The park was officially declared a borderless nature reserve by the governments of Namibia and South Africa in August 2003.
Together with the Ai-Ais Hot Springs Nature Reserve, including the Fish River Canyon and the little known and almost inaccessible Hunsberg Nature Reserve, Namibia houses almost three quarters of the Trans-frontier Park.
The rugged mountain ranges of the park form part of the Succulent Karoo, one of the richest and most valuable plant kingdoms on earth represented by no less than 6000 different succulent plant species.
Here you will find the succulents such as the halfmens (Pachypodium namaquanum), as well as lithops (stone plants), rare aloes and crassula, which turn this landscape into colorful fields of flowers during the rainy season.
In this area you will hardly encounter much game, however the intense green banks of the Orange River provide a habitat for hundreds of bird species, including many birds of prey.
Visitors to this magical part of Namibia can now experience a wilderness on a scale previously unimaginable. Standing at the edge of the largest natural gorge in Africa, and the second largest canyon in the world, the Fish River Canyon, is simply breath-taking, as are the dramatic views from Hell’s Corner, where one can only try to imagine the dramatic natural forces that shaped that very canyon millions of years ago.
As a result of the union, the park protects a vast area that crosses the South African border, and encompasses one of the richest botanical hot spots in the world, the Succulent Karoo biome.
There are some amazing photographic opportunities in the park and in particular the bed of the Fish River, strewn with immense boulders. It is also the venue for one of the most exhilarating walking adventures in Southern Africa, the 5 day, 90km, Fish River Canyon hiking trail.
Hikers are dwarfed by sheer canyon walls that tower more than 550m above, and all of this awaits, once you’ve slowly descended down steep cliffs, until safely reaching the sandy banks of the Fish River!
Watch out for klipspringer bounding up the cliffs and mountain chats, at home in the boulder-strewn slopes or rocky grasslands or anthills! The ancient rock formations add to the feeling of isolation, with a sense of timelessness never being too far away.
For 4×4 enthusiasts, driving along the rugged eastern rim of the canyon is not only an Adrenalin rush in itself, but affords stunning views across the canyon from Hell’s Corner and Sulpher Springs vantage points.
Only 100km south, is another more leisurely route, winding along of the edge of the Orange River, where huge volumes of water are contained by towering black mountains.
Discovering the park includes searching for rare Namibian plants, (there are 100 endemic succulents) and over 1,600 other plant species, rare animals, spectacular scenery and thermal springs, all awaiting to be explored and enjoyed.
Where to stay
Ai-Ais Hot Springs Spa & Resort, (re-opened in August 2009) is at the southern end of the Fish River Canyon and offers an excellent place to relax in and around the thermal baths & heated swimming pool, especially after a hot, dusty day’s drive or when completing The Fish River Hiking Trail.
It is the ideal destination when heading towards South Africa, or northern-route to Sossusvlei and Windhoek, for individual travelers and families alike.
The resort is set at a sulphurous hot spring, which makes perfect sense as the name ‘/ai-/ais’ means ‘burning water’ in the local Nama language.
It indicates the extreme heat of the hot springs, which date back to 1850, when they were discovered by a Nama herder, searching for his lost sheep.
Ai-Ais Hot Springs Spa now forms part of the Ai-Ais / Richtersveld Trans-frontier Park, and visitors can now cross from South Africa to Namibia, using the Sendelingsdrift border post from within the park.
As this resort is a very popular holiday destination with families from both Namibia and South Africa, it is advisable to book well in advance.
Canyon Lodge is situated on the 520 square kilometres, privately owned Gondwana Canyon Park. It is only 20kms from the main viewpoint of Fish River Canyon and is built from natural materials, including local rock and thatch roofs. The lodge is an ideal starting point for visits to the Fish River Canyon.
The Canyon Lodge’s main area lies in the shelter of a granite hilltop, and the lodge itself has been built amongst enormous boulders, designed to blend in with the natural environment.
The reception, an indoor restaurant and the bar area can be found here. There is a safe in reception for the safekeeping of valuables. As the building has been constructed by using mostly local stone, the interior is cool, but lacks natural sunlight.
The farmhouse has been decorated with various farm implements, evoking memories of the pioneering farming days. Guests can relax on the shaded terrace, or laze beside the swimming pool.
Gaze at the Fish River Canyon’s incredible scenery whilst enjoying a sun downer on the top of the lodge’s own mountain.
An old farmhouse, originally built in 1908 by three Bavarian brothers, has been restored to serve as the Canyon Lodge Restaurant. It has a magnificent view of the canyon landscape, which makes dining in the restaurant a truly unforgettable experience.
Yoghurt, cheese, cold meats as well as your breakfast eggs are supplied by their own butchery, dairy and smokehouse, run by the Self-Sufficiency Centre.
Light lunches can be ordered from their ‘a la carte’ menu and in the evening, hearty game dishes and scrumptious side dishes from the buffet are available. Their small farming business also produces fruit, vegetables and herbs, fresh from their own garden.
The Canon Roadhouse is situated 25kms from Fish River Canyon on the privately owned Gondwana Canyon Park. Self-drive tourists have to drive 20kms to the main viewpoint of the canyon itself from here.
It is a sister property to both Canyon Village and Canyon Lodge both located closer to the canyon. The lodge is interestingly decorated with old car parts, found in the region. Old antiques adorn the inside, such as an old gas burning stove with a beaten copper kettle on top.
There is a large swimming pool and sun-deck, tucked in between indigenous succulents such as hoodias and aloes, and guests can relax pool-side on a comfortable lazy-lounger.
Guests can enjoy a drink in the noted ‘Wheels’ bar, a setting for many a tall travellers’ tale. There is also a laundry service and Internet connection.
Canyon Roadhouse pride themselves on their delicious food and personalized service, comments many of their guests reiterate. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served in The Canon Roadhouse’s restaurant.
Breakfast is served buffet-style with a choice of cereals, fruits and a full English breakfast. Fruit juices, coffee and tea are also available.
Lunch and dinner are both served from an ‘a la carte’ menu. Fresh salads and sandwiches can be ordered for lunch, and the dinner menu has a splendid choice of international-style cuisine.
The Canyon Village sits picturesquely at the foot of a sweeping rock face in Gondwana Canyon Park. It is on the same property and only 2kms away from Canon Lodge, a slightly more exclusive alternative.
There is a thatched restaurant, coffee shop and a rustic bar, all set between massive granite boulders. Namibian artists have decorated the walls of the restaurant, and the rural atmosphere is continued in the chalets, depicting the daily life of the original inhabitants of the area, the Bondelswart Nama.
Alternatively, guests are welcome to enjoy a break at the pool. It has magnificent views of the endless plains of Gondwana Canyon Park.
On arrival, guests will have their luggage transported to their accommodation by a traditional donkey and cart, all under the guidance of a local family.
42 Cape Dutch style chalets are equipped with en-suite bathrooms, twin beds with mosquito nets and bedside lights, air-conditioning, mesh-screened windows and a wooden wardrobe.
Fish River Lodge is the only lodge perched directly on the rim of the Fish River Canyon. Staying on the edge of the world’s 2nd largest canyon offers guests views to die for from sunrise to sunset.
Located in Canyon Nature Park, the setting is enhanced by 45,000ha of ancient kokerboom trees and 60kms of river frontage.
The lodge is a partner in the Association for the Greater Fish River Complex, an organization that aims to co-manage the Greater Fish River Canyon Complex, for greater landscape and biodiversity conservation, as well as social economic developments.
For serious walkers & hikers the lodge offers several overnight guided hikes in the Fish River Canyon accompanied with a private guide and chef.
The main lodge area is tastefully furnished with locally handcrafted tables, and there is a blend of old and new furnishings with many of the accessories having been made by indigenous San and Nama communities.
There is a huge 4m ‘songololo’ (millipede) leather couch, which takes pride of place on the eastern wing of the building, overlooking the canyon, to stretch out and relax on.
Home-cooked food is served in front of crackling fires in the winter, and sun downers and romantic candlelit dinners can be enjoyed on the deck, as the full moon rises.
There is also a curio shop, selling a variety of local Namibian arts and crafts. The charcoal lap pool in front of the indoor/outdoor bar area, overlooks the Canyon, and is ideal for cooling off on warmer days. A craft shop and library are also available.
Electricity is supplied through a combination of generator and solar energy and there are power points around the lodge including the rooms, to charge cell-phones and camera batteries.
The Hobas camp site is situated at the northern end of Namibia’s Fish River Canyon, 10km from the canyon’s main vantage point.
It is the second largest canyon in the world, the largest in Africa and the second most visited tourist attraction in Namibia. It was formed millions of years ago by water from the Fish River flowing through its arid environment.
The fantastic views from this majestic, gigantic ravine make it a popular hiking destination. The Fish River is the longest interior river in Namibia and it cuts deep into the dry, stony plateau, which is sparsely covered with hardy drought resistant succulents.
Public view points can be found the around the camp site, and this part of the canyon is part of the Ai-Ais / Richterveld Trans-frontier National Park.
In the canyon you may encounter several species of mammals, such as wild horses, Mountain Zebra (Hartman Zebra), kudu, leopard, springbok, troops of Chacma baboons and isolated groups of klipspringers.
Bird-life includes pelicans, black eagles, fish eagles, kingfishers, lovebirds, wild ostrich and various species of waterfowl and wading birds. Bring your binoculars to view rock kestrels and lanner falcons riding the thermals.