For a totally different perspective on this giant chasm in the Earth’s crust, you need to hike into the canyon. The classic route is a four- to five-day, 85km hike, which has the reputation of being one of southern Africa’s most challenging trails. It is not to be embarked upon lightly, as you have to carry all your gear, scramble over boulders, trudge through sand and – at certain times of the year – wade through the river numerous times. Moreover, you only have two emergency exit tracks out of the canyon, once down in the bottom. There are one or two slightly easier ways to experience the valley floor, though none could be classified as a stroll in the park, since even the day-trip hike into the gorge involves a near-sheer descent and ascent, taking several hours, and walking in extreme temperatures for much of the season.

The Fish River Lodge offers several day- and multi-day guided excursions into the canyon for 2–10 people. Their guided version of the five-day hike (as well as shorter hiking options) also means your luggage is transported along the way and the cooking is done for you. If you just want a taster of the riverbed, they have 4WD access from the western edge of the rim, so you can be driven down to explore the rock pools on foot. Alternatively, you can hike down (and back if you still have the legs for it) in a day. Gondwana also offers a multi-day hike (mid-April to mid-Sept) along the northern reaches of the canyon (N$2000) covering 32km over three days, with four nights camping, including one at base camp. The advantage of the Gondwana and Fish River Lodge trails, beyond the fact that your gear is carried for you, is that the meals are far more appetizing: a chef’s campfire creations rather than the pot-noodle feasts of the backpacking trail.

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