FISH RIVER CANYON

The Fish River Canyon is the world’s second largest canyon and is only exceeded in size and depth by the Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA. As one of the major geological attractions found in Namibia, it features a gigantic ravine that measures about 100 miles (160 km) in length, is up to 27 km wide and in places almost 550 metres deep. It was created by tectonic shifting which left a fissure in the earth’s surface some 20km wide, the latter serving as the bed of an enormous river that bisected the land in a very wet epoch many millions of years ago. Once Gondwanaland, the supercontinent of the southern hemisphere, started shifting apart, the western coast of Namibia underwent a dropping process that increased the gradient of the entire country towards the coast. This lead to increased force of the river, which subsequently meandered itself into the earth’s surface to the present depth of 550 meters. The Canyon therefor is a result of natures forces of upliftment as well as erosion. Looking from the Hobas viewpoint one clearly see’s the upliftment on the far side. The Fish River is the longest interior river found in Namibia, but its flow in the present is but a small trickle compared with the immense volume of water that poured down its length in ages past. Still it cuts deep into the plateau that is today dry, stony and sparsely covered with hardy drought resistant plants such as succulents, euphorbia’s and lonely quiver trees. The river flows intermittently, usually coming down in flood in late summer, and when it ceases to flow it becomes a chain of long narrow pools on the sandy rock-strewn floor of the chasm. At the lower end of the Fish River Canyon, the hot springs resort of Ai-Ais provides an oasis in the desolate rocky environmment. Guided and unguided walks into the canyon are possible during April to September, it is however forbidden to climb into the canyon as a day visitor. In the canyon you may encounter several species of mammals, such as wild horses, mountain zebra (Hartman zebra), kudu, klipspringer, leopard, steenbok, baboon and springbok. The most common rodents include mice, rats, dassies, and dassie-rats. Bird life includes surprises like pelicans, black eagles, fish eagles, kingfishers, lovebirds, ostrich and various species of waterfowl and wading birds, like herons. In the natural pools of the Fish River are found an abundance of fish, such as barbed catfish and yellowfish.