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Astro-tourism in Africa

 
Don’t worry, we’re not going to suggest you plan your holiday based on your star sign, or that you visit a far off planet! Astro-tourism is travel with a star gazing theme, and it’ll take you to some of the last great wildernesses in Africa.
As you’ll be well aware, when you look up at the night sky at home, there is usually a faint orange glow from street lamps, car headlights, and other forms of light pollution. You might be able to see a few of the brighter stars, but the glow stops you picking out the detail.

Around the world are a relatively small number of dark sky reserves, usually a long way from towns and cities, which are deliberately kept free of artificial light pollution. Star gazing here, from an official observatory or in a lodge with a powerful telescope, you’ll have a spectacular view of the heavens, with a level of detail you’ve never seen before.
Stargazing on roof of Sossusvlei Desert Lodge
Stargazing on roof of Sossusvlei Desert Lodge
 
The NamibRand Nature Reserve in southwestern Namibia is arguably the finest spot for astronomy in Africa. Out in the desert, not far from the Nubib Mountains, the reserve was established to protect the area’s unique ecology and wildlife.

15% of the reserve is untouched wilderness, without a single human settlement, and the International Dark Sky Association has awarded NamibRand with its coveted status as a Gold Tier International Dark Sky Reserve. It was only the second place in the world to receive the Gold Tier, and it is the first such reserve in Africa.
Bush picnic in Sossusvlei namibia
Bush picnic in Sossusvlei namibia
 
The NamibRand Reserve imposes a strict limit of one bed per 1,000 hectares, so the accommodation options tend to be small and exclusive. Our favourite is the Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, surrounded by mountain peaks and sand dunes. By day you can float across the reserve by hot air balloon, do a dune safari by 4x4 or motorbike, and visit ancient San rock paintings, but the real highlight is when darkness falls and you head up to the state of the art astronomic observatory.

The lodge’s resident astronomer will teach you to use the telescopes another equipment, and explain what it is you’re looking at. On those nights when you’d rather recline on your veranda to watch the stars, there’s plenty to see with the naked eye.
View of sunrise over landscape at Loisaba Starbeds
View of sunrise over landscape at Loisaba Starbeds
 
Loisaba Starbeds in Laikipia

If you are travelling instead to Kenya, you can star gaze from the comfort of your bed. At Loisaba, which is overlooked by Mount Kenya, they’ve built two star beds — raised wooden platforms with full size beds and showers — in the most scenic parts of the reserve. You can look straight up at the stars, with only a mosquito net between you and the universe. And the sight of the rising sun across the mountains is quite extraordinary, too.
Rooftop starbed at Ol Donyo
Rooftop starbed at Ol Donyo
 
Ol Donyo Lodge in Kenya's Chyulu Hills

Ol Donyo Lodge in Kenya’s 275,000-acre Mbirikani Group Ranch has a similar option, as each of the lodge’s 10 very large suites also comes with a rooftop star bed. Take a glass (or bottle) of champagne to bed with you — Ol Donyo has a superb wine cellar — and soak up what must be one of the most romantic star gazing options on earth.
Sleepout deck at Karoo Lodge
Sleepout deck at Karoo Lodge
 
South Africa boasts plenty of stunning opportunities for a celestial safari as well. Three of the top spots include the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) near Sutherland, which has a night time visitors centre with professional equipment for astronomy; the excellent Iziko Planetarium in Cape Town; and the Karoo National Park, a tranquil spot for naked eye star gazing.
Telescope in the observatory at Leobo Lodge
Telescope in the observatory at Leobo Lodge
 
Leobo Lodge in South Africa's Waterberg Region

In Waterberg, we love Leobo Lodge, not only for it's adventurous activities, but for it's observatory too. Ask us about an exclusive use stay for your family and we can also arrange for a private astronomer to join you.
Children star gazing with stargazing guide in africa
Children star gazing with stargazing guide in africa
 
Have we whet your appetite for an astronomic adventure? If you’re inspired to see the splendours of the universe in unprecedented detail with the best guides, we'd love to hear from you.

UK: +44 (0)1604 628979
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Email: enquiries@safari.co.uk

Get in touch with our experts to start planning your trip.
 
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A safari in the wilds of Africa allows you space to pause and wonder — to gaze and reflect. Epic landscapes, the balanced beauty of creation, the absence of hurry. You would imagine that the day’s adventures end with the setting sun. But as one star disappears and the heavens turn indigo to black, millions more appear, filling the unpolluted skies. We’ve chosen a few of our favourite spots for safari stargazing.
 
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