The best places to stargaze in South Africa
If you’re someone who loves the outdoors and more particularly loves to look at the night sky, there are a few places in South Africa where you can do stargazing. And you can, in some cases, throw in a date night as well.
I currently live in Benoni – Gauteng, and because of the city lights, I’m unable to see much of the stars in the night sky. Only the really bright stars are visible in the city.
Why can’t we see most stars and galaxies in the city?
Unfortunately because of pollution, or “light pollution” which affects the observation of stars and galaxy’s from earth, we can’t see faint objects like distant stars and galaxy’s. But we can see bigger closer stars that are brighter and planets like the moon and Mars which are not affected by light pollution. And because we have light pollution, and you’re in the city, the city lights basically light up the smog that hovers above the city blocking out the night sky.
Having said that, there are a few places in South Africa where you can do stargazing which is outside of the city where the light pollution is much less.
Sutherland, Northern Cape
Sutherland is a very small town in the Northern Cape with a small population of 11601 (in 2011). So you can imagine that this is the perfect place to do stargazing because the pollution there is minimal and because Sutherland is such a small town, it doesn’t affect the visibility of the night sky. Also home to the small town of Sutherland, is the Southern African Large Telescope which is the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere and among the largest in the world.
The Cederberg, Western Cape
The Cederberg Astronomical Observatory lies high in the Cederberg mountains 240km north of Cape Town on the Dwarsrivier farm. Around the observatory is mostly undeveloped land with little pollution making it the perfect location for stargazing. There’s even accommodation on the privately owned property making it the perfect weekend getaway with family or friends.
Dinner and Stargazing at Maropeng, Cradle of Humankind
At the Cradle of Humankind in Maropeng, you can enjoy an evening of dinner and stargazing. The Cradle of Humankind hosts these events every year where you can have dinner and afterwards look at the stars through a large aperture telescope. It’s also recommended to bring along your binoculars for the event. You can read more about the events here and book tickets online.