Nestled away in the heart of the klein Karoo, Sutherland, South Africa is what is known as the ‘gateway to the universe’, home to the largest telescope in South Africa – S.A.L.T. The telescope is so powerful you can literally see a candle flame on the moon!
Leaving Cape Town along the N1 into and through Worcester wine-lands, it is a drive I have loved since being a little girl and marvelled its sheer beauty. As kids, my sister and I were in competition to see who could hold their breath the longest, driving through the Worcester Hugenot tunnel. A competition I don’t recommend if you’re the driver.
Star-gazing takes please at Sterland (translated to star-land), which is just outside Sutherland. It takes place all year round, come winter or summer, and bookings are essential at ZAR 120 per person (June 2012).
If you visit in the winter months, please dress warmly as you will be standing outside while stargazing. Can I just say, Sutherland is also known as the coldest place in South Africa and bear witness to the cold. If you visit in winter (as we did), a jacket and beanie are your best friends, as standing out at night you feel the chill settling in – that night it dropped to -5 degrees Celsius! The warm summer evenings would be most welcome and ideal for spending the night out under the stars.
Our host, Jurg had an incredible knowledge and passion for our universe and was eager to answer any questions we had, or point out any constellations or stars.
The winter skies kept us entertained for up to 2 hours. We first had an indoor presentation, which took us briefly through the various constellations and size of the universe. Our universe is enormously gigantic and then some!
Afterwards we are taken outside to the Celestron Go-To telescopes, in the muisbos amphitheatre, and grouped into smaller groups around each telescope. Each telescope uses GPS to find various constellations and clusters. We are first taught how to find south, using the southern-cross and found that alfa centuari is actually two stars orbiting each other and, make up part of the Southern Cross.
What I really loved was seeing Saturn and its rings, perfectly placed in the dark night sky as if it’s keeping watch on everything else. We also saw Mars, the jewel box cluster and before we knew it, had worked our way through the winter night sky in just over 2 hours.
Sutherland offers a variety of accommodation suited for just about anyone wanting a relaxed weekend away, romantic weekend or a fun weekend away with the family. Accommodation bookings are essential over the winter months, when chances are best to see snow.
Book a Tour to South Africa today!