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Hiking in Namibia: Fish River Canyon to the Olive Trail


For anyone with a passion for magnificent desert scenery, hiking through Namibia is a must. Get under the skin of the vast Namib, with its towering dunes, endless horizons, earthy colours and intriguing desert wildlife. Discovering this wilderness on foot earns you an intimate knowledge of the desert’s rhythms, it’s seductive landscapes and it’s star-spangled skies.

Starry night sky in Namibia

From short loops easily tackled in a day, to multi stage treks covering substantial distances, there are plenty of possibilities for the keen hiker among Namibia’s awesome scenery. Our local partners have put together a sample hiking itinerary to inspire you, but remember all our trips are tailor-made, so you can use their expertise to come up with the perfect itinerary for your requirements.

Namibia's NamibRand Nature Reserve

Here are details of some of the most enticing trails for hiking in Namibia, some of which are gentle ambles of just a few hours, right through to treks lasting a week or more.

Fish River Canyon Trek

If you are hoping to follow the tough five to six day route through the gorge of Fish River Canyon, you need to visit Namibia between May and September, as outside those months it is not possible to tackle the 90 kilometre route as the heat is too fierce.

Fish River Canyon trek

Your experience is likely to be influenced by the water level in the river, as when it is higher you are bound to need to get your feet wet at times and follow higher paths. You will need to bring enough supplies for your entire trip, and prepare for several days in the wilderness. In the canyon, it’s wise to rise early and cover some ground before it gets too hot, but the whole experience is worth the effort for the incredible landscapes and extreme isolation, not to mention the sense of achievement when you are finished.

Hiker in Fish River Canyon

The Tok Tokkie Trail

Usually split into three manageable days, this route takes you through some of the most enticing scenery in the NamibRand Nature Reserve, one of Namibia’s most beautiful landscapes. Ponder the origins of the mysterious fairy circles, and enjoy sleeping out under an incredible sky – the NamibRand is one of the world’s International Dark Sky Reserves.

NamibRand Nature Reserve - landscape of Tok Tokkie trail

Far from being arid and parched, life in this area is actually quite abundant. You may come across the Tok Tokkie beetles, after which the trials are named, who perform a mating call by tapping their bodies against a solid surface, making a ‘tok tok’ sound. These, and many other desert dwellers of the NamibRand, show fascinating adaptations to their hot and dry environment. Many creatures have developed ways to harness moisture from the dawn fog which often envelops the land – the Tok Tokkie beetles stand on their heads and catch moisture on their bodies which then runs down into their mouths.

Desert adapted chameleon eating tok tokkie beetle

The bat eared fox has adapted to the heat by evolving to have large, wing like ears which are efficient heat dispersal apparatus. Keep your eyes peeled for large mammals such as oryx and springbok – they are often quite easy to spot and not particularly bothered by humans. Finally, keep a lookout for the fascinating NamibRand birdlife on your trek, especially the endemic dune lark, rare lappet faced vulture and the black eagle.

Oryx in NamibRand Nature Reserve

The Olive Trail

This 10 kilometre loop takes in some dramatic peaks and gorges of the Naukluft mountain range, and is the shortest route in the Namib-Naukluft National Park. It’s named after the wild olive trees that grow in this area – which you will see along the route – as well as iconic quiver trees and euphorbia.

Namib-Naukluft National Park landscape

The most important features of this trail are the views from the high plateau which you reach early on after a steady ascent. From this point you can see the Naukluft range and the dry river beds in the valleys, as well as the trail snaking along on the far side of the ridge. Once you negotiate the slightly tricky descent into the gorge the going can get a little tricky – chains are installed for safety on the more challenging sections and you will be clambering over a few rocky sections, so make sure you have sturdy footwear.

Mountain Zebra in Namibia

The gorge narrows to its most dramatic point shortly before is broadens again towards the end of the trail. Don’t forget your camera as this is a very scenic route with loads of great photo opportunities – with luck you may even spot some local fauna such as Love Birds, Mountain Zebra and Klipspringer.

Waterkloof Trail

A long day hike which can take up to 8 hours, this 17 kilometre loop is another scenic excursion which showcases the best of the Namib-Naukluft National Park. The most popular reason for undertaking this walk is to enjoy a dip in the delightful pools of water at the early and late parts of the trek. The first collection of pools you will come across are along the river Naukluft, and these are particularly clear and lovely for a dip. You may well find baboons are doing the same!

Swimming in Naukluft. Credit: fiverlocker

On the final stretch of the loop, the pools are to be found along the course of the Gororosib river, and though these are sometimes less crystalline, they are nevertheless very inviting after a long walk. The terrain is mainly quite easy going, with some sections in the gorges a little more challenging. Overall it’s a brilliant walk with some good wildlife spotting and views along the way.

gorge in Naukluft, namibia

Make it happen

TravelLocal’s specialist partners are experts on all things Namibia, and if you are hoping to put together an itinerary focussed on hiking they can offer plenty of advice on which routes would suit your party best. They will assist with planning your itinerary, using their local expertise to make the most of the time you have available. Get in touch to begin planning your Namibia adventure.

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