Exploring the depths of the Fish River Canyon
Namibia is a medley of curious contrasts that melt together to form a mellifluous harmony for any traveller who is willing to listen, experience and explore. Captivating contrasts in this country take travellers into the echoes of deep-carved canyons and mysterious underground lakes versus scaling the summit of towering sand dunes and craggy mountains. It lures them into green wetlands but also lets them set foot in scorching deserts. Travellers get to know the roar of the lion and the trumpeting of an elephant, in contrast with the silent sounds of the more unknown critters that inhabit some of the most arid regions in Namibia.
However, with the latest restrictions facing the world, travelling ironically needs to go beyond the physical action of exploring new surroundings.
Even though our movement has temporarily been restricted, we dream of freedom, with a newfound appreciation for the great outdoors and travelling. All we can do is relish the echoes from the past – these being our memories of far-off places.
For me, these echoes reverberate all the way from the Fish River Canyon in the deep south of Namibia. In December last year, a visit to this area was a heart-wrenching experience due to the drought. Animals plagued by famine were suffering, despite being adapted to survive in hyper-arid regions.
Winding its way through the ancient canyon – the second largest in the world – is the Fish River. It is the only river in the country that becomes a mere trickle in the dry season but nevertheless maintains pools of water in its middle reaches.
However, the desolate area, a little more animated by avid hikers and adventurers in the milder months, was even more desolate in these dry and trying times. Nothing but a hollow echo was left behind amongst the 160-kilometre-long carved sediments.
But this is not the end of the story – simply the end of the dry season! Hearts rejoiced when the bountiful rainy season of 2020 brought about abundant rains that filled the Fish River and brought back life to this very special region.
A complete Fish River Canyon experience
There are many different ways to explore the canyon and there is no lack of accommodation. Here is an introduction to Gondwana’s Canyon Collection:
No trip to the canyon would be complete without stopping at the Gondwana Canyon Roadhouse, whether to stay the night at the campsite or at the lodge, or simply to delight in the famous Amarula cheesecake. Travellers will find photo opportunities like no other amongst a collection of old car wrecks inside and outside the lodge. A dining experience here will keep your eyes and taste buds satisfied. If you enjoy a good sense of humour, make sure you spend some time exploring the fun décor. Gemsbok are sure to keep you company on the surrounding lawns.
When continuing further south, perhaps the road will lead you to the culturally enriching Gondwana Canyon Village. The lodge is themed around the story and history of the Nama culture. It is yet another gem in the hyper-arid landscape that will let you discover the spirit of the south. Travelmyth – a highly prized hotel recommendation engine to help sophisticated travellers find hidden gems – has identified Canyon Village as one of the top accommodation establishments with the best swimming pools in the world.
Only a short distance from there, comfortable chalets set picturesquely amid the rock boulders at Gondwana Canyon Lodge beckon curious travellers to set foot on its lush green lawns. The swimming pool is isolated from the rest of the lodge with nothing but sweeping views of the unique landscape. It is the perfect base from which to discover the Fish River Canyon, as well as Gondwana Canyon Park where Gondwana Collection Namibia was born.
If you are an adventurer at your core, I’d highly recommend Canyon Klipspringer Camps – rustic self-catering camps in the northern reaches of the Fish River Canyon. The camps are easily reachable by 4×4. For avid hikers, start your hiking adventure from Klipspringer Base Camp and then make your way to Koelkrans, Horseshoe and Battlesnake Camp.
As you explore the deep-carved hollows of the Fish River Canyon where you are sure to encounter the most breathtaking sunsets, do not simply think about the echoes you will be taking along. Think about the echoes you are leaving behind. What story will the Fish River Canyon have to tell about you?
May every echo we leave behind in far-off places in the future, be an echo of a socially responsible and environmentally respectful traveller who travels not only beyond physical borders but also crosses borders to support and respect the destination they are travelling to and its people. May exploring entail a changed mindset. If that is the cost of freedom, are you willing to pay the price?
First published in the May edition 2020 of Michelangelo.