Africa’s Gorgeous Night SkiesMay 18, 2021
Some of the great pleasures of safari travel only reveal themselves once the sun sets. And while a few of these evening pursuits may already be well known to you—like sundowners on the savanna, fireside boma feasts, nighttime wildlife-spotting—there’s one after-dark diversion you may not have considered: stargazing. Many of Micato’s most seasoned travellers, though, make sure to add opportunities for night-sky appreciation to their safari itineraries. Here’s how you can do the same.
Choose Your Sky-Friendly Location
Most every Micato safari destination in southern and East Africa offers ideal conditions for stargazing: wide-open skies, set far from the pollution and ambient light of cities. In the darkest nighttime hours, the savannah can seem like an inverted bowl of stars, with sparkling pinpricks extending to the ground in every direction. Still, there are certain locales that lend themselves especially well to nighttime scoping. Among these are Namibia’s vast Sossusvlei Desert, where undulating red dunes are illuminated by silvery moonlight; the watery Eden of Botswana’s Okavango Delta; and Kenya’s sweeping, high-altitude Laikipia Plateau. All three of these regions boast Micato partner lodges with “star beds”—elevated private platforms that let you fall asleep with unobstructed views of the heavens. (To learn more about these properties, check out and Little Kulala, Abu Lodge, and Loisaba Tented Camp.)
Brush Up on African Constellations
If you’re travelling to Africa from the Northern Hemisphere, you may be surprised at how very different the night sky looks in this part of the world. While you’ll recognize some of the same celestial bodies you know from home (like the Milky Way, Venus, and a few constellations like Orion and the Pleiades), there are plenty of others that might be new to you. These include the iconic Southern Cross, whose position pointing due south has helped centuries of navigators chart their courses; two fascinating spiral-shaped galaxies known as the Magellanic Clouds; and Canopus, the second-brightest star that can be seen from Earth. To get a sense of what these look like before you travel, try inputting your intended safari location, or the city closest to it, at theskylive.com. You can also learn more details about African astronomy—including best-weather predictions and tips for photographing the night sky—from these resources compiled by the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa.
Absorb Local Lore
For thousands of years, Africa’s indigenous peoples have passed along myths and stories that explain what they see in their nighttime skies. Each culture has its own celestial lore, so depending on where your African safari takes you, you may hear widely differing tales about the same stars or constellations. For example, many San people (hunter-gatherers whose ancestral territory includes South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Namibia) say that the Milky Way was formed in ancient times by a young girl who scooped up ashes from her community’s fire and flung them into the sky—where they remained to help guide her friends and family members safely home each night. The Zulu, on the other hand, believe the glowing swath of the Milky Way was created by the gods’ great herd of cattle, as they trod a path between their heavenly realm and the mortal world below. Similarly, the three bright stars forming the belt of the constellation Orion are variously described by different indigenous groups; the Tswana of South Africa refer to them as dintsa le Dikolobe, “Three Dogs Chasing Three Pigs,” while some San groups depict them as zebra or tortoises—and Maasai have reportedly called them “Three Old Men Pursued by Lonesome Widows.”
The in-depth local knowledge of your Micato guides—and the expertise of our safari planners—ensures that wherever your African journey takes you, you’ll be able to experience memorable stargazing. Learn more about how to savour Africa’s night skies by contacting us today.