The South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO)

The South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) in Sutherland, Northern Cape, is a world-renowned research institution dedicated to advancing our understanding of the universe. Established in 1972, the SAAO has played a key role in the development of astronomy in South Africa, and continues to be at the forefront of astronomical research.

The SAAO is equipped with a range of cutting-edge instruments, including a 1.9-meter telescope, a suite of spectrographs, and a range of other observational and data analysis tools. These facilities allow astronomers to study a wide range of celestial objects and phenomena, from stars and galaxies to supernovae and exoplanets.

The SAAO also offers a range of public educational programs, including workshops and tours. Visitors can learn about the latest developments in astronomy, and participate in hands-on activities that bring the subject to life.

In addition to its research and education activities, the SAAO also supports a thriving international community of astronomers. Scientists from around the world come to Sutherland to collaborate on cutting-edge research projects, and to use the SAAO's facilities to further their understanding of the universe.

Overall, the South African Astronomical Observatory in Sutherland, Northern Cape, is a vital institution that continues to make important contributions to our understanding of the universe. Whether you're an astronomer, a student, or simply curious about the cosmos, the SAAO offers a unique and fascinating experience that will leave you with a deeper appreciation for the wonders of the universe.


Day tours:

Day tours are done as fully guided tours.
People per tour: 30
Fully Guided tours (Guided walk through the Visitor Centre as well as a guided tour of selected research telescopes including SALT)
Monday to Saturday: 10:30 and 14:30
Fee: R120,00 per person
Children 6 – 11: R50
Children under 6: Free

Night Tours:

Night tours are on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.
People per tour: 30
Fee: R120,00 per person
Children 6 – 11: R60
Children under 6: Free
Night tours allow visitors to view interesting objects in the night sky, through two dedicated visitor telescopes. Note that visitors cannot visit any of the research telescopes at night. Astronomy is a light-sensitive science and no lights are allowed on the plateau in the evenings, making it impossible to see anything at all.
The tour lasts approximately 90 minutes but may be canceled due to inclement weather conditions. If the weather is bad, the guide will take you to the Visitor Centre for a movie in case it clears up later.

School Tours:

School field trips allow learners to explore the telescopes and Visitor Centre at Sutherland, and give a glimpse into the life of an astronomer. School tours take place on Tuesdays, Thursdays or every third weekend of the month. Bookings must be made at least three months in advance.
Time: Tuesdays, Thursdays, and the third weekend of the month: Times TBC
Fee: Learners R90

Tour guides will meet you at the Visitor Centre at your scheduled time. If you arrive early please wait at the Visitor Centre for your guide. This is a secure site and all other buildings are off-limits to the public.

SAOO is closed on public holidays and tour bookings must be made online and paid in advance – no payments will be accepted on site.

To book please visit:
Please email or phone 076 900 0308 if you have any queries regarding bookings and tours for Sutherland.