Cederberg Camping and Star-gazing at Gecko Creek Wilderness Lodge

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                      Photo taken at Gecko Creek Wilderness Lodge

                            Cederberg Astronomical Observatory

One of the many reasons people choose to go camping in the Cederberg is to enjoy the fantastic star-gazing at night.

The following information, as well as a spectacular gallery, is found at:

http://www.cederbergobservatory.org.za/index.html

High in the Cederberg Mountains, 240km north of Cape Town, on the farm Dwarsrivier lies the Cederberg Astronomical Observatory (19 deg 15′ E 32 deg 30′ S). Privately owned and a non-profit organization it is run by seven partners. The observatory has been in existence since the early eighties.Originally an undeveloped plot of land with little more than unpolluted dark skies and magnificent mountain views to recommend it, the observatory has developed over the years into an amateur astronomer’s paradise.Basic but comfortable accommodation has been erected, complete with ablutions and cooking facilities for the astronomers on duty.A 16″ Meade Newtonian telescope is housed in a dome and a 300mm Meade Scmidt Cassegrain is housed in a slide off roof observatory. Another dome, the ‘Sherman Tank’, has just been completed and now graces the skyline with a 12″ Cassegrain inside. Piers with power provide polar-aligned mounts for portable telescopes and there are a couple of home-made Newtonian telescopes available for general use.The partners’ interests vary from astrophotography and CCD work to measurements of variable stars and occultations. A few hours are set aside each Saturday night for the general public to visit.A slideshow is given offering a basic introduction to the wonders of the night sky and is followed by viewing through a telescope or two.The Cederberg Observatory has given many hours of enjoyment to many people. Anyone wishing to know more can contact the observatory through the contact form or contact any of the partners.  With the number of visitors increasing every year, in October 2010 the observatory celebrated 100 000 visitors!

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This couple exchangd their wedding vows at Gecko Creek Wilderness Lodge.

As the nights now get darker at Gecko Creek Wilderness Lodge, due to the moon becoming less visible, the true attraction of Cederberg camping at Gecko Creek reveals itself in the astoundingly clear night skies. Believe it or not, astronomy organizations worldwide have rated the Cederberg the finest star gazing position in the world due to the thinness of the stratosphere above the Cederberg. Our statement that the stars become like diamonds on velvet is no exaggeration as any guest camping at Gecko Creek that has been here on dark nights will tell you. You will observe more stars and planets camping in the Cederberg than you ever imagined possible. And YES, you will see a shooting star approximately every 15 minutes at least – providing you are looking up!

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This couple are star-gazing in the boma at Gecko Creek.

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A perfect pastime of many guests is to enjoy the Cederberg astronomy from their hammock.

 

Hiking in the Cederberg

Five Great Cederberg Hikes

We found this very informative article courtesy of news24:

http://www.news24.com/Travel/South-Africa/Five-great-Cederberg-hikes-20130122

If you feel the need to escape from it all and experience a bit of wonderful wildness, heading to the Cederberg area is always a good idea. Located about 200km from Cape Town (factor in a 3 hour drive, because of gravel roads), it’s viable as a day outing, but if you have time to spare a weekend break is definitely the way to go.

We check out five hiking trails worth exploring while there. Groups are limited to a maximum of 12 people per day. Permits are either available from Algeria Forest Station/campsite or Sanddrif.

From Algeria

Algeria is Cape Nature’s main campsite for the Cederberg Wilderness area, and the start and end point for a couple of the day hikes.

Middelberg Waterfall walk

Distance: 4km

Time: 3 hour return

Difficulty: Easy

Highlights: A short, moderately steep walk up the mountain from Algeria Campsite. The route is clearly marked and ends at the picturesque of the Middelberg Waterfall – the perfect spot for a picnic and dip in the small pool.

From Dwarsrivier/Sanddrif

Privately owned by Cederberg Cellars, Dwarsrivier is a few km along the dirt road from Algeria and also the point where many of the day hikes start and finish.

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Maltese Cross

Distance: 7 kilometres

Time: 3,5 – 4 hours

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Highlights: The easily recognizable footpath is marked with cairns pointing the way to the 5-storey rock formation, dubbed the Maltese Cross. The out-and-return route starts with a mild uphill climb and then an easy downhill return along the same route. The entire trail offers superb views of the Cederberg Mountain range.

Lot’s Wife & Window Rocks

Distance: 1,6km

Time: 1 – 1 1/2 hours

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Highlights: While you can drive, take a leisurely stroll from Dwarsrivier towards Algeria instead, until you see the Lot’s Wife parking sign. Taking on the shape of a petrified praying woman if seen from the correct angle, it’s no surprise why the intriguing rock was named after the Biblical woman who turned into a salt pillar when she looked back to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. From there you start a gentle walk to where the beautiful Window Rocks can be seen.

Wolfberg Cracks and Arch

Time: 8 hours return

Difficulty: Tough, only for seasoned hikers

Highlights: Starting about 1,2km from Sanddrif at the foot of the Wolfberg, the trail takes you through three cracks in the rocks – of which the third one is the hardest to climb – and eventually the famous arch at the top. Although there is an alternative route via the Riff, the same route is recommended on returning from the Arch. When obtaining the passport, make sure you get proper directions for the route from the office staff.

Stadsaal Cave and rock paintings

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Distance: Okay, okay. It’s not actually a hiking trail, but you can spend much of the day exploring and adventuring the area once you’ve reached it by car… and it really comes highly recommended.

Time: Depends entirely on you!

Highlights: Once you’ve obtained your permit from any of the tourist offices in the area, head along the gravel road that leads to Ceres and look out for the Stadsaal Caves sign. A gate limits access to the area, but with the permit you will receive a key. First stop off at the well-preserved bushman paintings, depicting what seem to be elephants. From there, meander along to the large Stadsaal Cave, either on foot or by car. Here you will see some more modern kind of ‘rock art, ‘ including the names of ministers, writers and presidents that had been grafitied there by the men themselves.

Cape Nature has put together an extensive hiking guideline for visitors to their parks, check it out for useful tips and suggestions.

Camping in the Cederberg at Gecko Creek

Gecko creek camping

This foursome from Cape Town stopped to pitch their tents underneath the shade of the gum trees at Gecko Creek Wilderness Lodge www.geckocreek.com while enroute to Namibia. We offer shaded campsites only steps away from 5 star ablutions. Guests can cool off in our swimming pool with stunning views of the Cederberg Mountains. Incuded in the R110 per person/per night camping fee, guests also enjoy access to our communal cooking facilities  (gas stoves, large fridges, pots and pans, cutlery and dishes), in our lapa and braii facilities in our boma.

Hoka

Yesterday was a huge day for Hoka. We rushed him to his vet in Cape Town for intensive tests, ultrasounds and x-rays. Suspicion was something was wrong with his kidneys. After two hours of anesthetic and examination, he was found to have spinal arthritis and some old scar tissue. Happily, we can say Hoka had a clean bill of health beyond that and he received his annual shots for rabies, etc. He returned to Gecko Creek a bit bruised and battered but should be fine by tomorrow morning.

Hoka returning to Gecko Creek from his visit to the vet.

Returning Guests

We enjoyed a cup of Nagle (traditional coffee brewed in Israel) with our friends Talya and Ranny this morning. They stayed at Gecko Creek in November for a few days while enroute to Namibia and now again 3 months later after travelling throughout southern Africa. Safe journey on your return home tomorrow to Isreal. We know you’ll be back!

Ranny and Talya

Social Networking Gecko Creek Style

Spent a wonderful evening around the fire sharing stories with guests from Denmark, Israel, United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, United States, Canada and South Africa!

Spent a wonderful evening around the fire sharing stories with guests from Denmark, Israel, United Kingdom, Germany, and Switzerland!