Living on the edge
Fish River Lodge was built in 2009 and designed by Namibian-born architect Andy Chase from the Windhoek-based architectural firm Stauch & Partners. The natural environment served both as stylistic reference as well inspiration for the colour palette. Even the trying entry road to the lodge mirrors the isolation of the lodge while the dry-packed stone wall that runs the length of the lodge guards the natural spectacle that awaits you.
The Canyon Nature Park
At 45 000ha, the park is a vast and rugged landscape of flat-topped rocky mountains and dry plains. A myriad of washes and side ravines carve deep furrows down to the main canyon. Fascinating plants and trees adapted to this harsh environment add splashes of green and feed the wildlife that survive against the odds.
To preserve this amazing part of Namibia, Canyon Nature Park has joined the partnership of the Greater Fish River Canyon Complex, a trans boundary collaboration between parks and conservation agencies and private landowners in the Richtersveld (South Africa), the Huns mountains and /Ais /Ais Game Park, Namibia. The collaboration focuses on a broad-based approach to conservation and sustainable natural resource management and socio-economic development.
Previously a marginalised farming area, the biodiversity of this arid region was threatened by agricultural activities. Canyon Nature Park has turned the fortunes of the fauna and flora around by embracing a return to wildlife conservation and low-impact tourism as a means to socio-economic development in the southern parts of the country.
Two farms — Soutkuil (where the lodge and canyon are located) and Vergeleë (to its northwest) have been joined to make up the Canyon Nature Park.
Fish River Lodge and Canyon Nature Park are constantly assessing practices that ensure that we leave only the lightest footprints on our surroundings. We are participants in the Namibia Eco Awards programme, an initiative that ensures that the impact of tourism on our sensitive, arid environment is kept to the minimum. Sustainability is a key consideration for all future developments on the property.
Whilst we have opted for conventional building materials (given that a previous structure already existed on the site), an environmental scoping study was conducted prior to the construction of the new lodge. A botanist conducted a study on the plants to ensure there would be no impact to rare or protected species and an environmentalist developed an Environmental Management Plan for Canyon Nature Park that included a management plan for the building operations.
Guidelines ensure that damage to the environment (including roads) is limited, landscaping and gardening plans are compliant with our biodiversity and general environmental management policies, and water usage is optimised. In addition, waste water is minimised and together with solid waste, disposed of in a designated manger.
For more information visit www.ecoawards-namibia.org
Local Flora and Fauna
This corner of Namibia’s south is largely undeveloped and the spectacular landscape offers guests a true sense of undiscovered wilderness. We frequently receive favourable comments from guests about the sense of remoteness and the utter silence they experience during their stay.
The Park is located in the Nama Karoo biome bordering on the Succculent Karoo biome with a variable rainfall that may fall both in summer and winter. There are over 100 endemic succulents including the largest, the Aloe dichotoma, popularly known as the ‘Kokerboom’, or Quiver Tree as well as over 1 600 other plant species.
The lodge’s logo was inspired by the Aloe dichotoma that occurs in large groves above and on the slopes descending into the canyon. Growing up to 10 meters high, some reach an age of up to 300 years old. Scientists are starting to voice their concern about the large numbers of these trees that are dying off, noting that climate change is taking its toll on this fascinating and much-loved species.
Climate change together with unsustainable farming practices and hunting over the past century, have also impacted the variety and quantity of wildlife species that once occurred in vast numbers the area. The Canyon Nature Park, however, is seeing a return in populations of certain species. The rare and endemic Hartmann’s mountain zebra are a common sighting, as are springbok, gemsbok (oryx), kudu, steenbok and klipspringers. Chacma baboons can be heard and seen in the canyon and there have been sighting of the elusive leopard and caracal. The Cape clawless otter wanders up the Fish River from the Orange River and has been spotted at the rock pools.
Though the river runs seasonally in the summer time, permanent rock pools are home to small-and large-mouth yellowfish, sharptooth catfish and water monitors. There are a variety of birds including black eagle, olive thrush, Cape robin-chat and African black duck.
Fish River Lodge in the media
It is the policy of the lodge to train and employ only Namibians. We pride ourselves on the friendliness of our staff as well as the diversity of young people representing different cultures from Namibia. Our staff reflect the warm hospitality Namibia is known for. In the 2012 Eco Awards scheme, the lodge received the highest marks ever awarded for management and our guides received full marks. To ensure that standards are maintained our staff are regularly empowered and uplifted through training.
Few environments in the world can reveal the earth’s layers as dramatically as the Fish River Canyon. Over 500 million years ago, a shift in the earth’s tectonic plates caused a natural north-south fault. Erosion started the scouring process eventually forming the Fish River, the longest river in Namibia. Chiseling its way through layers of the earth’s crust, today towering rock faces of dolomite and granite stand sentinel as the river meanders in sweeping curves in the deep ravines below.
Our qualified guides will share this amazing phenomenon with you as you descend 500m into the 160km long, 27km wide canyon. The erosion continues today when the river goes into full flood during the summer rainy season. After heavy rains in the Park, washes turn into turbulent riverlets and rock faces become gushing waterfalls within minutes continuing the scouring and erosion process.
Petroglyps (rock engraving), stone tools, hunting blinds, grave yards and abandoned stone ‘lammershuisies’ (lamb houses) cattle kraals and farm houses tell the story of human occupation at Canyon Nature Park from the late Halocene period between 5,100 Before Present (BP) and 2,300 BP to the twentieth century. In fact the oldest rock painting in Southern Africa occurs on a farm just south of Canyon Nature Park dated to between 27 000 and 23 000 B.C.
San hunter-gatherers roamed the territory for centuries hunting the great plains animals that once occurred here in large numbers including elephant, rhino and giraffe. These historical treasures are only open to guests in the company of guides in order to protect them.
Food and Wine
Getting fresh ingredients to a lodge in such a remote location present a challenge but we make every effort to source locally and give our guests tasty, wholesome meals. Our menu focusses on the excellent beef and game dishes that Namibia is famous for. Candlelight dinners are a set 3-course meal prepared by our trained chefs and accompanied by a careful selection of excellent and unusual South African wines. Breakfasts are either continental or English and lunches are light, healthy spreads like quiches and salads, served alfresco on the deck.
Canyon Nature Park collaborates with local and international research institutions. Students from the Technikon in Windhoek have conducted academic research on the Aloe dicotoma (Quiver Tree) as well as water consumption at the lodge. An event book is recording animal sightings at various locations in the park and will be added to a national database. There are further research opportunities in archaeology and the natural sciences.
Whilst Fish River Lodge can be reached by car, a fly-in option is an exciting alternative to the long drive and takes approximately 2 hours flying-time from Windhoek.
With an excellent airstrip only three kilometres from the lodge, guests will experience the canyon, its maze of side canyons and of course the glistening Fish River as it meanders through the desert en-route to the Orange River. You will be transferred from the airstrip to the lodge where a welcome drink will refresh you as you take in the splendours of the canyon from terra firma. Please enquire with any Namibian domestic charter airline for flight options.
Namibia’s south has one of the lowest population densities in the country, leaving large tracts of arid farmland, parks and protected areas empty. It is bordered by the Namib Desert on the west and the Kalahari Desert in the east and is rich in history and culture. We recommend the following highlights for an extended stay in the south:
From the Southern border
From the North
- Snow in winter
- That it is situated in the succulent Karoo biome, one of the botanical ‘hot spots’ in the world
- The famous feral horses that roam wild nearby
To see the horses run wild and free in this hostile and unlikely desert environment is an amazing testimony to the determination of man and beast to adapt and survive. There are various theories about their origin, including that they are descendants of the horses the German Schuztruppe brought in the 19th century. Other theories suggest that they there were imported between 1904 and the first world war by the Germans whilst other suggest that they escaped from the South African cavalry during World War I.