The South African Museum, now part of Iziko Museums of Cape Town, is set in the beautiful Company Gardens. It has extensive collections representing natural history and human and maritime sciences. Adjacent to it is the Iziko Planetarium, where the skies are clear whatever the weather.

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The Minolta star machine at the Iziko Planetarium can create a clear night sky regardless of the weather.

The South African Museum and Planetarium was founded in 1825 and focuses on natural history and human sciences. Set in the beautiful Company Gardens in central Cape Town, it is the oldest museum in the country.

The museum is now part of Iziko Museums of Cape Town. This collection of museums includes the Slave Lodge, Koopmans-De Wet House, Bertram House, Groot Constantia, the Bo-Kaap Museum, Rust en Vreugde and the William Fehr Collection in the Castle of Good Hope.

The nucleus of the South African Museum and Planetarium is its social and maritime history collection obtained in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Among these are pre-colonial and colonial artefacts, traditional arts and crafts from several cultures and San rock art, including those removed from caves when it was still considered acceptable to do so.

Of particular interest are the Lydenburg Heads, which represent early African art from around 500AD. Alongside these are ethnographic displays of traditional medicines and pre-colonial African mathematics and science.

The museum also features collections of marine and terrestrial vertebrates and invertebrates as well as skeletons of ocean mammals. This section is built around a massive four-storey wall hung with the complete skeletons of four whales.

Most compelling of all are fossils dating back 700 million years. Among these are Miocene whale remains and fossil samples from the middle Devonian to late Jurassic periods.

The museum has rock and stony meteorite fragments, which is a good place from which to head for the adjoining Iziko Planetarium. Here is an ever-changing celestial performance. Using a Minolta star machine and multiple projectors, the Planetarium can create a clear night sky regardless of the weather. It's a captivating audio-visual experience.

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