The charming Karoo village of Prince Albert draws a multitude of visitors every year. From world-class restaurants and gourmet cooking courses to splendid mountain biking trails and gorgeous scenery, there really is something for everyone. And the sky – as it turns out – is not the limit.
Hans and Tilanie Daehne of Astro Tours take guests on a tour through the celestial splendour of the Southern Hemisphere. After investigating more than thirty-three venues over a period of three years, they settled on the town of Prince Albert not only for its various attractions, activities and accommodation options, but also for its dry climate which constitutes an average of five cloudless nights per week.
“Unbeknown to us earthlings, there is so much beauty out in space. To miss out on it would leave us much poorer as human beings!” says Tilanie.
Computer technology and engineering has lead to major advances in the science of astronomy over recent years, to the extent that novices are often overwhelmed with information before understanding the basics of stargazing. “The abundance of incredible information means that the subject is never boring, even to those who think that they aren’t particularly interested in astronomy,” says Hans. “Everyone admires the stars, but once you actually understand what you see, stargazing becomes a fulfilling activity.”
The icing on the cake? South Africa has the Southern celestial “Big Five” in the looming over the Karoo skies. They are:
– The brightest star (Sirius).
– The closest star (Alpha Centauri).
– The largest globular cluster (Omega Centauri).
– The most beautiful open cluster (Jewel Box).
– The closest galaxy (Tarantula).
Tours range from one evening with or without accommodation, and also a weekend-long grand tour that takes visitors to the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) outside Sutherland (the grand tour needs to be booked six months in advance).
Please bear in mind that stargazing is a weather-dependant activity, and the phase of the moon should also be taken into account. Make sure you book an Astro Tour long in advance, and make provision to visit Prince Albert for a few days in case of a cloudy night.
For more information about activities and events in and around the village and to book accommodation, visit Prince Albert Tourism’s website at www.princealbert.org.za. Plus, check out Facebook (@PrinceAlbert.WesternCape), Twitter (@prince_albert_tourism) and Instagram (@PrinceAlbertZA). Also visit http://princealbert.org.za/star-gazing/ for more information on Astro Tours.