One of the negative aspects of urban living and development is that light from our cities affects our ability to see stars clearly. Fairly recently, a few players in the hospitality industry have decided to host stargazing evenings where guests are treated to fine cuisine, a brief talk about the stars and are afforded an opportunity to look at stars and planets through a high-powered telescope. Even if you are not an astronomy buff and the only stars you usually take note of are situated on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, these experiences provided a fascinating and romantic night out. What could be better than gazing into the heavens after a delectable dinner and superb wine?
Aloe Ridge Hotel and Game Reserve was built by Sol Kerzner and is situated in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. It is a fairly basic hotel with a three star grading but a stay-over is recommended as there is plenty to enjoy including fine dining, a buffet breakfast, a warm pool, breathtaking views of the Cradle and, of course, a celestial experience at the observatory. Dubbed “Astronomy with Gastronomy,” Aloe Ridge has put together a neat package whereby you can enjoy a tasty, though not extensive, three course menu and be afforded fairly personalised attention as you gaze through the two telescopes on site. It is an informal affair as there is no lecture from the astronomer. Tables are called up in small groups and are given a brief description of what they are about to see. It’s different, the food is excellent (and reasonably priced) and is a great alternative to the usual Saturday night entertainment. The Aloe Ridge Hotel website may actually have been designed when the Milky Way galaxy first formed and might not work in all browsers – you can also call them on 011 957-2070.
Another venue that offers monthly stargazing and dinner evenings is Maropeng, also situated in the Cradle of Humankind. The evening gets underway at 18h00 with welcome drinks at the Maropeng Boutique Hotel. From there you will be treated to a three course dinner followed by an illustrated talk on the stars. It is a good idea to take binoculars along so that you can follow the laser guided tour. You will also be able to spot celestial bodies through their range of large-aperture telescopes. Maropeng often combine their events with various accommodation specials. If it is payday and you want a real treat you can book a stay-over.
Though it is not quite the same but is far more child-friendly than the aforementioned events, the Johannesburg Planetarium in Milner Park offer family shows that are usually themed around the seasons, allowing you to visit the planetarium a few times without seeing repeats. There are also shows aimed at the under 8’s that will delight and entertain the miniatures all while teaching them about the stars. The shows are reasonably priced and need not be booked in advance (unless you are hosting a children’s party – they have packages available).