In this weekly EXTREME NAMIBIA blog series we explore some of our country's extremes, and share with you practical information on how you can come and discover them for yourself.
Something once abundant across the globe is becoming rarer and rarer. Once common enough to be revered as deities, guides or spirits by our ancestors, these things are now disappearing so fast that many city-dwellers will likely see only one or two in a night. Even in rural areas, sightings are becoming more and more difficult, necessitating special equipment.
Only in the world’s most remote regions are these things still abundant. Those lucky enough to experience an encounter are still as awe-inspired as their ancestors were centuries ago, captivated by the wonder of nature.
Namibia is well-known for its conservation efforts – and fortunately its commitment to preservation has extended to these things – which have been sadly neglected in much of the world, their value unappreciated.
These things are stars and planets. And Namibia’s NamibRand Nature Reserve is Africa’s first International Dark Sky Reserve – meaning that at night, they fill the sky in abundance. Asteroid belts, orbiting moons, nebula and red dwarfs populate the heavens, while the Milky Way cuts a path through the cosmos, creating a sparkling spectacle for all those lucky enough to experience it.
Namibia's deserts are the place for a different type of safari. With some of the world's darkest skies, you could find yourself trying to spot storms on Jupiter, a shooting star or the Southern Cross through a powerful telescope.
Moonrise over the Namib-Naukluft National Park
"This award-winning resort prides itself on giving back to the community and environment, whether by recycling, producing solar power or raising funds for local charities. Even the individual, adobe-style units in shades of sand and peach complement the yellow grasses and sun-burnt mountains of the desert. At night, guests can immerse themselves in the Milky Way with telescope and stargazing help from the staff."
&Beyond's Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is located within the Dark Sky Reserve itself, and an observation platform houses another enormous telescope. Picking out the faintest constellations is possible here, as oryx gather on the plains below by the light of the stars.
If you prefer a more intimate astronomical adventure, the rooms at the Desert Lodge have skylights above the beds. Tuck yourself beneath the sheets and gaze upwards, enjoying one of the darkest nights you'll ever experience. The only drawback is that the full moon is a virtual floodlight - bring an eye mask!
A skylight over the bed offers an intimate stargazing opportunity at &Beyond's Sossusvlei Desert Lodge
The truth is, this region's skies are so unspoilt by light pollution that whether you have a telescope and a skylightlight or not, booking a room at any of the lodges here will mean you are in for a truly magical night. It's also a timely reminder that it's not just the things we can touch that need preserving.
Retired physics professor Dr. George Tucker, who identified the NamibRand as a potential Dark Sky Reserve and led the certification effort, says “Viewing the pristine night sky over the NamibRand is an unforgettable experience. Being recognized as a Gold Tier International Dark Sky Reserve will serve to promote and protect this valuable resource. Achieving this status is a significant accomplishment not just for the NamibRand, but also for Namibia and all of Africa.”
The NamibRand Nature Reserve, just before the stars come out
NamibRand Reserveʼs nearest communities are small and lie almost 100 km away, so the sky here is one of the darkest yet measured.
“Gold Tier” is the term used to describe reserves with nighttime environments that have little to no impact from light pollution and artificial light.
There are currently only four certified International Dark Sky Reserves in the world, and only two of these are Gold Tier – NamibRand Nature Reserve, and Aoraki Mackenzie, in New Zealand.
Check out accommodation in this region on our accommodations listing page.
Why not try camping under the Milky Way for the ultimate adventure? Read more here
There are flights to Sossusvlei and the Namib Rand Nature Reserve from Windhoek and Swakopmund. The journey time is 1hr 15 mins.
You can also drive to Sossusvlei in around five hours from both Windhoek (375km)and Swakopmund (390km). The journey can be carried out on good gravel roads in a two wheel drive vehicle.