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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in South Africa

The magic of the night sky in Oudtshoorn

Clouds are something we don’t see very often – so the night skies are exceptionally clear…

By Jan Bester
Owner of True South Travel

The Little Karoo, or Klein Karoo, is one of the best places in the world for stargazing. We have these huge panoramic landscapes and very low light pollution because it’s mostly an arid desert with just a few small towns. And, of course, we have more than 300 days of sunshine a year – clouds are something we don’t see very often, which is also a big factor – so the night skies are exceptionally clear. Our clients, many of whom come from cities in Europe, can’t believe that it’s possible to see so many stars.

We describe our experience as ‘Exploring the High Five’, rather than the Big Five, by which we mean stars, galaxies, globular clusters such as Omega Centauri, planets, and constellations including the Southern Cross. Because the Earth is rotating, the sky looks a little different every night, so we focus on whatever are the highlights at that particular time of year. 

What makes us unique is that we are, as far as I know, the only company in South Africa that will bring the telescope to the clients. We offer our stargazing experience at some of the most popular guesthouses in town, so after supper, all they have to do is walk outside and meet the guide; the telescope is set up and ready to use right away, so nobody has to drive. It couldn’t be easier.

When we started the project, we thought we’d have to provide lots of information for our guests. But what we’ve found in the 12 years I’ve been doing this is that many are more than happy just to gaze up in awe at the incredible night sky for most of the hour we spend with them. So we try not to overwhelm people with technical specifications, which we have plenty of, unless they ask for them – it really is an individualised experience. We use the telescope to point out the significant attributes of planets or stars that you can’t see with the naked eye and share some startling facts about them, such as, one of our great red giant stars is so big that you can fit the orbits of the first five planets closest to the sun into it. But when it comes down to it, what most of the clients get a thrill out of is seeing something they wouldn’t at home: the wide-open starry skies in a rural town in South Africa.

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Alfred & Jan Bester

Jan Bester gave up the city rat race to set up True South Travel 15 years ago so that he could share his passion for nature in general, and the Swartberg Mountains in particular, with others. He’s just as passionate about responsible tourism, from respecting the environment to giving back to local communities.

Alfred&

Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Andy, who's travelled extensively in South Africa. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember - ex banker who can show you the hottest foodie spots in Cape Town, the award-winning young sommelier who can introduce you to Stellenbosch's finest wines and the walking safari ranger who can guide you to the best game.

Freephone an expert 01306 744 656