Private Nature Reserve at the Fish River Canyon
Plateau mountains and sweeping plains with occasional granite and dolerite hilltops are the scenic appeal of Gondwana Canyon Park. The quiver tree, one of Namibia’s national symbols, grows in photogenic clusters in several places. And less than 20 km to the west the Fish River has dug a huge system of meandering gorges into Earth.
Established as a private nature reserve in 1995, when the first farm was purchased, Gondwana Canyon Park now covers an area of 1,160 km². Thus it is the oldest and largest park of Gondwana Collection Namibia, one of the most renowned tourism companies in the country. A dedicated park management team takes care of the fauna and flora in the park, guided by an adaptive Park Management Plan. Through this management system, various indigenous game species we reintroduced to the Gondwana Canyon Park, including giraffe, hartebeest and wildebeest.
The Nama Karoo is a desert system at the south-western fringe of the summer rain area. Annual precipitation is 220 mm at the most, with heavy fluctuations between different places and years. By contrast, however, Gondwana Canyon Park only averages 80 mm of rain per year. The culprit is the canyon: it heats up the air which then rises, cools off and descends outside the canyon’s rim. This causes cloud moving in from north-east during the day to be pushed back constantly. Every couple of years the park also sees a bit of winter rain (April to September).
Two vegetation types of the Nama Karoo are represented in the park: the dwarf shrub savannah and the desert dwarf shrub transition zone. Large areas are dotted with hemispherical milk bush (Euphorbia damarana) which grows up to about 2 m tall, and often there are stem succulents like the candelabra euphorbia (Euphorbia virosa) or the well-know quiver tree (Aloe dichotoma). Typical animals of the Nama Karoo – such as Mountain Zebra, Springbok, Gemsbok, Kudu and Ostrich – clearly enjoy this habitat, and there are also Hartebeest and Burchell's Zebra. Some decades ago these two species were hunted to extinction in southern Namibia, but recently they have been successfully reintroduced.
Guests visiting the Gondwana Canyon Park can choose between different accommodation establishments. And they have the opportunity to not only experience the Fish River Canyon by means of the adventurous Fish River Canyon Trails (4 or 5 days) in the northern reaches of the Canyon but to also get to know the fascinating desert world of the Nama Karoo – on a scenic drive, riding an ebike or on a hiking trip.
TRAVEL TIPS - GONDWANA CANYON:
WHEN TO BE THERE:
• Gondwana Canyon Park is open all year
• Cool accommodation options with swimming pools make for a comfortable stay even in summer
• Longer walking trails are only open during the cooler months (15 Apr.-15 Sep.)
• Rainfall in the park is erratic and extremely low; there’s no need to plan around it
WHAT TO DO:
• Walk this wonderful world; in the surrounds of the lodges, or along various short or long trails
• Explore the self-drive 4x4 trail during a full day ‘out there’
• Take part in the many guided activities offered in the park & the larger area
• Find a quiet spot & just take in the magical landscape, the space and the silence
WHAT TO REMEMBER:
• Access beyond the proclaimed roads is only possible with a booking
• No off-road driving; camping only at the Canyon Road Campsite
• It can get extremely hot in southern Namibia; always drink enough water & always wear sunscreen
• Southern Namibia is vast & rugged; road conditions vary; plan plenty of time for all trips
Few moments are as breath-taking and inspiring as gazing into the depths of the majestic Fish River Canyon. Nestled into the rugged boulders of the Fish River landscape, a short twenty kilometres from the iconic Fish River Canyon viewpoint, lies the Canyon Lodge. With the main guest areas housed in a century-old farmhouse and each cabin embracing the raw rock formations as part of their architecture, this is a place to feel the ancestral heartbeat and be transformed. Enjoy guided excursions into the breath-taking Gondwana Canyon Park, or embark on a self-guided trail by foot. The Canyon Lodge offers an opportunity for an authentic Fish River Canyon Experience.
Travel can be exciting, adventurous, introspective, and even stressful. But we believe that there should always be time to slow down and have fun. To celebrate the lighter moments. Canyon Roadhouse is a creative and playful base from which to explore the Fish River area. From our quirky collections of car-inspired memorabilia to great value lodging and light-hearted hospitality – we aim to refresh, revitalise and re-fuel our guests with smiles. Beyond accommodation, this is also a great pit-stop for guests to check in for lunch or refreshments en route to their destinations. Discover the moments awaiting at this property. And guests should be sure not to miss out on our famous Amarula Cheesecake.
The heart of a village, in the heart of the Canyon Quiver trees, Nama culture, rugged landscape and an impressive sweeping rock formation characterise Canyon Village. This property serves as a doorway into the insights and traditions of the Nama. With a unique mode of luggage transfers in the form of donkey-cart and the folk tales of the indigenous people muraled on the walls of the various interiors; guests will experience the homely hospitality own to this culture. Chalets are scattered along the landscape in a village-like array, offering privacy and whimsy to all who overnight in this lodge. Canyon land. Nama charm. And a wealth of rich storytelling.
Explore the northern reaches of the Fish River Canyon on this awe-inspiring adventure.
The 3 hour drive is the perfect opportunity for you to acquaint yourself with the geology, flora and fauna of the Gondwana Canyon Park.
This hike (about 6 km) takes you right into Gondwana Canyon Park.
The flat-headed free-tailed bat is a free-tailed bat with an extraordinary flattened skull.
Geoffroy's horseshoe bat are a highly gregarious creature that occur in colonies of several thousand if suitable roosting sites exist.
African black ducks can be detected by a loud quack from the female, often repeated in flight.
The sharptooth catfish is unique in that it can live in almost any habitat, but it prefers floodplains, large slow moving rivers, lakes and dams.
Those interested in geology will find ample opportunity for exploration, not only at the Fish River Canyon but also among the numerous rock formations of Gondwana Canyon Park. Ancient dolerite hilltops testify to the disintegration of the primeval continent of Rodinia 750 million years ago, while massive layers of sandstone and limestone reveal that 600 million years ago this area was covered by a shallow sea.
But the more recent history, characterised by man, is highly fascinating as well. Rock engravings in the canyon depict mysteriously looking figures. Most probably they were done by ancestors of the San (Bushmen). Much later the area of Gondwana Canyon Park became part of the domain of the Bondelswart Nama who came to settle north of the Gariep/Orange River and established their headquarters in Warmbad. After they had lost the war (1904 – 1908) against the German colonial forces the land was divided into farms and given to German settlers. This was the time when two brothers from Bavaria built the house which today serves as the reception and restaurant of Canyon Lodge. Both men - together with thousands of their German compatriots - were deported by the country’s new South African rulers after the First World War, in 1919. During the next decades the land at the canyon was used for farming with cattle, sheep and goats.
When Namibia gained independence in 1990, tourism started to increase. From 1995 onwards, farms east of southern Namibia’s main attraction, the Fish River Canyon, were gradually purchased by a group of businessmen with a love for the country’s south. Livestock farming was discontinued, internal fences were dismantled, watering places suitable for game were set up and game which had once been indigenous to the area was reintroduced. Nature conservation efforts are financed with the income derived from the hospitality business, for which less than 5 percent of the park’s area is used. Furthermore, Gondwana Canyon Park is the source of a regular income for its employees, and holds out future prospects to them.
Furthermore, the Gondwana Canyon Park forms part of Greater Fish River Canyon Landscape initiative, which strives to establish a unique natural landscape by removing all fences. This area extends from the Sperrgebiet in the west to the Klein Karas Mountains in the east, and from the tar road between Keetmanshoop and Aus as its northern borderline down to the Orange River in the south – and even further, far beyond the South African border, because there the huge park meets the Richtersveld. This initiative enables game to regain a large part of the mobility which allowed them to respond to annual and local fluctuations in the arid Nama and Succulent Karoo’s grazing conditions before the arrival of settlers in the area more than a decade ago.
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