Star bathing and other immersive pleasures with Extraordinary Journeys

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The night sky in the Rooi Cederberg and Bakkrans Nature Reserve region in South Africa.
The night sky in the Rooi Cederberg and Bakkrans Nature Reserve region in South Africa. Photo Credit: Louis Hiemstra/Panama Macro Foto

Highlighted by Extraordinary Journeys as one of the destinations to watch for 2023, South Africa's Cederberg Mountains region offers travelers the opportunity to get away from it all. With no electricity, phone signal or light or noise pollution, travelers can truly reconnect with nature and with themselves.

The region is one of the rare places where travelers can truly "star bathe," where they can experience the pristine night sky as the bushmen saw it without the disruptions of the modern world. The  off-the-grid, dark-sky sanctuary is situated on the banks of the Doring River.

"There are still places in the world where time slows down; places that are wild and remote, free from everyday distraction and that carry the promise of discovery, and the Rooi Cederberg and Bakkrans Nature Reserve region is one of those places," is how Extraordinary Journeys put it.

The company has collaborated with Travel Designer, a Cape Town-based company, to create curated, two-night, conservation-focused itineraries in the Bakkans Reserve, which is located within the Cederberg region. The company described the itineraries as totally immersive.

A Shepherd's Hut in the Bakkrans Nature Reserve, where guests can enjoy sundowners overlooking the Tankwa Desert.
A Shepherd's Hut in the Bakkrans Nature Reserve, where guests can enjoy sundowners overlooking the Tankwa Desert. Photo Credit: Skyla Haley

According to Elizabeth Gordon, co-founder and CEO of Extraordinary Journeys, "Each trip will be intimately hosted by handpicked, prominent Southern Africans, bringing a specific area of expertise to the experience."

Gordon said the region is not a place for volume but rather a unique opportunity for like-minded travelers to gather under an African sky in an area that is still largely unexplored. That's why the company only runs a limited number of trips to Bakkrans.

Besides star bathing, the Bakkrans Concession also is home to rock paintings that are thousands of years old and artifacts that are thought to date back at least 100,000 years.

Widely recognized as one of the most unique regions in terms of plant and animal diversity, the red sandstone mountain ranges provide refuge to indigenous game, birds and other wildlife, including Cape mountain zebras, oryxes, the world's smallest tortoises and the ever-elusive leopards of the Cape Fold Mountains.

The Bakkans intinerary

The Extraordinary Journeys adventures kick off via private helicopter transfer in Cape Town, flying north toward the Cederberg Mountains and the Bakkrans Nature Reserve where a dedicated team of hosts and local experts await. Off-roading on a 4x4 trail within the concession introduces travelers to the dramatic landscape for which the area is known. Upon arrival, guests are invited to settle into their stone and thatch Shepherd's Hut and enjoy sundowners overlooking the Tankwa Desert.

Accommodations are limited to eight guests in traditional thatched, stone-walled veld cottages that are furnished to reflect the lifestyle of the herders who stayed in this area during the bygone Cape frontier era. The concession is far removed from any tourist lodges or residences, offering guests total peace and seclusion while hiking, mountain biking, game driving or simply unwinding.

Days will be spent hiking, seeking out rock art, learning about the flora and fauna and enjoying an array of activities designed to unlock the area's magic. Meals are prepared on the open fire by the Justin Bonello, a filmmaker, chef, urban farmer and television personality known for his sense of adventure and his open-air, wood-fire cooking.

Johan van der Westhuizen, co-founder of the Bakkrans Concession, is the co-founder of the Cape Leopard Trust, and by arrangement, guests can join a hands-on conservation experience or assist with installing camera traps used by the trust to monitor Cape leopards.

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