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  • *
    Enjoy guided stargazing
  • *
    Private visit to the Royal Astronomical Society
  • *
    Explore Cape Town
  • *
    Visit the Cape Winelands
  • *
    Game drives in Kruger National Park

Astronomy in South Africa

South Africa

  • A group of people Small Group less than 22
  • A car with a tick VIP door to door

"Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another" Plato

South Africa’s dark skies are some of the best in the world for astronomy. Winter is especially good, when cold dry air and cloudless skies provide clear views of star clusters, galaxies and southern constellations – even with the naked eye.

This tour, organised in partnership with the Royal Astronomical Society, includes stargazing in some of South Africa’s best dark sky locations and visits to its most eminent astronomical institutions.

Led by a Professor of Space Science, with specialist local astronomy and wildlife guides, you also spend time in Cape Town, the famous Winelands and Kruger National Park, where we include stargazing and three game drives.


VIP door-to-door travel service

  • Included travel insurance
  • Return flights and transfers
  • 25 meals: 11 breakfasts, 6 lunches and 8 dinners
  • Glass of wine with included dinners
  • Specialist lecturer
  • Local astronomy expert
  • Local wildlife guides
  • Saga Host in the UK
  • Saga Tour Manager in South Africa
  • All excursions and visits listed
  • Porterage at all hotels
Your specialist lecturer

Professor John Zarnecki

Professor Zarnecki studied Physics at the University of Cambridge, followed by a PhD at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at University College London. He has more than 30 years’ experience of space research spanning numerous space missions, including sounding rockets, Earth-orbiting missions and interplanetary flights at British Aerospace, the University of Kent and the Open University: specific space missions included the Hubble Space Telescope, the Giotto mission to Halley’s comet and the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan.

He was President of the Royal Astronomical Society and a member of a variety of national and international bodies in the field of Space Research, including acting as Chair of the UK Space Agency Science Programme Advisory Committee. He is also the holder of awards from NASA and ESA and was the inaugural winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Individual Achievement in UK Space Research in 2005.

Upon early retirement from the Open University, Professor Zarnecki chaired the European Space Agency’s Space Science Advisory Committee and was a Director of Science at the International Space Science Institute in Bern, Switzerland.

John Zarnecki

Local astronomy expert

Dr Catherine Cress

Associate Professor at the University of the Western Cape and Director of Astrotourism, Africa, Catherine obtained a PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia University (focusing on Cosmology from Radio Surveys) and worked at various research institutions around the world.

In 2001, she returned to her native South Africa and has published over 40 academic papers, receiving the Researcher of the Year award in 2016 from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. She delivers talks to schools and on television and is committed to making Astronomy relevant to South Africa.

View Full Itinerary

Day 1 London

Radisson Blu Edwardian Vanderbilt

Arrive at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Vanderbilt Hotel in Kensington, London.

Tonight, enjoy a welcome drink and dinner with your UK Saga Host and specialist lecturer, Professor John Zarnecki. D

Day 2 Royal Astronomical Society

Council Room at the Royal Astronomical Society

The next morning you head to the Royal Astronomical Society in Piccadilly for a private tour, and an introductory lecture by Professor John Zarnecki.

You will also have a light lunch and time to explore the treasures of the RAS Library, before heading to the airport for an overnight flight to Cape Town. B, L

Day 3 Cape Town

An aerial view of Cape Town

On arrival in Cape Town you transfer to the Commodore Hotel on the Victoria & Alfred waterfront, which you explore on an afternoon orientation walk. D

Day 4 Cape Town city tour

Colouring building of Bo Kaap

The following morning you tour this exciting city, from the cobbled streets and pastel-coloured houses at Bo Kaap to the top of Table Mountain, which you will reach by cable car.

After an afternoon at leisure you visit the fascinating South Africa Astronomical Observatory Headquarters for an evening presentation and to see the historic McClean telescope and museum. B

Day 5 Cape Point and Boulders Beach

African penguins on Boulders Beach

The following day showcases the beauty of South Africa’s Cape Peninsula and the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve at Cape Point.

You also stop at Boulders Beach in the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area to see the famous colony of African Penguins, and visit Simon’s Town – home to the South African Navy. B, L

Day 6 Rogge Cloof

A starry sky in Sutherland

Next morning you leave Cape Town and drive four-and-a-half hours on a journey of approximately 220 miles through spectacular scenery with lunch en route, towards the Karoo desert plains in the North Cape Peninsula.

Your destination is Rogge Cloof near Sutherland, nicknamed ‘Heaven on Earth’ because of its high altitude, expansive plains and magnificent clear skies.

The next two nights are spent at Rogge Cloof Guest Farm in the middle of this incredible dark-sky reserve, where you will have guided stargazing with your local expert astronomer. B, L, D

Day 7 South African Astronomical Observatory

S.A.L.T. dome at the South African Astronomical Observatory in Sutherland

The next morning you visit the famed South African Astronomical Observatory on a hilltop near Sutherland. Here, you’ll learn about its valuable research into astronomy and astrophysics, and see the impressive S.A.L.T. telescope, known as ‘Africa’s Giant Eye On The Sky’. B, L, D

Day 8 Prince Albert

The Milky Way seen from the Karoo Desert

The following day you leave Rogge Cloof and drive three hours, a journey of approximately 120 miles, to the quaint village of Prince Albert in the heart of the Karoo and at the foot of the Swartberg mountains. You stay at the historic Mont d’Or Swartberg hotel, an elegant, Victorian establishment which has National Monument status.

Tonight, you head into the Karoo desert to study its clear dark skies. B, D

Day 9 Prince Albert to Franschhoek

Franschhoek Valley

Your tour continues as you leave the Karoo desert for the vine-clad valleys and mountain ranges of South Africa’s famous Winelands a scenic five-hour drive with lunch included.

Your destination is Franschhoek, South Africa’s gastronomic capital whose French roots go back over 300 years. B, L

Day 10 Winelands and Tram Tour

Vineyards of the Cape Winelands in the Franschhoek Valley

Today you can visit the local wineries independently via the ‘hop on hop off’ wine tram tour, and explore the town’s Cape Dutch architecture, museums and galleries.

In the evening you will have dinner and wine tasting at Le Coin Français, one of the finest restaurants in South Africa. B, D

Day 11 Franschhoek to Kruger National Park

Swimming pool, Mdluli Safari Lodge

The following morning you return to Cape Town Airport for a short flight to Nelspruit, gateway to Kruger National Park.

On arrival, you drive to Mdluli Safari Lodge, your base for the next two nights – staying in spacious safari tents built on raised timber platforms close to the perimeter fence. Each en-suite ‘tent’ has its own open patio, where you can watch elephant and buffalo drink from the river beyond the fence line. The Lodge’s deck, restaurant and oversized infinity pool have the same raw timber and canvas styling, offering a high degree of comfort and the chance to view wildlife safely through its open design. B, D

Day 12 Kruger National Park

Lion cubs in Kruger National Park

The next day, track lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino – the ‘Big Five’ – on two game drives. The first is early morning, after which there’s time to relax before setting off again in the afternoon.

Tonight, enjoy a farewell dinner under the stars, before setting off on a celestial safari in search of the ‘Big Five of the African Sky’, namely Southern Pleiades, Omega Centauri, the Eta Carinae Nebula, the Coal Sack and the Milky Way. B, L, D

Day 13 Early morning game drive and return to the UK

A leopard in Kruger National Park

Your final day in South Africa starts with another early morning game drive in Kruger National Park, returning in time for breakfast.

Later you head to Nelspruit for a domestic flight to Johannesburg, followed by an onward overnight flight back to the UK. B

Comprising ten once separated townhouses, this Grade II-listed 19th century building has a unique layout, beautifully restored frescoes and stained glass windows. Located in Kensington and in close proximity to Hyde Park, the Royal Albert Hall and the Victoria & Albert Museum, it is an ideal base to soak up art, history and culture.

Facilities include a restaurant and gym, and the 215 bedrooms are equipped with a television, tea and coffee making facilities, a safe, fridge and free Wi-Fi.

This 4-star hotel is located on the vibrant Victoria and Alfred Waterfront with panoramic views of Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean. Facilities include an outdoor swimming pool, spa, gym, restaurant and bar. The guest rooms are en-suite with television, minifridge, safe and tea and coffee making facilities. Free Wi-Fi is available.

Located in a private nature reserve, Rogge Cloof is a registered biosphere reserve. The Guest Farm is an eco-resort that runs on solar power, with accommodation in rooms and cottages offering private facilities but no television. There is a dining hall and small reception area. Free Wi-Fi is available.

Established in 1864, the historic Mont d’Or Swartberg is the only hotel in Prince Albert. Facilities include an elegant dining room and bar, while the individually styled guest rooms are en-suite with television, air-conditioning and tea and coffee making facilities. Free Wi-Fi is available.

This elegant 4-star hotel stands in the centre of Franschhoek, close to the town’s renowned restaurants, art galleries and numerous wine estates. Facilities include a restaurant, swimming pool and relaxing lounge. The bright spacious guest rooms are en-suite with television, hairdryer, minifridge, safe and tea and coffee making facilities. Free Wi-Fi is available.

The Lodge is located inside the south-western region of Kruger National Park. Accommodation is in safari tents on timber platforms with en-suite bathrooms and private outside terraces with views over the park. Facilities include a deck, restaurant, bar and infinity swimming pool.

Astronomy in South Africa

South Africa