Travel

Namibia: Fish River Canyon Hike a Must for the Nature Lover

Surrounded by panoramic natural scenery and with the 80km hike being a challenge to be conquered, the Namibia Wildlife Resorts' (NWR) Fish River Canyon still remains one of Namibia's main tourist attractions for both foreign and local tourists.

As the first entry point to this internationally-renowned, breathtaking landscape is the /Ai˗/ Ais hot spa resort, situated approximately 250 km south-west of Keetmanshoop. Whilst preparing for the hike trail, normally completed over a maximum period of five days, visitors can access various facilities or participate in activities at the resort.

Resorts manager Jaffeth Xoagub informed New Era during a recent visit to the facilities that they normally receive most visitors during the peak season stretching from April to September. "This can be attributed to the fact that the climate is very hot and humid for the rest of the year, leading to heat exhaustion and fatigue, hence visitors prefer to do the hike during the cooler winter months," he explained. One of the main places to visit at the resort is the hot springs spa adjacent to the double-room accommodation offered. "People believe that this hot, underground water has a healing effect, or would otherwise just making use of it for purposes of relaxation," Xoagub noed.

Another activity to participate in is the Slayers Mountain 15km hike at the resort. "It is, however, an activity needing one to be physically fit, carried out at own risk with a steep hill at the start. But as consolation, those who make it can register their names in a book at the end of the hike while facility personnel will salute those who complete it with trumpets from downstairs," he explained. On the way to the Hobas rest camp, situated 12 km from the Canyon, visitors can look forward to see mountain zebras, wild horses and kudus roaming in the surrounding fields. Tour operators first need to obtain a permit from the NWR head office before taking tourists in groups daily, who then descend downwards the Canyon to start the hiking trial. The manager added that one needs to present a fitness medical certificate before being allowed to commence with the hike. "It is recommended that groups be accompanied by a team leader who completed the hike before, whilst they should also take along adequate meals and water," Xoagub said. Groups should be a minimum of three and a maximum of 15 people before being allowed to commence with the hiking.

Hikers normally do not carry too much weight when entering the Canyon, and sometimes make use of water running in streams from the Fish River which they purify, if need be." It is a race that needs to be completed within five days, and hikers are always advised not to split in different directions and to furthermore wait for those members needing to rest on the way," he added.

The manager continued that it is rather dangerous to get lost from the rest of the group during a hike. "Due to the high mountains surrounding the Canyon, the echo of such a person's voice may be misleading, making it difficult to be traced," he warned. NWR rescue personnel are, however, on standby should one of the hikers get sick or exhausted during the hike. "They will then be lifted from the Canyon at designated entry points close to their immediate position," he said.

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As a sign of registering their victory, those who complete the hike can then at the end ring the ceremonial bell when ascending from the Canyon to /Ai˗/ Ais.

Xoagub said they managed to remain open whilst not retrenching any of their employees as a result of local visitors frequenting the spa during the times of the international travel restrictions imposed by government when the coronavirus was at its highest peak. "We (NWR) then offered our Namibian tourists special discounted prices as a means to keep business going," he explained. It is also more South African and European visitors who were doing the hike during peak season prior to the travel restrictions, and numbers are now gradually picking up again.

"Although losing out on almost 60% on the number of tourists visiting the spa between 2018 and now due to Covid˗19, I am hereby urging my fellow Namibians to come and experience these wonderful facilities in numbers," Xoagub said.

The /Ai˗/ Ais resort is offering 26 two˗bedroom and seven four˗bedroom family units for guests needing accommodation, whilst there is also provision for campers and day visitors. Apart from tourists, educational tours, weddings and year-end functions are likewise catered for at the establishment.

The Fish River Canyon is the second-largest canyon worldwide after the Grand Canyon in the USA. It forms part of the state-run /Ai˗/Ais Richtersveld Transfontier Park. The canyon commences at Seeheim, is 161km long, 27km wide and 550m deep. It ends at /Ai˗/Ais, whereafter the river flows into the Orange River in South Africa. (Additional information adapted from the Info Namibia website).

Artmotion S.Africa

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