The most scenic places to go moon watching (until moon travel becomes a reality)
You can’t quite travel to the moon yet but you can certainly commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic landing by enjoying some celestial-gazing of your own.
It was “one small step” that American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took when they landed on the moon on July 20, 1969. For half a century since, the most intrepid travellers have dreamt of taking that giant leap of their own by making a trip to the moon.
We’re not quite there yet – Elon Musk’s first SpaceX tourist flight is only slated to lift off in 2023. However, there are still many ways that mere mortals can still indulge in a bout of intergalactic wanderlust without exiting the atmosphere of planet Earth.
Here are five of the world’s most dramatic destinations from which to gaze at the lunar satellite (and the galaxy in its full glory) to commemorate this special occasion.
Seek out some dark skies
As one of the few designated Dark Sky locations left on the planet that are sufficiently isolated from ambient light pollution, Castle Hot Springs in Arizona, part of the Small Luxury Hotels group, is a rare spot where you can experience the grandeur of the night sky as it was millennia ago.
Nestled away in the rugged Bradshaw Mountains, book the lodge’s Sky View Cabins, which are equipped with a telescope so you can gaze at the night sky in the comfort of your own room. The cabins also have private outdoor tubs plumbed with spring water for a warm soak by moonlight and wooden decks for you to do moon salutations during a starlight yoga session. If you need a little assistance, there’s also an on-site astronomer to guide you as you gaze into infinity and beyond.
LAKE TITICACA, PERU
The world’s highest navigable lake
At a literally breathtaking altitude of 3,812 m, you will certainly feel much closer to the moon and stars at Lake Titicaca, one of the world’s largest lakes, which borders Peru and Bolivia. When the sky is clear, you won’t even need any specialised equipment to enjoy the view of the moon hanging in the night sky. Simply head outdoors and look up – the Milky Way stretches across the sky in all its glory.
Stay at the stunning Titilaka, a luxury lodge perched on the edge of the lake, where there are outdoor terraces, overwater decks and boardwalks so you can lounge in comfort as you soak in the glittery view. The lodge, beautifully decorated with local crafts such as woven throws, embroidered cushions and handmade furniture, also offers a nightly stargazing session led by a local guide. Novice astronomers especially may want to attend this, as the session not only offers an overview of the various constellations but also includes the historical lowdown about how the sages of the local tribes used to look to the stars for guidance.
MOYO ISLAND, INDONESIA
Cruise under the night sky
There’s something about moon- and star-gazing that makes you feel like kickin’ it old school by going camping, with a crackling fire and roasted marshmallows to complement the experience. But make it luxe, of course.
A stunning glamping destination in the region is Amanwana, a luxury tented resort on Indonesia’s Moyo Island where the 20 safari tents are located between the rainforest and the beach. While there, you can go on a starlight cruise on the resort’s traditional wooden outrigger. Once you are out in the bay, the captain will cut the engines to allow a peaceful drift along the waters as you lay on the day bed, admiring the night sky. The resort’s friendly staff will also be on hand to offer you dessert, cold drinks, tea or coffee as you take in the dazzling view.
Spot the Big Five of the night sky
Many travellers journey to South Africa for a safari experience, where the goal is to spot the Big Five game animals – the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape buffalo. Well, you can also spot the heavenly Big Five of star clusters, nebulae and the Milky Way too.
At the Shambala Game Reserve, part of the Leading Hotels of the World group, a stargazing expert can help you locate the three brightest stars in the night sky: Sirius, Canopus and Alpha Centauri, with the naked eye. The winter months from June to August are the best times to enjoy a clear view of the skies. Needless to say, you’ll be able to pick out the moon quite easily here too.
Get stargazing lessons from a “sky guru”
You might be too old to switch professions to become an astronaut or an astronomer, but it doesn’t mean you can’t brush up on your telescope skills. The Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas houses the Maldives’ only overwater observatory which contains the most powerful telescope in the country – a research-grade 16” Meade LX200 telescope mounted on a super-giant field tripod. Plus, there is a chic cocktail lounge located within the same premises, so you can sip on bespoke cocktails as you take in the view overhead.
The observatory’s resident “sky guru”, professional astronomer Ali Shameem, is a protege of Italian astronomer Dr Massimo Tarenghi, who headed the Alma observatory in Chile. The Maldives’ location just above the equator means both hemisphere’s stars are visible from the resort. Coupled with minimal light pollution on this private island and wide, unobstructed skies, this is astronomy at its most jaw-dropping. Besides enjoying the view of the moon and the various constellations, Shameem will also be able to point out various planets, including Saturn and Jupiter.