Namakwaland, South Africa
South African Astronomical Observatory
While Namakwaland is best known for its annual blooming of wild flowers, there are many other reasons to visit this region of the Northern Cape.
The South African Astronomical Observatory is one of these and is currently working together with Germany, America, Poland, and the UK to build the largest telescope in the southern hemisphere, SALT (Southern African Large Telescope) that will have an 11 meter hexagonal mirror array. The observatory has been in operation since the 1970s and is set on a rural hilltop in Sutherland far away from city lights and pollution. There are various day and night tours at certain times where visitors can learn about the research and astronomy as well as view celestial objects through powerful telescopes.
Richtersveld Trans Frontier Park
This is South Africa’s largest desert mountain national park and is hauntingly beautiful with red sandy plains and lava formed mountains. From here there is also a boat that will take you across the Orange River into the neighboring country of Namibia. The Orange River is famed for its canoeing adventures and tours here is a great activity for those more active travelers. You can camp under the stars while you make your way down the river. You can even have a New Year’s bash here on the tour. There are many other things to see and do here and strangely enough there is tons of plant life, mainly succulents. You can take part in a 4×4 excursion, go hiking and enjoy the wilderness in one of the new campsites and lodges that have been developed here.
The Flower Route
With over 6000 plant species, various animals and birds the Flower Route is one of the most amazing biodiversity hot spots. Additionally, 40 percent of the species are not found anywhere else on earth. There are forests of quiver trees, a member of the aloe family, and every year between July and September the plain red landscapes transforms into a land of color and floral beauty.
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