Technical Tours

South Africa has several Astronomy facilities that you could visit before, during and after the General Assembly. Please note that the cost for these visits is not included in the conference fee and you will have to self-fund. Please feel free to contact these facilities if you would like to visit. If you have any general enquiries about technical tours and site visits, please contact Anton Binneman at

Facility  Contact person Recommended/available Travel options/ Distance from Cape Town 
1. !Khwa ttu, the San Culture and Education Centre Chris de Coning at One of the oldest cultures in the world can be found in the Southern Africa region. The FIRST NATION are known as San. !Khwa ttu, the San Culture and Education Centre is approximately one hour drive from Cape Town where members of the original peoples, speakers of the proto-click language, can relate their history and demonstrate their traditional way of life and cultural- astronomical knowledge. Khoi guides will show you around. The tour ends midday, where you can enjoy a meal at the local restaurant, whereafter we return to Cape Town mid-afternoon Dates are 8 Aug; 9 Aug; 12 Aug; 13 Aug; 14 Aug and 15 August 2024. For more information please contact Chris de Coning at
2. Cape Town City Tour Chris de Coning at Cape Town is a wonderful and interesting city. The City is central to the history of the Voyages of Discovery and the Spice Trade Route. It also has a rich history regarding science and especially astronomy as the first ever permanent scientific establishment in the Southern Hemisphere was established in Cape Town. In a specialised history of science tour we will take you for a morning around Cape Town visiting sites of astronomical interest. Names such as John Herschel, Thomas MaClear, Abbe de la Caille will be spoken and we may hear the words “Dr Livingstone I presume”. We will finish the tour at lunchtime either at the Iziko Digital Planetarium or at the time ball in the waterfront. Dates are: 8 Aug; 12 Aug; 13 Aug; 14 Aug and 15 August 2024.
3. MeerKAT telescope and SKAO site visit Chris de Coning at The IAU-GA conference delegates are welcome to visit the MeerKAT telescope and the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO) site in Carnarvon, which is approximately 700 km from Cape Town by road. The planned dates for the visits are Saturday, 10 August, and Sunday, 11 August. Due to the nature of this facility, only 100 persons are allowed on the site each day. The first two coaches will depart Cape Town for Carnarvon on Friday, 9 August, and arrive in the evening. On Saturday morning, the delegates will be divided into two groups of 50 each, with the one group doing the tour in the morning, finishing at 14h00. The second group tour will end at 16h00. The coaches will then depart for Cape Town and arrive at 21h00 and 24h00, respectively.

On Saturday,10 August, the next tour coaches will depart Cape Town to arrive in Carnavon in the evening. The tours of the MeerKat and SKA site will take place on Sunday, 11 August, with the first group of 50 ending the tour at 14h00 and the second group at 16h00. After the end of the tours, the coaches will depart for Cape Town, with the first group arriving at 21h00 and the second at 24h00.

Accommodation, meals, entrance fee to the site, are all included in the cost of the tour.

4. Hermanus Chris de Coning at Two hours drive from Cape Town is the scenic town of Hermanus, home to “South Africa National Space Agency” (SANSA). This facility is a magnetic observatory in use for observing space weather. In a full day excursion we will travel to Hermanus and visit the SANSA facilities in the morning. We combine work with play and allow the traveller free time for lunch and whale watching. Hermanus is one of the top whale watching destinations in the world and depending on weather and availability, the whales may be sighted from your restaurant or from specialised whale watching boats. We should be back in Cape Town by early evening. Dates are: 8 Aug; 15 August 2024 Transport and entrance to SANSA is included: Free time activities such as lunch and boat based whale watching is not included. The guide on the vehicle can assist with bookings.
5. Sutherland Chris de Coning at Sutherland is situated at one of the best optical astronomy observing sites in the world. To reach such pristine dark sky conditions requires a half day drive from Cape Town. The tour will be two days (one night). The tour includes transport, food and accommodation as well as entrance to the “South African Astronomical Observatory” (SAAO). A technical behind the scenes tour of the “South African Large Telescope” (SALT) and selected other telescopes are arranged for IAU attendees. Optional stargazing and a planetarium show, both to own account can be organised. The Sutherland tours are organised as pre and post events, as well as during the symposium. Current dates are: 3-4 Aug; 9-10 Aug; 10-11 Aug; 16-17 Aug; 17-18 August 2024. Depending on availability of rooms in Sutherland more tours can be added at different dates to satisfy demand.
6. SAAO Observatory Cape Town Visitor Centre, Optical telescopes Sivuyile Manqoyi Pran Govender Cape Town shuttle services Located in Cape Town
7. SAAO Observatory Cape Town Site Visit For more information please contact Chris de Coning at In a suburb of Cape Town named “Observatory” is situated the “Royal Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope” (ROCGH). This is the first-ever permanent Astronomical Observatory, as well as the first permanent scientific establishment in the Southern Hemisphere. Today the terrain is the headquarters of the “South African Astronomical Observatory” (SAAO). The site contains very interesting telescopes and instruments still in their original buildings and also boasts of a rich history of South African astronomy. The terrain has an interesting ecology and indigenous history as well. Astronomy students from the nearby University of Cape Town will take delegates on a tour of the terrain.

We offer return transport from the Symposium Venue to and from the SAAO terrain. There are morning, afternoon and evening options.

Dates for morning or afternoon tours are:
6 Aug;  8 Aug; 10 Aug; 11 Aug; 13 Aug; and 14 August 2024.

Dates for evening tours are:
5 Aug;  7 Aug; 10 Aug; 11 Aug; 14 Aug; and 17 August 2024.

8. SARAO Observatory Cape town SARAO offices and Control room Anton Binneman Angus Flowers Cape Town shuttle services Located in Cape Town
9. SANSA Hermanus Satellite tracking Space weather tracking Daleen Fouché Shuttle or self-drive 122 km: two hours from Cape Town
10. SARAO Johannesburg Observatory The 100-year Innes Telescope and Dome, The Papadopoulos Dome with the Franklin Adams Refractors and The Popodopolis Casagrain, The Jacobs Dome with the 12” Newtonian Refractor Optical telescope Carmel Ives Anton Binneman Flights to Johannesburg and rental cars to the observatory- Two-hour flight from Cape Town 1405 km self-drive
11. SARAO Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy, Geodesy Marion West 2-hour flights to Johannesburg or Lanseria and self-drive to Hartebeesthoek, a 40-minute drive from Lanseria Airport to Hartebeesthoek
12. SANSA Hartebeesthoek Satellite tracking, tracking station Dan Matsapola Flights to Johannesburg or Lanseria and self-drive to Hartebeest Hoek two-hour flight to Lanseria and a 40-minute drive
13. SAAO Sutherland and SALT Optical telescope Sivuyile Manqoyi Anthea Oliphant Facilitated tour by SAAO and SARAO -Distance from Cape Town 350 km Expression of Interest in Activities in Sutherland:
14. Boyden Observatory and Naval Hill Planetarium University of the Free State Dawid Van Jaarsveldt Matie Hoffman 90-minute flight from Cape Town to Bloemfontein, with Rental Cars -Self-drive: 1000 km from Cape Town
15. HESS telescope and Hoba Meteorite UNAM Oxford Backes, Michael Flights to Windhoek and a drive of 1 hour to the site – Self-drive:  1600 km from Cape Town. -Visa and travel restrictions may be in place
16. Wits Anglo American Digital Dome Planetarium Deena Naidoo Andrew Chen 2-hour flight to Johannesburg – drive to Wits University (Main Campus). – Self-drive: 1405 km