Experts Warn Hikers: Fish River Canyon Hike Is No Walk In The Park

20 May 2024

There is currently still just enough water on the hiking trail in the Fish River Canyon between the starting point at Hobas and the destination at /Ai-/Ais. But you have to know where to find it. This was explained by participants of the first hiking group of this season in an interview with yesterday.

They thus relativised the press release issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) and the state-owned rest camp operator Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) at the start of the hiking season in the canyon (see corresponding report by They also commented on imprecise media reports about two actions to rescue dehydrated hikers.

On the hiking trail through the Fish River Canyon there are three spots with containers that are filled daily with drinking water.  Map: Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR)


"We started at Hobas on 1 May and found little water in the pools," said Antje Schidlowski and Tanja Hlasek. "Apparently the fish river was only flowing weakly. The water at 'Sulfur Springs' is drinkable, but doesn't taste or smell good. After drinking it, some of us had rumbling stomachs. We only found good water at 'Pink Palace' about 15 kilometres before the end of the hike."

Then of course there are the water containers at 'Sand against Slope', 'Bushy Corner' and '50 Marks'. According to Schidlowski and Hlasek, they are refilled daily by six porters who bring 20 litres to each of the points.

The two experienced hikers from Windhoek go on hiking tours in the Fish River Canyon almost every year. To prepare themselves and others for the challenging multi-day hike, they organise hikes with full packs in hilly areas near Windhoek - during the warm hours of the day.

Temperatures in the canyon up to 40 degrees

"We also had satellite data on the water conditions in the canyon in advance of our tour. This allowed us to plan the day's stages accordingly," explained Schidlowski and Hlasek. "We arrived safely in /Ai-/Ais. However, we only covered the route in three days."

Rest at one of the few water-filled rock pools in the Fish River Canyon.
Photo: contributed


The hiking trail from Hobas to /Ai-/Ais is officially around 85 kilometres long. "According to our measurement, it is 68 km. We set off every morning at 5.00 a.m., with headlamps." The water scarcity was compounded by the heat. "We had temperatures of around 40 degrees in the afternoon."

Dehydrated hikers evacuated from the canyon

And the rescue operations reported by the Windhoek Express? "One of them took place on the last Sunday in April - but outside the /Ai-/Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park," emphasised Antje Schidlowski. Her group of six had hiked in the section of the Fish River in the Gondwana Canyon Park upstream from Hobas.

"One of us had health issues. Although I walked beside him and regularly reminded him to drink, he got worse and worse. In response to our emergency call, Gondwana evacuated him by off-road vehicle and looked after him." Schidlowski posted a special thank you to Gondwana ("True tourism heroes") on the Facebook group. The remaining five of them then started the hike in the Fish River Canyon from Hiker's Point near Hobas to /Ai-/Ais.

At this spot in the Fish River Canyon you can always find drinkable water, even if it doesn't taste good and doesn't agree with some stomachs: Sulphur Springs.
Photo (2012): Sven-Eric Stender


The second rescue operation involved 13 hikers from South Africa. According to a report by the South African media group ‘Netwerk24’ (see Facebook post), eleven of them had climbed into the canyon on Friday, 3 May. They were later joined by two others.

On Monday 6 May, they called for help via satellite phone after finding insufficient drinkable water. A Namibian police helicopter evacuated them the following day - allegedly from the section between Sentinel Rock and Sphinx Rock, i.e. above the first water supply point 'Sand against Slope'. According to the report, the operation cost around 300,000 Namibia Dollar.


Report of the South African media group 'Netwerk24' about the evacuation of 13 hikers from the Fish River Canyon in the post on the Facebook group 'I hiked the Fish River Canyon'.  
Photo: Screenshot


Canyon hike is no walk in the park

The participants' criticism of incorrect information about the water situation and the lack of water supply was relativised in the Facebook group 'I hiked the Fish River Canyon'. The fact that the group took three to four days to hike the 35-kilometre route to Sphinx Rock suggests a lack of fitness, according to one of the posts. The canyon hike was simply no walk in the park, noted another.

Antje Schidlowski and Tanja Hlasek also warned against taking the hike lightly. "Anyone hiking for the first time should be well trained and go with a guide who knows the canyon well and knows where to find drinkable water (also see post on the Facebook group). If conditions are like they are at the moment, it might be advisable to introduce training and a fitness test before starting the hike."

The enthusiastic hikers pointed to the Facebook group on the Fish River Canyon Hike. Experts such as Erlend von Maltzahn (48 hikes) and the professional hiking guides Eric McLaren and Karen de Wet regularly share valuable information about hiking the canyon there. In addition to up-to-date information on the water situation, you can even find a detailed packing list.

General tips (from 'Nelson') can also be found in a post on the Facebook page of Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR). 'Nelson' is the NWR spokesperson who had to be evacuated due to dehydration during a hike in the Naukluft Mountains in early April.


NWR spokesperson Nelson Ashipala is evacuated due to dehydration on a hike in the Naukluft Mountains. 
Photo: Screenshot from the Namibian Sun's photo news


The season for the Fish River Canyon Hike from Hiker's Point to ǀAi-ǀAis starts on 1 May and ends on 15 September. The tour must be booked in advance with NWR. Hikers have to present a health certificate from a doctor and they must hike in groups of at least three members.

Sven-Eric Stender


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