Country Stargazing

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Country Stargazing

Winter evenings in southern Africa can be chilly, but if you spend all your time inside, you’ll miss out on one of the seasons attractions, namely the night sky. The clear, cold nights of the Southern Hemisphere often offer perfect conditions for stargazing.

Shaun Pozyn, Head of Marketing for British Airways (operated by Comair) suggests the following places to do some amateur astronomy, as well as other attractions for each.

Hogsback

Just over three hours’ drive from Port Elizabeth, this small town in the Amatole mountains of the Eastern Cape often has snow in winter and is frequently misty, but it also enjoys many clear nights for stargazing due to few artificial lights. Some visitors say Hogsback reminds them of The Shire in The Lord of the Rings books and movies, and the area is said to have inspired the more idyllic, pastoral parts of JRR Tolkien’s epic works. While you’re no more likely to see short people with hairy feet there than anywhere else, it does have many other attractions.

  • Mountain bikers love the trails in the area, which have hiking trails to suit any level of fitness and restaurants in the area offer everything from pub-grub to fine dining. See hogsbackinfo.co.za
  • Star-gazing with just the naked eye and a flask of something to keep you warm can be enough, but you can head to Sutherland (about four hours’ drive from Cape Town) for the world-famous SALT (Southern African Large Telescope), one of the biggest optical telescopes in the world.
  • The SAAO (Southern African Astronomical Observatory) has set up several telescopes for visitors and the Sterland guest house, for example, has telescopes for guests’ use. Daytime attractions in the area include hiking and 4X4 trails. See sutherlandinfo.co.za. Sutherland is often one of the coldest places in the country, but that hasn’t stopped a steady flow of visitors from going there to stare into the universe.

Nambia

Away from its towns, Namibia has little pollution and the desert climate with few clouds allows for excellent stargazing. In fact, the country is rated alongside Hawaii and Chile as among the world’s best places to do just that – gaze at the stars! There are many guided tours and a number of guest houses such as Hakos Guest Farm and Tivoli Southern Sky Guest Farm have telescopes for guests’ use. Straddling the border between South Africa and Namibia, the ǀAi-ǀAis/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park has a starkly beautiful mountain desert landscape and is essentially uninhabited. This means no pollution of any sort, creating ideal conditions for astronomy. Visitors have also found the lack of cell phone coverage liberating. There are plenty of campsites (but you’ll need a 4X4 vehicle to traverse the park), while the Orange River has some excellent fly-fishing.

Source: Meropa Image: Pixabay

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