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Have you ever wondered what the night sky looks like in Africa?

When you live in a big city with light pollution, it is easy to forget there is a whole universe of galaxies out there. Africa is the world’s darkest continent and fortunately there are protected spaces in some of the finest safari destination where very little man-made light is let in. Safaris here are sure to enthral amateur astronomers and general safari goers alike.

July to September offer the best chance of clear skies. Your safari guide will offer an introduction to the Southern hemisphere skies, constellations, and Milky Way on a night safari drive. Look up and marvel at the vast expanse of stars, galaxies, and the southern constellations, with lions roaring in the distance – how special!

Here are a few destinations where the stargazing is phenomenal and remember to download a Star App on your phone, so you can work out the names of all the constellations you see. Example: Star Walk

 

1. Namibia

The International Dark-Sky Association (who recognises places for their sky quality), awarded its highest reward and first ever Gold Tier Status to the NamibRand Nature Reserve. The reserve lies on the edge of the Namib-Naukluft Park, the oldest desert in the world. Being so dry and remote, with the nearest town almost 140km away, there is almost no impact from light pollution. Stargazing does not get better than this.

WHERE TO STAY:

 

There is a wide selection of properties to choose from in this region, with close access to the enormous Sossusvlei Dunes and the eerie Dead Vlei. For star-gazing, amongst its many incredible reasons to stay, we recommend &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, a sophisticated, environmentally friendly and luxurious lodge. Exceptional stargazing is made easy with the onsite observatory (with state-of-the-art Celestron Telescope). On offer is an exclusive star dune experience, the only private reserve in the Sossusvlei area featuring the iconic star dunes of Namibia. Here you can soar over a landscape that has remained unchanged for millions of years in a helicopter or hot air balloon. This is the perfect location for sublime tranquillity, where you can reconnect with yourself and nature in the Namib Desert with its endless space.

Image andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge has an onsite Observatory for night sky celestial gazing and at day time, there is much to explore.

2. Botswana

Botswana offers a range of regions from where to enjoy the stunning southern skies. But as day turns to night over the Kalahari Desert in remote Botswana, the dark blue-black sky becomes the scene of bright stars winking and you will have local Bushmen sharing their sky folklore before you nod off to dreamland. The Makgadikgadi Pans offer the optimum in stargazing – perhaps the best anywhere on the planet.

These vast salt pans were once the bed of an ancient super lake and are flat and white, have no trees or rocks, and stretch out in all directions as far as the eye can see. At night the sky is as big as you’ve ever seen it, with the stars touching the horizon all around you.

WHERE TO STAY:

 

Meno A Kwena Tented Camp sits in an impressive location on the Boteti River overlooking the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park – a completely contrasting location, wildlife and habitat to the green and lush Okavango Delta regions. Here you can watch the wildlife at the river below from the comfort of your private veranda on an ‘armchair safari’. The zebra migration is resident here for much of the year. In the dry season there is no other water around and the Boteti River becomes a magnet for wildlife. Learn a little about the traditional Botswana way of life with a visit to the local village. But it is the Sleep-Outs that are truly special, as you drive out to the edge of the salt pans for a picnic lunch and following an open-air siesta you continue to your campsite in time for sundowners. After a campfire dinner you will sleep under the vast skies with a myriad of spectacular stars to accompany you.

IMAGE: Learning San Folklore on a sleep-out on the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, must count as one of the most soulful experiences out there.

3. Kenya

Undertake daytime safaris to see lions, elephants, hippos — all the large wildlife you’d expect from a classic African safari — and at night view the incomparable Southern Sky. Kenya’s close proximity to the equator means that, if you stay up long enough, you’ll get to see both the northern and southern constellations in one night’s sky. Now that’s one for the bucket list! If stargazing from an outdoor shower or luxurious rooftop bed is your idea of heaven, look no further.

WHERE TO STAY:

 

Called the Biggest Bedroom in the World, where the night sky is your ceiling and the hills in the distance are your walls, is Elewana Loisaba Star Beds. Poised on a rocky kopje, the Lodge command sweeping views over an undulating valley and a permanent waterhole, frequented by resident wildlife. Handcrafted four-poster wooden beds sit on raised wooden platforms jutting out from a thatched-roof accommodation and are rolled out each night for guests to sleep under the endless African sky. Rising early to watch sunrise from your Starbed with a comforting hot beverage, the day ahead promises adventure, with a myriad of activities. A day of fun is rounded off with drinks by the log fire in the Starbeds lounge, sharing tall tales of the African bush, with the tale-telling continuing over a delicious shared dinner.

IMAGE: Elewana Loisaba Star Beds, the Biggest Bedroom in the World.

4. South Africa

From SALT in Sutherland, Madikwe Private Game Reserve and the Cederberg Mountains to name a few, South Africa is particularly blessed with a myriad of outstanding star gazing spots. Most of these are within easy driving distance of a major city and offers high reward night-sky viewing.

WHERE TO STAY:

 

Tswalu Private Wilderness Reserve lets you reconnect with the richness of the earth. It offers an escape to a place that’s governed by the ancient rhythms of the seasons, rather than the clock and the calendar. Watching thousands of stars slowly spin through a black velvet sky as you fall asleep makes a night spent on our Malori sleep-out deck an unforgettable experience. Enjoy a glowing Kalahari sunset as you eat dinner, then see the world anew as birdsong and the strengthening light awaken you at dawn.

IMAGE: A sleepout is a must-do experience at Tswalu Private Kalahari Reserve.

5. Tanzania

The Serengeti National Park is one of the best places to star gaze on the planet. The darkness enables the Milky Way to shine and sparkle in the heavens above, with thousands and millions of twinkling stars in between. Like Kenya, Tanzania’s position just below the equator, affords a superb view of the Milky Way.

WHERE TO STAY:

 

The Highlands Ngorongoro set to the north of the Ngorongoro Crater, where the altitude lends itself to star gazing, has eight domed canvas and glass suites is situated on the edge of a forest that skirts Olmoti Volcano. The camp feels remote, but is within easy reach of Ngorongoro, where guests can go on day-long game drives to spot lions, elephants and giraffes, with a midday picnic break under a shady tree. From camp, hike up to the top of Olmoti for staggering views, or take a half-day trip to the soda lake in Empakaai Crater, where thousands of pink flamingos congregate. Guests can also interact with the local community, learning about Maasai culture and walk the cattle back to the boma at the end of the day. At night, gather around a crackling fire with a glass of wine or whiskey before sitting down to a delicious three-course dinner and look up to the skies.

IMAGE: Toast to another perfect day, as you await the arrival of night at The Highlands, Ngorongoro.

Some safari lodges and camps give you the option to sleep in a Tree House or Star-bed. This is an open-air bedroom, in the heart of the wild, with only the sounds of the bush to send you off to dreamland.

Nowhere else will you see such clarity… but that is a bed-time story for another day…sweet dreams of Africa…

Belinda is our Lifestyle specialist and if stargazing is one of the must-do experience you have on your list, contact us at info@tasafaris.com

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