Get out, look up & be amazed

Winter evenings in South Africa can be chilly, but if you spend all your time inside, you’ll miss out on one of winter’s famous attractions – the night sky. The clear, cold winter 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:

Stargazing in winter

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 because of its many very clear nights and very few artificial lights, it can offer good stargazing opportunities.

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. There are also hiking-trails to suit any fitness level and local restaurants offer everything from pub-grub to fine dining. See www.hogsbackinfo.co.za

SUTHERLAND

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, about four hours’ drive from Cape Town. Sutherland is world-famous for its stars and its 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 guesthouse, for example, offers telescopes for guests’ use. Day-time attractions in the area include hiking and four-by-four trails. See www.sutherlandinfo.co.za. Sutherland is often one of the coldest places in the country, but that hasn’t stopped a steady flow of visitors going there to stare into the universe and to, appropriately, give the experience 4.5/5 stars on www.tripadvisor.com

NAMIBIA

Away from its towns, Namibia has very little light pollution. The desert climate boasts very few clouds, allowing for excellent stargazing. In fact, alongside Hawaii and Chile, Namibia as among the world’s best places to do so. There are many guided tours and a number of guesthouses have telescopes for guests’ use, like Hakos Guest Farm and Tivoli Southern Sky Guest Farm.

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 have also found the lack of cell phone coverage liberating. (Also see our post about Digitial Detox). There are plenty of campsites, but you’ll need a four-by-four vehicle to traverse the park. The Orange River has some excellent fly-fishing too.

Photoblog: Kalahari and Namibia

Hello and happy New Year!

We are back from Namibia and would love to share a few moments of the trip with you.

Enjoy!

Vanzylsrus. ©Renate de Villiers

Vanzylsrus. ©Renate de Villiers

Vanzylsrus Hotel. ©Renate de Villiers

Vanzylsrus Hotel. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi. ©Renate de Villiers

Toto and Tina at Kalahari Trails. ©Renate de Villiers

Toto and Tina at Kalahari Trails. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi beauties. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi beauties. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi relaxtion. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi relaxation. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi twilight. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi twilight. ©Renate de Villiers

Kalahari Trails. ©Renate de Villiers

Kalahari Trails. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi serenity. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi serenity. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi Springbok. ©Renate de Villiers

Kgalagadi Springbok. ©Renate de Villiers

Horses at Red Dunes. ©Renate de Villiers

Horses at Red Dunes. ©Renate de Villiers

Camping at Sossusvlei. ©Renate de Villiers

Camping at Sossusvlei. ©Renate de Villiers

Camping at Sossusvlei, Namibia. ©Renate de Villiers

Camping at Sossusvlei, Namibia. ©Renate de Villiers

Sossusvlei Entrance. ©Renate de Villiers

Sossusvlei Entrance. ©Renate de Villiers

Sossusvlei beneath your feet. ©Renate de Villiers

Sossusvlei beneath your feet. ©Renate de Villiers

Sossusvlei patterns. ©Renate de Villiers

Sossusvlei patterns. ©Renate de Villiers

Sossusvlei mystery tracks. ©Renate de Villiers

Sossusvlei mystery tracks. ©Renate de Villiers

Mystery me. ©Renate de Villiers

Mystery me. ©Renate de Villiers

Sossusvlei, Namibia. ©Renate de Villiers

Sossusvlei, Namibia. ©Renate de Villiers

Nature love, Solitaire. ©Renate de Villiers

Nature love, Solitaire. ©Renate de Villiers

Henties, Namibia. ©Renate de Villiers

Henties, Namibia. ©Renate de Villiers

Swakopmund jetty. ©Renate de Villiers

Swakopmund jetty. ©Renate de Villiers

Joe's Beerhouse, Windhoek. ©Renate de Villiers

Joe’s Beerhouse, Windhoek. ©Renate de Villiers

Rising moon at the Botswana border. ©Renate de Villiers

Rising moon at the Botswana border. ©Renate de Villiers

Travelling Mystery Guest went Travelling

Yup, that’s right, the Travelling Mystery Guest is out travelling once again! Where, you may ask? Well, Namibia off course!
So…if you’re looking for us between 12 December 2014 and 6 January 2015, you will unfortunately not be able to get hold of us.
May you have a blessed Christmas and a very happy New Year!
See you soon.

Gone Travelling

Gone Travelling