The Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park spans some of the most arid and desert mountain scenery in southern Africa. Spanning across 592,000 ha, it is where one-third of the world’s 10 000 succulent species grow. Peace Parks supported the development of this transfrontier park which was established in 2003, officially signed by the presidents of Namibia and South Africa. Collaboration between the Namibian and South African components of the park include joint patrols for monitoring and law enforcement, joint research, managing joint assets and identifying and implementing unique cross-border tourism products. One of these is hiking along the silent, spectacular territory of Fish River Canyon, which lies in the protected areas surrounding the transfrontier park.
Gita Carroll is the founder of the social impact agency, The Good Machine, where they assist individuals and organisations in their quest for deeper social impact. Gita looks after Peace Parks’ Modern Philanthropy Strategy through which she supports in relationship management and resource mobilisation. Here, Gita charts her hike along the trail in the 160 km long, 27 km wide and 500 m deep canyon, second only in size to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA. The trail itself is 90 km long and can be completed in 3-5 days. According to those who have hiked it, the immense environment creates a feeling of surrendered independence – just you, ancient rocks, sand, water and your backpack.
The annual Fish River Canyon hiking trail season runs between May and mid-September, with people from all over the world booking in advance to do it. Although that is great news for tourism, the down-side is that some hikers leave their refuse behind. Because of the remoteness of the terrain, hikers have to be completely self-sufficient, carrying their own goods and equipment for the hike and taking their rubbish along with them till the end.
For this reason, stakeholders in the Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park – the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, Namibia Wildlife Resorts, South African National Parks and Gondwana Nature Reserve – undertake clean-up campaigns at the end of each hiking season, in order to keep the environment in its natural state. This way each new season’s hikers can experience the impact of this incredible landscape as it is meant to be, pristine and unsullied by humankind.