What is the Giant’s Playground in Namibia?

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a group of young giants frolicking amongst stone formations. Leaping from pedestal to pedestal and crouching behind the stones during a game of hide and seek…when I heard the term ‘Giant’s Playground’ this was the first image that came to mind.

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Rights to South Africa Travel Online

And it may not be too far fetched once you take a look at the place (and depending how vivid your imagination is).

So, for those among us who are not familiar with the term…what is Giant’s Playground?

Simply put, it is a geological phenomenon. And it is called this, because of the way the series of dolerite boulders have been packed as though a giant toddler was playing a really over-the-top version of Jenga.

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Rights to www.travellingforever.com

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Rights to dieschultners.de

The aftermath of said game, creating a series of formations and a rock maze just outside of Keetmanshoop. And apparently, it is rather easy to lose your bearings while walking through this maze.

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Rights to dreamtrip2012 .wordspress.com

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Rights to 3D photo production

On the other hand, wanderlust has never been a bad thing, so make the best of getting lost in an ancient, giant-built, rock maze!

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Rights to Southern Africa

Anyway, on a more serious and scientific front… The playground is said to have been formed about 180 million years ago.

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Rights to www.foto-genial.de

As mentioned in a previous post on Gondwana and the super continents, Pangea was starting to separate. Because of this massive natural disruption, the earth’s surface experienced some hectic disturbances.

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In the area surrounding these rock formations, molten magma pushed its way through the cracks of the surface rock. This led to an entirely different situation. After another couple of million years, the sedimentary rocks (that were pushed aside to make room for the dolerite) began to erode.

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Rights to commons.wikimedia.org

This in turn, exposed the harder rock that was hidden underneath. These little delights, are called dolerite dykes and are usually between 3-10 metres in width and can have varied and extreme lengths.

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Rights to www.worldtravelserver.com

Adding to the above, there were another few thousand years of water, wind and heat that polished and smoothed out these rock formations. So now it really does look like a group of giants that played around on the ancient landscape.

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Rights to rights to epod . usra .edu

If you would like to go visit the Giant’s Playground, you can start by heading north-east for about 14km from Keetmanshoop. It will cost you around N$50.00 per person for admissions for the day.

Keetmanshop in Namibia - www.namibiabookings.com

Keetmanshop in Namibia – Rights to www.namibiabookings.com

The best time to enjoy this sight is during the winter months when it is not as hot. The Gondwana Canyon properties are a fantastic base camp to use when viewing the surrounding areas.

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Rights to Forum Fur Naturfotografen

If you have any stories or information on the Giant’s Playground, we invite you to share it with us in the comment section below.

Author – Jescey Visagie is a proud Namibian and is passionate about writing and language. Tag along for the ride as she tries to uncover new insights into Namibia and explores what the country has to offer.

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101 sunsets with Gondwana  

In Namibia, clear skies and delicious warm evenings have inspired an important tradition – and celebration of life – sundowners!

As part of their 20th anniversary celebrations, the Gondwana Collection held a ‘101 Sunset Competition’, inviting the public to share their sensational sundowner moments. The competition kicked off at the Namibia Tourism Expo in May and continued until the end of August when it wrapped up with 875 entries. It took another month to carefully evaluate the photos, selecting the finest. In October, the winners were announced and the prize of 101 nights at Gondwana’s lodges was shared between the five winners of the various categories, who each won 20 nights, with the overall winner bagging the additional day to make up the total of 101.

Overall winner & Natural Sunsets Category - Winner: Alloyce Makhosi

Overall winner & Natural Sunsets Category – Winner: Alloyce Makhosi

Crazy Sundowner Moments - Winner: Michael Hackauf

Crazy Sundowner Moments Category – Winner: Michael Hackauf

Pro Sunsets - Winner: Carsten Von Carsten von Frankenberg-Lüttwitz

Pro Sunsets category – Winner: Carsten Von Carsten von Frankenberg-Lüttwitz

Images of clinking glasses, striking landscapes and land and water aflame with the deepest and richest colours on Earth came streaming in. They encapsulated the wonderful African tradition: sundowners i.e. spending the late afternoon somewhere out in nature with a drink in hand, appreciating the landscape bathed in gold at this enchanting time of the day. It’s the time to stop whatever you are doing and enjoy the transition between day and night, when softness and beauty merge the two in a spectacular display, one of the best shows on the planet.

Social Sundowners Category- Winners: Ralph Ellinger

Social Sundowners Category – Winners: Ralph Ellinger

Image: Mike Scott

Sundowner Competition – Image: Mike Scott

 The bustle of the day and the excitement of travel or wildlife viewing pauses for a while as drinks are sipped and snacks are nibbled. Then, as the sun begins to dip in the sky, there’s a hush as the ruby orb slowly and regally sinks into the horizon. A wash of pastel colours splash dramatically across the heavens in its wake,lit up from below,before the first stars begin to shimmer and the blanket of night is eventually drawn over the land.

Sunsets and Wildlife Category - Winner: Suzanne Pienaar Van Zyls

Sunsets and Wildlife Category – Winner: Suzanne Pienaar Van Zyls

Sundowner Competition - Image: Carlo Palomba

Sundowner Competition – Image: Carlo Palomba

The world stills as the diurnal birds turn in and the nocturnal life begins to stir, adding its voice to the indigo night. Occasionally, jackal calls ring out through the air. The power, magic and mystery of creation is palpable.

 As part of Gondwana’s 20th birthday bash – and the sunset theme, Gondwana (in partnership with Namibian kwaito singer EES and Namibian Breweries) released a ‘Sundowner’song celebrating just that, the time of day to close laptops and workplace doors, hang up tools, pack a coolbox and head out to a rooftop vantage point, a dam, or if fortunate enough, the great Namibian wilderness, the canyon or countryside.

The video clip showcases the vast and majestic scenery of the Fish River Canyon and the sweeping landscapes at this golden hour, accompanied by EES’s lively beat. Towards the end of the clip, while sitting at the edge of the dam as the sun sets into the African bush, EES turns to his friend and makes the apt observation: “The thing is,” he says, as the music quietens in the background,“I think people nowadays don’t realise how important a sundowner actually is; how to chill and relax and to just let the day quietly settle.”

Image: Silke Kuhr

Sundowner at Namib Desert Lodge – Image: Silke Kuhr

So, here’s a reminder. While in Namibia, remember to take time out for the best time of day. Take a walk or a drive, or simply sit on your veranda or balcony. Or, if you are at one of the Gondwana lodges, join the sunset celebrations to appreciate the Namib Desert, Fish River Canyon, Zambezi waterways or Kalahari dunes when Mother Nature puts on her best performance on Earth just for you.

Image: Piero Alberto Grassi

Sundowner at Kalahari Anib Lodge – Image: Piero Alberto Grassi

Sundowner Competition - Image: Myriam Werra

Sundowner Competition – Image: Myriam Werra


 Gondwana’s top ten sunset spots:

  1. The crest of the 20-million-year-old fossilised dunes at Namib Desert Lodge with a superlative view of the desert landscape
  2. A sunset deck built on the hill overlooking the mopane savannah and Brandberg in the distance at Damara Mopane Lodge
  3. The edge of the Fish River Canyon that drops down to ancient chasms – Canyon Roadhouse, Village and Lodge
  4. The boat on the Kwando River after a game drive into the Bwabwata National Park at Namushasha River Lodge
  5. Watching the Namib wild horses at the Garub viewpoint while visiting Klein Aus Vista
  6. The Hakusembe River Queen on the Okavango River at Hakusembe River Lodge
  7. The end of the jetty as the waves crash around you (the Delight hotel,Swakopmund)
  8. The top of the granite koppie (hill) at Canyon Lodge overlooking the Gondwana Canyon Park
  9. The wooden deck at Etosha Safari Lodge, with a view of the mopane woodland
  10. The red sand dunes of the Kalahari (Kalahari Anib and the Farmhouse)

Ron Swilling is a freelance writer, based in Cape Town, writing for Namibian and South African publications. She is a regular contributor to Gondwana’s History and Stamps&Stories columns and documented the information on the Wild Horses in the Namib Desert for Mannfred Goldbeck and Telané Greyling. She invites you to ‘Follow her footsteps’ on her journey from the Orange River, exploring the Gondwana routes through the intriguing country of Namibia.


Ron Swilling


Fire & Ice team up for the Cape Epic

Two passionate mountain bikers from opposite sides of the globe, separated by 10 000km, team up for the legendary Absa Cape Epic. Piet Swiegers, the 48-year-old Namibian Veteran cross-country mountain-bike champion from Aus, in Namibia’s arid south-western corner, will join 55-year-old Swedish Masters mountain-bike champion, Atle Hansen, from Hölö, Sweden, to cycle the Cape Epic on the 13-20 March 2016. And, if past achievement is anything to go by, the team will provide stiff competition to other riders in their category.

cape epic participant

Piet Swiegers, training at 32° C.

Atle received a surprising email on the 23rd December from Piet inviting him to ride with him in the Cape Epic, after Piet’s previous partner had to withdraw suddenly from the race. Atle was deep in winter hibernation and had to quickly change pace to get into top shape.

While Piet has been training in the southern Namibia temperatures of around 30˚C, Atle has had a completely different experience. His training has been slightly more uncomfortable at temperatures of minus 15-18˚C. He reported: “It’s cold as Hell. It’s almost impossible to ride outside, my feet go white from the cold even in the special shoes I wear that have battery-operated heated soles – and two pairs of wool socks!”

Atle Hansen, training at -18° C

Atle Hansen, training at -18° C

One of Namibia’s top ten cyclists, Piet Swiegers came fifth in the World Veteran Cross Country race held in Pietermaritzberg in 2013, and fifth again in the Veterans race in the Rainbow Challenge XC Marathon held in Pietermaritzberg in 2014. His training comprises a 6-8hour weekly regime on the network of mountain bike trails he has created at Gondwana’s Klein-Aus Vista Lodge, a family run lodge in the rugged hills of Aus. He also initiated the Klein-Aus Vista Mountain Bike Challenge, which takes place annually in April/May, adding a fascinating 3-day-stage race, mostly on single track, to the MTB circuit. In preparation for the Cape Epic, Piet has been training 10-12 hours per week since December and will start to take it easier from the beginning of March.

Piet Swiegers (r) after the W2W Race in South Africa with his partner Ian Grassow.

Piet Swiegers (r) after the W2W Race in South Africa with his partner Ian Grassow.

His teammate, Atle Hansen, is a well-known cyclist on the European circuit who spends around 700-750 hours a year on a bike. Hansencame fifth in the World Masters Cross Country race held in Pietermaritzberg in 2013 and in 2014 came in second in the Masters race in the Rainbow Challenge XC Marathon. This is where the two cyclists met, while staying at the same lodge.

Atle Hansen (l) came 2nd at the Rainbow Challenge 2014 in South Africa.

Atle Hansen (l) came 2nd at the Rainbow Challenge 2014 in South Africa.

Atle will join Piet in Windhoek on the 4th March where they will train for the day before travelling to Sossusvlei, for a day’s riding to the dunes, heading back to Klein-Aus Vista to continue the rest of their final preparation on the Klein-Aus tracks. The ‘Klein-Aus MTB team’, as they call themselves, will depart on the 10thMarch for Cape Town to partake in the Absa Cape Epic Prologue a few days later on the slopes of Table Mountain. This 21km event incorporates a cross country course and a steep climb. Team Klein-Aus MTB aims to secure a start in Group B for the next day’s Stage 1 event.

The team’s intensive training programme will provide excellent preparation for the 13thAbsa Cape Epic, against 650 other teams. This gruelling 8-day event, attracting local and international mountain bikers, leads the amateur and professional cyclists through 800km of unspoilt scenery and 15 000m of accumulated climbing, over some of the Western Cape’s magnificent mountain passes. The route this year takes cyclists through the hilly Tulbagh area, with rugged ascents likened to sharks’ teeth, and over the old wagon trail in the Witzenberg Mountain Range and the Bainskloof Pass to Wellington. During the following days, five steep climbs lead cyclists towards Stellenbosch and wine god Bacchus’s garden with a view from the vineyards towards False Bay and Table Mountain, climbing Meerendal’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ before reaching the Cape Epic finish in Durbanville. Participants spend at least six hours per day in the saddle.

The Absa Cape Epic is the most televised mountain bike stage race in the world. It is also the only eight-day mountain bike stage race to be classed as hors catégorie (a name given to the toughest climbs and listed as ‘uncategorised’) by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), making it a highlight on every professional cyclist’s calendar.

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Piet taining at Klein-Aus Vista.

Good luck Klein-Aus team!

Author: Ron Swilling