Did you know?
Because of light and other pollution, much of the world's population has never seen a clear, star-strewn night sky.
When in South Africa, you have to add the Northern Cape night sky to your 'must visit' list. This semi-desert region with its crystal-clear air is perfect for stargazing.
Before setting off on your desert adventure, why not start with a trip to the planetarium? Both Cape Town and Johannesburg have excellent planetariums with 'night sky' shows happening daily. Experts are also on hand to answer any questions or queries you might have and get you more acquainted with the heavenly experience of the southern hemisphere's night skies. From here you can journey to the Northern Cape to see the real thing.
Four hours from Cape Town in the middle of the Karoo, where light pollution is almost zero, lies the Northern Cape hamlet of Sutherland, home to SALT (Southern African Large Telescope), the largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere. This is a not to be missed chance for all those interested in stargazing to absorb the South African night sky and tour SALT. There are regular stargazing sessions and lectures on astronomy.
Whilst Sutherland is the most renowned stargazing region in South Africa, all Karoo and Northern Cape districts offer unsurpassed opportunities to experience the heavens. Calvinia, located at the foot of the Hantam Mountains in the Namakwa region, is another great star spot, as is the Tankwa Karoo National Park. Come in September and you can also view the legendary spring flowers here.
Another option is to journey to the Kalahari in the far north, another region that offers superlative night skies. There are a number of lodges here that supply stargazing experiences combined with safaris. Some have their own large, portable telescopes, but even if you have nothing but a pair of binoculars or your eyes, the Northern Cape night sky is so visibly spectacular, it will ignite your imagination for the rest of your earthly years.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Sutherland and Karoo Highlands Tourism Office
Tel: +27 (0)23 571 1265
How to get here
Sutherland is 324kms from Cape Town.
Best time to visit
The cold, clear winters deliver exceptional night skies but all year round the Northern Cape's night skies are magnificent.
Tours to do
Tour of SALT, night sky telescope-viewing outings are offered in Sutherland and several other Northern Cape venues.
In your own vehicle unless you are part of a tour.
What will it cost
Stargazing viewings, tours and outings range from R50 to a couple of hundred rands.
Length of stay
Several days to two to three weeks as the Northern Cape is vast.
What to pack
Binoculars and a portable telescope if you have one.
Where to stay
There is a range of accommodation throughout the Northern Cape from B&Bs to guesthouses, from hotels to luxury lodges and farmstays.