South Africa, Travel

I saw South Africa’s Largest…

S.A.L.T – South Africa’s Largest Telescope is part of S.A.A.O – South African Astronomical Observatory

You might think.. um, sorry come again? Who cares, right? Well, this trip highly proved us wrong! S.A.L.T is not just for science nerds, but anyone who is in awe of what the universe has to offer and how humans and technology can make this a once in a lifetime experience!

Here are 20 things you probably didn’t know about Sutherland and S.A.L.T/S.A.A.O:

  1. Sutherland was founded in 1723 as a church and market town to serve the area’s sheep farmers and now has a population of almost 3000.

    The original church. Photo: Danie Van de Merwe
  2. During the Anglo Boer War, the church was used as a fort by British soldiers. There is a hill called “Rebelskop” on the outskirts of the town, named after a 10 hour engagement of war between 250 Boer and the British troops.

    *Rebelskop Hill
  3. Sutherland is the coldest town in South Africa, with snowfall common in winter. Last year was -4° with a depth of 6m snow. The lowest recorded temperature being -16°.

    *Sutherland in Winter
    *Sutherland in Winter
  4. Sutherland is 1450m (4760ft) above sea level, making its pollution-free and clear night skies amongst the clearest and darkest in the world.
  5. The South African Astronomical Observatory is a significant role in the communities tourism as well as a privately owned Amateur Astronomy section, ‘Sterland Boerdery – Stargazing’, where you can view the moon and stars through their telescopes at night. P.S: Very informative and a must-do in Sutherland!

    South Africa Astronomical Observatory. Photo: Nikita Richards
  6. Sterland Boerdery Stargazing offers a mind- blowing indoor presentation on constellations and planets and their size. The whole outing is about 2 hours and costs *R100 per person.

    Sterland Boerdery Night time Stargazing. *Prices are subject to change
  7. It’s amazing for all ages, and you are able to use their 5 x 11 inch (280mm) Celestron Go-To telescopes, each with its own GPS.

    Celestron Telescope. Available on
    Celestron Telescope. Available on
  8. You are guided by a knowledgeable instructor who teaches you about constellations, stars, planets and how to find them and what their names are. Horoscope figures are also shown in the sky by the stars. The instructor does this by pointing a laser at each star while explaining the meaning. So interesting!
  9. You are even taught how to take a photo of the moon through their telescopes. The detail is honestly one of the best sights I’ve seen!

    The Moon seen through a telescope at Sterland, taken by Nikita Richards
  10. S.A.L.T is a hidden gem based at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) in Sutherland, Northern Cape, South Africa (324kms from Cape Town) and is the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere and one of the largest in the world.

    Welcome to the Northern Cape! Taken by: Nikita Richards
  11. It is similarly built like the Hobby-Eberly telescope in Texas.

    “HET Dome” by EricandHolli at the English language Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons –
  12. 25 000 years ago, the Khoi San inhabited this area for the perfect star-gazing spot, as they believe time is in the stars. They had a true and vast knowledge of the stars, moon and planets.

    African Starlore
    African Starlore
  13. The telescope consists of a primary, hexagonal mirror 11 metres wide made up of 91 individual hexagonal mirrors, each one metre wide and weighing about 100kg.

    Model of the Large Telescope as seen in S.A.A.O tour. Photo: Nikita Richards
    Model of the inside of the Large Telescope as seen in S.A.A.O tour. Photo: Nikita Richards
  14. It has about 80 square meters of light collecting surface which is massive and has the capacity to see very far back into the universe, billions of years ago. Watch the video taken inside the telescope here.
  15. This telescope is able to see a single flickering candle light on the moon.
  16. It was built for scanning the universe, new and old planets, gazing into distant galaxies, and recording the scale and age of the universe, stars, galaxies and quasars billions of light years away. They have recently made new discoveries.

    S.A.L.T Photo: Nikita Richards
    Photo: Nikita Richards
  17. The telescope costs $30 million, of which South Africa contributed a third and the balance was from partners all over the world.
  18. It is made to rotate to be able to see 70% of the sky for 20% of the cost.

    Photo: Nikita Richards
  19. S.A.L.T has been able to put us on the astrological map, considering we are a developing country. Our contributions can have a huge influence.

    Photo: Nikita Richards

This trip was an amazing experience for my friend and I, the only thing to really do in Sutherland, turned out to be pretty unique and big experience as well as an eye opener.

What was supposed to be a romantic getaway for two turned out to be another fun [really drunk] weekend. The only thing to do there was take advantage of the hotel bar, meet the locals and other visitors, see the moon and stars, drink some more, chill in an empty swimming pool, see a shooting star altogether and laugh until we cried 🙂

A big thank you to Sutherland Hotel for your accommodation and hospitality! And a massive thank you to my best friend, for this experience and opportunity! Loved every moment! So grateful to share the same appreciation for the universe we live in!

Here’s to many more adventures with you, hopefully not too drunk!

May the force be with you,

The Lovist

Contact S.A.L.T here and like them on Facebook.

For more information on Sutherland facilities, click here.

For Sterland enquiries and essential bookings, contact Jurg on 082 556 9589.

References:;;; *;–Eberly_Telescope;;;



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