25 Sep 2016 12:50pm
By Patience Smith
FISH RIVER CANYON, 24 SEP (NAMPA) Around 50 volunteers set out to clean up the world-famous Fish River Canyon this past week.
Three groups each covered 60 kilometres (km), 20km and 10km, respectively of the hiking trail up to the Ai Ais resort in southern Namibia. In total, the canyon is about 160km long.
The last group covering the shortest distance exited the canyon on Saturday.
The group comprised volunteers from Spain, Karasburg District, Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR), and South African National Parks (SANParks).
The clean-up campaign is an annual initiative by the NWR, the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service, Gondwana and SANParks under the Community-Based Natural Resource Management programme within the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET).
The operation is performed to instil a sense of pride and ownership within communities of the country, particularly those in the //Kharas Region, MET Warden for the Ai-Ais National Park Boly Shetukana told Nampa on Saturday.
The canyon hiking season commences on 01 May and closes on 15 September, allowing for waste of over 300 tourist groups to pile up in the second largest gorge in the world; preceded only by the Grand Canyon in the United States of America.
Some tourists return with their waste, but many leave their trash in the canyon. The clean-up project is in its eighth year, and we do it to make sure that the canyon is in pristine state for visitors of the next season, Shetukana said.
The canyon is a special place, MET NAMParks 4 Project Field Coordinator Mendes Vinte said.
It is 500 metres deep at its descent level and 30km wide. It has its own ecosystem where some of the most endangered species thrive. There are leopards, snakes, wild horses, mountain zebras, oryx and baboons in there, Vinte said.
The group who cleaned the 10 km stretch spent Friday evening sleeping under palm trees next to the Sulphur Spring, before exiting the canyon the following day with refuse bags filled with torn shoes, clothing, plastic bottles, paper and cans.
Julia Enriquez De Luna from Granada, Spain said she planned her visit to Namibia to coincide with the clean-up campaign upon invitation from a local friend.
Friday was also my birthday and it was most special to have spent it near the river in the canyon, she said, also mentioning some of the stars and planets she recognised in the clear dark sky.
no telescope, the stars were so bright, she said.
Twenty-five year old Leon Koper of a resettlement area in the Karasburg District bellowed as he walked out from the canyon.
My legs are finished, he laughed before relaying his experience.
I drank water from the Orange River and swam in a hot spring, I saw zebras and the fresh carcass of a kudu; it was very rewarding, he said.
Harold de Wet from the Richtersveld in South Africa said that though the walk was tough, he revelled in the gratifying element of the exercise.
Namibia and South Africa cooperate through various environment initiatives, including the clean-up campaign, as partners in the /Ai-/Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park at the borders of the two countries.