We all love catching flights, meeting new people and seeing new places; but have you ever thought that maybe there was a different, perhaps better form of travel? Once in a while we should all move beyond the urban noise and light pollution and look up – you’ll be surprised what you can see! From here you will embark on a spectacular journey, going through space and time. It doesn’t matter whether you’re only spotting little speckles up above or simply looking at moon craters… what you’ll find will be equally intoxicating, and even sentimental.
Many travellers may associate South Africa’s little treasures with the Big Five, pristine private coves and great food. But travel beyond the city lights and just two hours later, in one of the semi-remote areas that’s free of air and noise pollution you will have no distractions from what’s twinkling in the sky.
Despite frozen toes and cold noses, winter evenings are our particularly favourite time to discover the artistic blotchy sky.
Next time you’re visiting, take a moment to look up – whether you’re looking to find the brightest star, Earth’s closest neighbouring galaxy or just want to see a brightly-lit sky with the naked eye or a giant telescope, here are our top five locations where stargazing conditions couldn’t be better to see scattered diamonds:
- Madikwe Game Reserve
If you’ve been to the North West Province, you’ll know that there’s very little availability in the reserve at one time. While this is primarily perfect for those seeking privacy, it is also the perfect location for some stargazing. Easily spotted star formations include the Southern Cross and the Milky Way. And if you want a closer look, Royal Madikwe allows guests to use their telescope.
- Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park is synonymous with iconic game-viewing – South Africa’s favourite travel destination and the second-largest park in Africa. This unpolluted expanse of sky is perfect to see celestial constellations with the naked eye. So while you’re out on one of your night drives, glance up at the star-studded skies.
- Maropeng, Cradle of Humankind
Just two hours from Johannesburg is Maropeng, the visitor centre of the Cradle of Humankind UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although it is considerable close to the bright lights of the city, it is still a great stargazing location. So you don’t have to travel far to go on a celestial safari! And the next time you layover in Johannesburg, be sure to include stargazing to your to-do-list. Maropeng has regular overseen stargazing sessions presented by astronomer, Vincent Nettmann.
Sutherland holds the southern hemisphere’s largest telescope and offers extraordinary views of the Milky Way. This small Karoo town is on every list of prime stargazing locations. The dry climate and cloud-free nights means unparalleled observations 80% of the year.
- The Cederberg
Just two hours from Cape Town and protected from light pollution, the Cederberg is a haven for professional and amateur stargazers. Guides will show you how to trace over constellations with a powerful emerald laser so you’ll always remember where to find them.
The Celestial Big Five
Did you know that the African sky has its own big five? They are the amazing star clusters, gas clouds and galaxies visible from Africa. The Celestial Big Five are the Southern Pleiades, the Omega Centauri star cluster, the Eta Carinae nebula, the Coalsack Nebula, and the Southern Milky Way. They can all be seen with the naked eye, but are more spectacular when viewed through binoculars or a telescope. We’ve named just a few of our favourites – South Africa is full of remote spots that are ideal to see brightly-lit skies. Make that magical connection between you and the amazing universe and let us know where you’ve been!