Get out. Look up. Be amazed
Winter evenings in South Africa can be super chilly, but if you spend all your time inside, you’ll miss out on one of winter’s attractions … the gorgeous night sky. The clear, cold winter nights offer the perfect conditions for stargazing.
Shaun Pozyn, Head of Marketing for British Airways gives us a few suggestions on some great places to do some amateur astronomy…
Hogsback is a small town in the Amatole Mountains of the Eastern Cape and often has beautiful snowfall in winter. It also enjoys very clear nights because there are very few artificial lights … perfect for stargazing! 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 some parts of JRR Tolkien’s epic works. While you’re not likely to see short people with hairy feet, it does have many other attractions. Mountain-bikers and hikers love the trails in the area, and the restaurants offer everything from pub-grub to fine dining. Details: www.hogsbackinfo.co.za
Star-gazing can be very rewarding with just the naked eye and a flask of something to keep you warm … but if you want some technology on your side, you can head to Sutherland. It is one of the coldest places in the country, but that hasn’t stopped a steady flow of visitors going there to stare into the night sky. Sutherland is world-famous for its stars and it’s SALT (Southern African Large Telescope), one of the biggest optical telescopes in the world. Day-time attractions in the area include hiking, four-by-four trails, cute shops, and fabulous restuarants. Details: www.sutherlandinfo.co.za
Next up is Nambia … the desert climate has very few clouds, allowing for excellent stargazing. In fact, the country is rated alongside Hawaii and Chile as among the world’s best places to do so. There are many guided tours and a number of guest-houses 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 light pollution, or pollution of any sort, creating ideal conditions for astronomy. Visitors also find the lack of cell phone reception oh so liberating. Details: www.sanparks.org/parks/richtersveld/