When people book a luxury safari holiday, game drives and wildlife are the first activities that spring to mind. These are definitely some of the essential activities to enjoy during the daylight hours, but an activity that has become popular in the evenings for those on a Tanzania safari at the luxury tented camp Sanctuary Kusini, and others in the Serengeti, is stargazing. With the wide open plains, mild evenings, vast expanses of night sky and no air or light pollution, what better place to look up into the African night sky and see the constellations that you learned about in school – often difficult to spot at home in cityscapes.
If you are interested in stargazing during your luxury safari, then remember these tips:
1. Stargazing is at its best during the new moon period, as this is when the sky is darkest and the most stars are visible.
2. Stargazing is easiest when there is little or no cloud cover, so choose your evening carefully.
3. To enhance the stargazing experience on your luxury safari, take your iPad or laptop with you and download one of the many apps that help you identify the constellations that change throughout the year. The guides at Sanctuary Kusini recommend the app STELLERIUM for their guests on a Tanzania safari as this is a free download, is easy to use and has great information about the stars. This programme allows those staying at the camp to have even more background information on the stars they are seeing during the nightly ‘cosmic safari’ activity. Guests relax on comfortable cushions on top of the large granite rock just near the mess tent of the camp, while guides point out the constellations using a green laser pointer. This is the highest point in the region so the location offers 360 degree views of the Serengeti as the sun sets, followed by uninterrupted views of the night sky.
Search for accommodations in the Serengeti (Booking.com).
Identify the constellations
Once you have followed the tips above, the next thing is to identify which constellations will be visible during a Tanzania safari and do a little reading on the story behind these constellations – as knowing the tales makes spotting them that little bit easier.
Those constellations which are easiest to see in this part of the world include:
Scorpio and Orion – Orion was a great hunter and very boastful of his abilities. One day he boasted that if he wanted to, he could kill all the animals on Earth. This upset Gaea, the earth goddess, and she sent the scorpion to sting and kill Orion. Both Orion and the scorpion were put in the night sky as a reminder but it is said Orion was afraid of the scorpion and fled away from it which is why they are always 180° apart in the night sky.
Cygnus the Swan – It is said the God Zeus took the form of the swan to seduce the goddess Nemesis. As he was successful he placed the form of the swan in the stars.
Canis Major – A magical dog that was destined never to give up a chase. He was eventually owned by Cephalus, a hero, who set the dog against the Teumussian fox (Canis Minor), a giant fox that was ravaging the countryside. The fox also had a destiny, never to get caught. To resolve the conflicting fates of the two animals, Zeus placed them in the night sky where they can continue their chase for all eternity. Canis Major is also known as Orion’s hunting dog, chasing the hare, Lepus.
Taurus the Bull – He heads up the chase in the night sky. Orion is hunting him with his dog Canis Major.
These are spread out over the full calendar year but you’re bound to be able to see at least one of them during your stargazing experience.