!Xaus Lodge claims to be the best spot for stargazing in South Africa, and you may feel like you are seeing the night sky for the first time. The Milky Way arcs over you like a giant swathe of smoke – an impression that probably spurred the Bushman tale of its origins. As the story goes, a girl from an ancient race threw the cinders from a fire into the sky to light the path for the hunters returning home. From that day, the hunters never got lost again with the cinders now burning for eternity and serving as a permanent map in the skies.
The !Ae!Hai Kalahari Heritage Park that surrounds the lodge is one of the darkest places in the world, scoring 21.9 out of a possible 22 for darkness. As a result, the night really falls here as the surrounds are nearly entirely free of pollution, including light pollution, natural atmospheric pollution and man-made pollution.
There are, however, many lodges that are far removed from pollution offering some unique stargazing experiences, some of which you don't even need to leave the comfort of bed to enjoy.
Tanda Tula is a bit of trailblazer when it comes to unique African experiences. They set up the first East African style tented camps in the heart of the exclusive Timbavati Private Nature Reserve which is part of the Greater Kruger National Park. Their unique overnight walking safari also sees guests staying at the Machaton Hide high up on a platform overlooking the banks of the Machaton River. Each walking tour can accommodate up to six people, making for a rather intimate affair in a remote part of the bush.
Sable Alley Star Beds sit aloft three-story platforms with gentle illumination by lantern. They overlook a waterhole so expect antelope, elephant, and buffalo to drop in for a drink. Although a genuinely luxurious camp, this is tourism with higher purpose as the surrounding 200,000-hectare Khwai Private Wildlife Reserve situated in Botswana is a community based joint venture partnership which ensures economic stability for the local community.
Situated in a remote part of the Karoo in South Africa, the Samara Milky Way Star Bed offers a unique star spotting vantage point free of noise and light pollution. Better still, guests are treated to a sunset picnic while watching wildlife descend on the nearby watering hole.
The Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve is located just a few hours outside of Cape Town. Here guests can enjoy spectacular Karoo scenery in absolute tranquillity. Kagga Kamma offers some of the most unusual accommodation choices you can find in South Africa. In addition to this outcrop bed, they also offer luxurious cave and hut suites which blend seamlessly with the natural surrounds.
Built around a 500-year-old lead-wood tree, Chalkley Tree House at Lion Sands comes with all the 5-star comforts you could ever desire during a visit in the bush. Enjoy a picnic dinner and drinks as you stare in wonder at the gorgeous African skies above and wildlife all around you. These three houses were inspired by Guy Aubrey Chalkley who once famously climbed into the trees to set up a camp to escape from the predators roaming the plains below.
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