2017 saw the rise of astro tourism in Southern Africa

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A resurgence in stargazing has seen a marked increase in astro tourism to many countries and Africa has not been left behind in the astro tourism craze. The continent is regarded as having an edge over sprawling metros and urbanised hubs, where the night sky is almost never seen.

In the northern hemisphere, air pollutants and light pollution continue to cloud skies, leaving 60 percent of city dwellers in Europe and 80 percent in the U.S. unable to enjoy the stunning views presented by nature such as the stars or the Milky Way galaxy. This is why areas in Africa that are located far from large cities are prime destinations for this trending vacation activity. Moreover, most of Africa enjoys clear night skies for a good proportion of the year. 

The best places to witness the heavens

While it’s a challenge to identify any particular African destination as “better” than the next for celestial exploration, there are a few affordable spots where local tourism and hospitality bodies have set up dedicated, professional astro tourism facilities.

Botswana 

Botswana’s majestic Okavango Delta, Makgadikgadi Pan and the Kalahari Desert are prime destinations for night-sky observation. Botswana is the new kid on the astro tourism scene, with an abundance of great mobile tented camps and luxury lodges available that get the balance between rustic safari and African glamour just right, while offering guests a chance to contemplate the cosmos to their heart’s content.

For the ultimate astro tourism experience, the dry season is the best time to observe the heavens under Botswana skies. Summer means plenty of rainfall, so the winter months of June to August are ideal for stargazing. Botswana’s latitude gives visitors unsurpassed views of Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and several annual meteor showers.

The ancient San peoples of Southern Africa refer to the Milky Way as “the spine of the night” –– an important fixture in folklore and early belief systems about the world and our place in it. As they were to ancient astronomers and are to modern-day astrophysicists, the stars are pivotal to us understanding our place in the solar system.

Namibia  

The Namibian wilderness draws hundreds of avid stargazers each year. The NamibRand Reserve is a pristine conservation area set up by the Namibian government to facilitate the protection of the area’s unique ecosystem. The pitch-black night sky that can only be truly experienced in the desert has recently been dubbed the “Dark Sky Reserve” by the International Dark Sky Association.

South Africa

Home to the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) and the largest single-optic telescope in the southern hemisphere (SALT), the quaint town of Sutherland in the semi-desert, Karoo is an international magnet for astronomers. Very few places in the world offer guests the opportunity to view deep space with as much intense detail as SALT does. In October 2017, SALT and SAAO telescopes joined an unprecedented international collaboration to investigate the first detected gravitational waves produced by two colliding neutron stars.

FYI from Huffington Post, full article @ http://www.huffingtonpost.co.za/tatum-lee-louw/2017-saw-the-rise-of-astro-tourism-in-africa_a_23318591/

10 months ago