June 19

The Best Spots for Stargazing in South Africa


By Emma Thomson on
June 19, 2018

Living in an ever-developing world, it’s not always easy to appreciate the sheer beauty of the night sky when mixed with sky-high buildings and varying levels of pollution. Africa is one of the best destinations to view the magnificent carpet of constellations adorning the sky. In light of this, we’ve put together a list of some of the best spots for stargazing.

1. Sutherland

Not only is Sutherland home to the largest single optical telescope in the Southern Hemisphere but it’s also known to be one of the best spots worldwide. Located in the Karoo, just 370 kilometers out of Cape Town, this is the perfect spot to visit if you’re staying in the Mother City

An African sunset behind the Sutherland Observatory
The Sutherland Observatory
Photo Credit: Universe Awareness
Sutherland's Observatory surrounded by stars at night
Sutherland Observatory at night
Photo Credit: In-Full Flight

2. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

One of the darkest and least polluted areas in southern Africa, this magical spot is a true treat for stargazers. It is in fact so dark that when looking at the Sky Quality Meter scale of darkness, it registers at 21.9 with the highest possible score being 22. At the parks !Xaus Lodge, the closest source of artificial light is around 50 kilometres away. With such divine darkness and lack of pollution, this is a rare and special spot to visit.

Last light at !Xaus Lodge in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
!Xaus Lodge in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Photo Credit: Lion Roars

3. Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Free State

This expansive park is famous for its incredible “golden aura” stemming from the area’s various shades of sandstone and the way sunlight reflects off it. Its vastly unspoiled landscapes make it an ideal spot for stargazing due to the lack of light pollution. For the ultimate experience, hike up Ribokkop – the highest point in the park – and spend the night in the wilderness.

A mix of coloured sandstone and sunshine casting a "Golden Hue" in Golden Gates Highlands National Park
“Golden Hue” of Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Photo Credit: Hougaard Malan
Varying sandstone colours of a rock face in Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Photo Credit: SpotLight Images

4. Madikwe Game Reserve, North West Province

Due to the limited number of people allowed in the reserve at one time, it is the perfect spot for some serene stargazing. Easily spotted star formations include the Southern Cross, the Jewel Box cluster or the enchanting Milky Way. If you’re hoping to experience some of the area’s magic, you’ll have to stay in one of the 20 lodges available as no day visitors are allowed. For anyone who would appreciate the benefit of a closer look, we recommend Etali Safari Lodge or Royal Madikwe who allow guests access to their telescope.

A candle-lit telescope setup at Madikwe Safari Lodge
Candle-lit telescope setup for stargazing at Madikwe Safari Lodge
Photo Credit: Madikwe Safari Lodge
Looking up at the stars with the outline of a tree against the sky
Looking up at the stars
Photo Credit: Royal Madikwe

5. Kruger National Park

South Africa’s most iconic game-viewing destination and the second-largest park in all of Africa, this wildlife-dense park is ideal for some star-studded skies. Filled with a diverse array of incredible accommodation options, this exceptional park is suited to a vast variety of visitors. For the best of both worlds, head out on an unforgettable night drive to experience nature’s nocturnal animals and the unpolluted expanse of African skies.

Incredible stars visible at Chitwa Chitwa in Kruger National Park
Stars at Chitwa Chitwa
Photo Credit: Simon Watson

6. The Cederberg, Western Cape 

Around 240 kilometres from Cape Town lie the Cederberg Mountains. Located high within this undulating landscape is the Cederberg Astronomical Conservancy – an ideal spot for seeing stars such as The Southern Cross, Herschel’s Jewel Box, and Omega Centauri. Every Saturday (weather permitting) the Conservancy opens its doors to visitors who can enjoy sights of the skies and lectures if arranged in advance.

Plan your trip on the lunar cycles as when the moon is full, the Conservancy is closed – no stars can be seen past the brightness of the moon at this time!

Gazing up at the stars in the Cederberg
Under the Cederberg’s stars
Photo Credit: Mark Chittenden
Gazing up into the stars at Kagga Kamma in the Cederberg
Cederberg Stars
Photo Credit: Kagga Kamma

Naming just a few of our favourites, South Africa is full of secluded spots that are ideal to see star-studded skies.

Let us know where you’ve been!


Featured image credit: Florian Breuer




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About the author 

Emma Thomson

South African born and bred Emma says she's happy to be back on home ground after spending a few years in the UK. An avid coffee lover, equestrian enthusiast and self-proclaimed cat lady, Emma hopes to travel and experience as many cultures, countries and food types as possible. A love affair with language sees her wanting to continue writing and learn as many foreign languages as possible.

  • Nice and useful. Can we go granular – say which locations within the Holden Gate park offer dark skies. Which lodges?

    • Dear RG,

      Thank you for visiting our blog and engaging with us. While we cannot make any promises, there is always a possibility that we might consider your suggestion. We appreciate your feedback and if our team decides to pursue it, we hope you will see the results.

      Best regards

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