Since the beginning of time the stars have gazed down at life on earth, regardless of which theory of evolution you choose to believe, and man has always looked upward for inspiration, navigation and religious reassurance. However, with the earth itself becoming ever more illuminated, they are fading slowly from our sight.
There are few places on earth where the glowing lights of civilised living have not dulled the appearance of the stars – city lights plunging the night skies into darkness, hiding all but the brightest from those who still make the time to look upward.
This phenomenon of fading stars is known as light pollution and it can have serious consequences where nature is involved. Many birds, plants and animals base their daily routines on the light cycles of heaven and any disruption in this can affect their sleep patterns, hunting and mating behaviour.
Unaffected by urban lighting Namibia remains one of only a few places on earth where the heavens are still startlingly pristine. Found above the NamibRand Nature Reserve, in the south-western Namib, it is one of only two Gold Tier Dark Sky Reserves in the world. Aoraki Mackenzie, in New Zealand is the other.
Skies bursting with beautiful stars, the NamibRand has specialised infrastructures and programmes geared towards educating visitors about light pollution, but you are still able to enjoy the brilliant heavens above from many places nearby, particularly Sossusvlei, without any technical equipment.
The Namib Desert has one of the darkest skies on earth, and you can stargaze from almost anywhere in the vast Namib which remains unscathed by the big city lights of civilisation. With cloudless skies for the better part of the year, stargazing is a popular pastime in the Namib Desert. Many lodges in the area boast skylights in their accommodation and provide guests with telescopes for maximum viewing.
You can even take a tour of the best star-watching spots with a qualified astronomer who will point out the highlights to you, or camp under the stars for a night or two – a worthwhile day (and night) trip from your luxury accommodation in Windhoek.
A trip to view the Namibian night skies is a wonderful family excursion. Award-winning photographic opportunities abound with orbiting moons, asteroid belts, nebula and dwarf red moons punctuating the brilliant course of the Milky Way as it meanders through the darkness above.
These pristine nightspots can be found just three hours from Windhoek, and are easily accessible by two-wheel drive sedan cars, so there’s nothing stopping you, too, from enjoying the view.