very keen and fit, hike down. We did neither, but admired the river and canyon from the rim.

The Fish River Canyon Hiking Trail is one of the most famous hikes in southern Africa, covering a distance of 86 km in the base of the canyon. The duration is either 4 or 5 days depending on your group size and fitness and hikers are required to take absolutely everything with them. There are no facilities whatsoever and water can be drank from the semi-permanent pools scattered around the route. The start point is at Hobas and ends at Ai-Ais and there are only 2 emergency exits along the trail. A guided, supported trip is very, very expensive!

Fish River Lodge is right on the rim, directly opposite the public National Park. To get there is 103 km down dirt roads, the last 20 km being on what can only be described as a bad (read that as really appalling) jeep track. It is no fun getting there, but the view superb when you arrive. My feeling, though, is that staying at a lodge outside the Park on the other side and driving in to the view point there is probably a better option.

Fish River Lodge is a bit of a strange place. The decor is "minimalist" without any real redeeming features - in other words it appears done for cost saving rather than any real architectural reasons. A kilometre down the rim is a previous lodge owned by the same people and now abandoned and slowly being destroyed by nature. I feel the present lodge will go the same way.

There was no manager present when we were there, and the staff appeared to run the place for their own convenience. For example we arrived at 15.10 down this terrible road, were the only guests there and were told we were too late for the free afternoon tea, which the staff claimed was served at 15.00 "sharp". The fires referred to in the brochure were not lit, the staff hung round the bar and lounge and so on.The TripAdvisor reviews are equivocal on the place - some believe it is worth the journeys, others do not. . But from whichever side, I believe the Fish River Canyon itself should be included in any trip to Namibia - you decide if you think this lodge is for you.

We took long walks in both directions along the top of the rime, and the views were breath-taking..

Click on any of the thumbnails below to get a larger photo

Some of the highlights on the road to the lodge, as it deteriorates as you get closer to the hotel A fantastic pool right on the edge od the canyon went down well.
Walks along the rim at dawn and dusk gave remarkable light and memorable views, with the omni-present Quiver trees and a few small mammals


On to Klein Aus

Namibia Holiday