Fish River Canyon
The Fish River Canyon is the second largest natural gorge in the world and the largest in Africa. This spectacular natural phenomenon meanders through a harsh, stony plain dotted with drought resistant succulents, like the distinctive quiver tree or kokerboom.
The Canyon was formed over 500 million years ago, through water erosion and also through the collapse of the valley bottom. With most rivers in Namibia, the Fish River is generally dry except in the raining season, from January to April.
Beyond being a great place to take amazing photographs, the Fish River Canyon is a popular hiking destination. The most popular trail is the Fish River Hiking Trail, a 4-day, 86 km expedition open from May to September, not for the faint hearted.
The Orange River forms the border between Namibia and South Africa in the south of the country. The Orange River actually rises in the Drakensberg Mountains in Lesotho and flows westward to the Atlantic Ocean, making it the longest river in South Africa (2200km). The river is also called the "River of Diamonds" as it played a big role in the diamond rush at the beginning of the 20th century. It washed the diamonds from Kimberley to the ocean, where the current swept them back into the dunes of the Namib, largely a restricted area.
In Namibia the river is quiet and peaceful and one of the best ways to explore this rather desolate landscape it to canoe or raft the river downstream.
Quiver Tree Forests
About 14 km north of Keetmanshoop you'll find the well know tourist atrraction, the Quiver Tree Forest. The 'Aloe dichotoma' or Quivertree is the landmark of the south. This rare plant occurs only in northwestern South Africa and most of all in southern Namibia. It is called a quiver tree because in earlier times the San made quivers from the branches. The 'forest' at Farm Gariganus consists of about 250 trees, scattered far apart. This site was proclaimed a National Monument in 1955.
Quiver trees flower in June or July. Their large, brilliantly yellow flower heads form a wonderful contrast to the clear, deep blue southern sky. Situated on rocky outcrops, the quiver tree forests are attractive photo themes in the morning and evening light.
Giant boulders balancing on top of each other, created by the forces of nature. That is the remarkable site of the Giants Playground near the Quiver Tree Forest. Blocks of greyish-black dolerite are stacked upon one another as if giants have been playing with bricks. The eroded boulders make for good photographic opportunities and during a hike through the playground plenty of rock dassies can be seen.
Aus and the Wild Horses of the Namib
Aus is home to few herds of feral horses. Although it is still not exactly known where the horses originate from, it is believed that they are descendants of the horses from the German Schutzruppe and/or the South African allied forces.
Over the decades the horses have excellently adapted to the harsh conditions of the desert. The watering point at Garub, about two kilometers from the tarred road, is an excellent place to watch them.
Sossusvlei means ‘the gathering place of water', although water is not often found here. Instead you'll find the highest sand dunes in the world. They probably are Namibia’s most scenic landmark.
These dunes, part of the Namib Desert, have developed over a period of millions of years. The wind continuously shifts the sand further and further inland, reshaping patterns. The intens colours of the red sand form a stark contrast with the white surface of clay pans. Climbing up one of these dunes provides breathtaking views of the whole area, including Deadvlei. Deadvlei is an almost eerie place, with skeletons of ancient camelthorn trees dotted around a white clay pan.
The best time to view Sossusvlei is close to sunrise and sunset when the dunes refract spectacular colours, ranging from burnt orange, red and deep mauve. It’s a photographer’s dream.
Sesriem is a small settlement in the Namib Desert and the entrance gate to Sossusvlei. It is not much more than a filling station with basic services. But it is also known for the Sesriem Canyon, about 4km from the settlement. The canyon is about 1 km long and upto 30 metres high and is naturally carved by the Tsauchab river. When the rain is good, a series of pools provide a nice little habitat for fish, and a place for people to cool off with a swim. The name Sesriem, meaning 6 belts, is derived from the time of the "Dorsland trek", when the settlers had to tie 6 belts (cut from cow hide) together to reach buckets down into the canyon to scoop water for their livestock.
Solitaire is a small settlement in the Khomas region of central Namibia. It features the only facilities, like a gas station, postoffice, bakery and general dealer on the way from Namib Naukluft to Walvis Bay or to Windhoek. A book of the same name, written by a Dutch man, Ton van der Lee, deals with his stay in this place and is a good read before travelling to the area.
The settlement is also known for the apple pie, by Moos; said to be the best applepie in Africa.