What is this stellar attraction and where on the map is it found? Set the navigational course to Namibia, the location of one of only two Gold Tier Dark Sky Reserves in the world.
The NamibRand Nature Reserve, in the south-western Namib, is one of the world’s darkest night skies with vast stretches of land that have absolutely no light pollution. What’s more, the flat expanse allows you to see the sky above as a magnificent dome with no canopy of trees blocking the view. A practically perfect 360-degree panorama freckled with millions of brightly shining stars found in galaxies thousands of light-years away.
This is the very night-sky that our earliest ancestors saw thousands of years ago, before the advent of electricity and rapid urbanization. Here in one of the world’s most ancient deserts, is where you will see the Milky Way at its milkiest. Clusters of stars forming dense cloudy swirls that resemble a marble from your childhood. Stargazers will spot familiar constellations (and for those from the northern hemisphere, perhaps not so familiar) but now they have new neighbours that you might not have noticed before.
How to Experience It
Of course, you can simply just look up at the sky after the sun has set, but our favourite way to take in this celestial show is from a “star-bed” – an open-air sleeping experience that can be booked at a desert property like Le Mirage. It’s still a luxury hotel room, but instead of a roof above your head, spectacular stars are shining upon you. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a shooting star streaking across night sky. Guests who are on a Grand Landscapes of Namibia safari spend two nights at Le Mirage in Sossusvlei and should definitely consider booking their open-air “tower room” for one of those nights.
When to Go
When is the best time to witness this natural phenomenon? Namibia’s sky is one of darkest and most unobstructed in the world year-round. Although in winter the sky is a bit clearer, with practically no clouds. Summer is also incredibly hot in Namibia with temperatures soaring above 40 degrees while winter is more moderate. Although, nighttime can be quite cold, so dress warmly. The most optimum time to see the night-sky in all its glory? Around the new moon, when the bright celestial orb’s light is dimmed to non-existent.
African Myths and Legends of the Celestial Heavens
While taking part in this heavenly stargazing experience you can’t help but think back to lessons you learned in your school days. Legends and myths originate in the night sky, the humble dung beetle uses the Milky Way for navigation as did sailors and nomadic tribes. In Namibian legend, Haiseb is an important mythical figure who saved the world from a terrible monster. The moon and stars are believed to have risen from his breast.
Throughout Namibia you might see random piles of rocks, these are said to be his grave and are known as “Haitsi Aibeb” (“the grave of Haiseb, a deity”). In San folklore, the Milky Way came to be after a young woman grew tired of waiting for the hunters to return from their hunt, it was getting dark so she grabbed some ash from the fire and threw it across the sky. The trail that it left would guide the hunters home, just like the dung beetle.
In a world that is rapidly changing it’s important to slow down and pay attention to simple experiences that can ground you. Observing the night sky in Namibia is one such experience. It will allow you to feel an amazing connection to the past and an inspiring hope for the future.
Travellers to the country have always been drawn by the wildlife and landscape but can now add another attraction to their list. If you would like to have this experience, speak to one of our travel consultants who can make it happen for you.