The Namib Desert by Night

The cloud-free night skies above Namibia are especially impressive. The almost total absence of light pollution means that many more stars can be seen, while in the cool darkness, the desert comes to life. Luxury Namibian safari lodges offer spotting scopes, star-bed sleepouts, scorpion hunts and outdoor observatories to capitalise on this.

Stargazing from an outdoor observatory

Although it’s justly renowned for its night skies, we were still surprised at just how many more stars we could see when stargazing in Namibia. A chorus of barking geckos filled the air as our guide drove us the short distance from the lodge to the outdoor observatory.

The resident astronomer patiently pointed out not only my star sign, Scorpio, but also planets and even a satellite. I was pleased to see that mine was one of the most impressive constellations and fascinated to learn some of the local myths concerning this and other clusters of stars.

Namibian guides are all amateur, if not expert, astronomers.
Namibian guides are all amateur, if not expert, astronomers. © Wilderness Safaris

Surveying the southern stars with a spotting scope

The open deck of our luxury Namibian safari lodge featured two tripods: one with a telescope for watching animals and birds coming to the nearby waterhole during the day, and one mounting a stubby but very powerful spotting scope for stargazing.

Sossusvlei Desert Lodge has an outdoor observatory.
Sossusvlei Desert Lodge has an outdoor observatory. © &Beyond

We were delighted with both, but especially the spotting scope, here in this stargazing paradise. It was quite an advanced model – all we had to do was type in the name of a planet or star, and it would automatically swivel to point at the correct point of light. The low whirr of the motors powering it was the only sound in the sudden stillness of the desert evening.

Spotting scorpions and spiders with UV

Who knew that scorpions glow a weird alien shade of green when you illuminate them with a UV flashlight? Our guide certainly did, and on the walk back to our room after another excellent dinner, he diligently peered under each rock we passed.

He soon spotted a dancing white lady spider … then a large scorpion. It was good to know that scorpions are so easy to spot and avoid, even if this one’s curious walk (and the tiny babies clustered on its back) made for fascinating viewing.

Unbelievably, scorpions glow under UV light.
Unbelievably, scorpions glow under UV light.

Sleeping in star beds

Sleeping outdoors in the star bed at Little Kulala was one of our most remarkable Namibian experiences – and that is high praise indeed. It was generously piled with blankets against the cool of the night and a flickering paraffin lantern marked each corner of the platform.

Just after we climbed the stairs, our eyes were caught by a brief shower of shooting stars, and with mouths ajar we followed their path earthwards. Later, cuddled up under the covers, we spotted a sleeping satellite, and watched the blinking navigational lights of a distant airliner fade as we set sail on a dreamy sea of stars.

Little Kulala has rooftop star beds.
Little Kulala has rooftop star beds. © Wilderness Safaris

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