Fish River Canyon – Namibia
The recently re-furbished Ai-Ais Hot Springs Spa Resort, (re-opened in August 2009) is at the southern end of the Fish River Canyon and offers an excellent place to relax in and around the thermal baths heated swimming pool, especially after a hot, dusty day’s drive or when completing The Fish River Hiking Trail. It is the ideal destination when heading towards South Africa, or northen-route to Sossusvlei and Windhoek. for individual travellers and families alike.
The resort is set at a sulphurous hot spring, which makes perfect sense as the name ‘/ai-/ais’ means ‘burning water’ in the local Nama language. It indicates the extreme heat of the hot springs, which date back to 1850, when they were discovered by a Nama herder, searching for his lost sheep.
Ai-Ais Hot Springs Spa now forms part of the Ai-Ais / Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. and visitors can now cross from South Africa to Namibia, using the Sendelingsdrift border post from within the park. As this resort is a very popular holiday destination with families from both Namibia and South Africa, it is advisable to book well in advance.
As with all thermal springs, the water is supposed to have natural curative properties, and is especially beneficial for sufferers of rheumatism .For the more energetic, there are some enjoyable, but sometimes arduous walks into the canyon, especially pleasant in the late afternoon when the shadows are long, and the heat off the rocks contrast with the cool sand.
The improvements at Ai Ais include a brand new restaurant and bar, serving buffet meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, seating up to 100 visitors. Other facilities include a laundry and room service, secure parking and up-to-date disabled ramps into all buildings, including the rooms. Valuables can be locked up in the safe in the reception. Children of all ages are welcome, but parents must supervise their youngsters at all times, especially when in and around the thermal baths / swimming pools.
Accommodation is in either Rooms or Premier Chalets.
- Rooms: 12 Double Rooms have river views and 24 mountain views, all situated in the Spa Complex, sitting over the indoor thermal pool. Walk downstairs for a swim or head to one of the treatment rooms for a body/head massage. The River View Rooms have an en-suite bathroom and bath, air-conditioning and a tea/coffee station and outside shower. The Mountain View Rooms are equipped with an en-suite bathroom and shower, air-conditioning and a tea/coffee station.
- Premier Chalets: 7 Premier Chalets are ideal for families/groups and are equipped with an en-suite bathroom and air-conditioning. The 3 bedrooms, have either a size, 2 x queen, or 1 x king-size bed in each room. The self-catering kitchen is equipped with a refrigerator, 2 plate stove, microwave oven, kettle, pots/pans and plates/cutlery. Relax on 1 of 2 verandahs, with both river and mountain views.
The other main attraction at Ai-Ais (besides the indoor thermal pool) is the popular, but cooler outdoor pool. As the surrounding countryside is arid and rocky and in summertime temperatures soar, not only is a session in either pool beneficial to your health, it also helps you to keep cool. This is a perfect venue for chilling out and tables/chairs are provided.
Activities include walking trails up the ravine, the Fish River Canyon Hiking Trail and guided scenic excursions within the park.
An advantage when travelling in this part of the world, is the clear and open southern sky. It is great for star gazing, and the minimal reflections at night make it an ideal stopover for keen astronomers and enthusiasts alike.
The Ai-Ais area is also a geologists’ dream – with rock formations dating back to millions of years. Visitors of all ages can enjoy some soul-searching walks in the surrounding areas of the camp, and they can also easily drive to the main Fish River Canyon look out point at Hobas for some fantastic views and photographic opportunities.
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