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Stargazing enthusiasts are in for a treat when the beautiful Marakele National Park plays host to a star-filled weekend in October 2017. Learn more about the night sky from expert speakers while revelling in the park’s wild wonders. By Arnold Ras

Marakele National Park, only some 250km from Johannesburg, is an ideal wilderness location for the whole family to fall in love with starry nights. “It is sufficiently far away from major cities in order to have very low light pollution, which means clear night skies perfect for star and planet observations. It is also the national park closest to Gauteng, so visitors can drive through on the Friday afternoon to be in time for our activities,” says André Williams, SANParks Honorary Rangers Pretoria Region member.

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Taking place from 20 to 22 October 2017, the Marakele stargazing weekend is presented by the SANParks Honorary Rangers. All proceeds from the event will go towards conservation projects identified by SANParks. But the weekend is not just about stargazing (and doing your bit for conservation) – it’s also a chance to explore the Waterberg.

“We found that most people know very little about Marakele,” André says. “The weekend is an opportunity to promote and teach people a little more about the park, its history, wildlife and other activities on offer. It’s a weekend that will be packed with activities and presentations.”

What to expect

Stargazing in the wild has never been this effortless – you basically just have to arrive. A variety of different telescopes will be available for evening stargazing. Professionals are welcome to bring their own equipment.

Friday: Find out exactly where we are in relation to the sun, moon and other planets. Want to know why Venus can sometimes be the evening star in the west, and at other times the morning star in the east? Discussions and talks will be presented in such a way that both beginner stargazers and keen astronomers will be engaged.

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Saturday: Listen to a series of talks by four experts in the field discussing various topics ideal for beginners. Experienced stargazers, don’t fear, the talks promise to also enrich seasoned minds with valuable information. Topics include constellations, telescopes (history, types and how to make your own), exoplanets, astrophotography, planetary missions, current astronomical events, and the night sky at this point in time. Some talks will be specifically aimed at younger audiences.

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Sunday: Experience Marakele with all your senses and join qualified SANParks rangers for a two-hour guided hike. Take note that only guests older than 16 are allowed to participate in the bush hike.

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Children are never too young to learn about the night sky, and stargazing is an activity that can be practised by everyone.
– André Williams

Good to know

Cost: R1,650 per person, includes accommodation, all meals and non-alcoholic drinks.
Bookings: [email protected], +27 (0)82 331 0849

“A weekend like this not only lets you get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, but also gives you a new perspective on life once you’ve had the opportunity to gaze out into the vast expanse of the galaxy we all call home.”

We absolutely agree! Don’t miss out – book your spot now.

Game viewing is the experience of exploring the natural world, looking around us. Stargazing is also exposure to the natural world, but in this case it is looking up. Both these experiences provide an opportunity to recharge the soul. – Stargazing from Game Reserves by Anthony Fairall

Pictures courtesy of SANParks Honorary Rangers